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Note: One of the great joys of Nantucket ’73 finding an audience is that I have heard from people who knew Matt Gaynes in ways I did not. I am promoting these from the comments sections to the front page because they’re interesting and worthwhile views of Matt doing what he loved most—kayaking.
First up, a reminiscence from Martelle Jr:

Dear Mr. Hall!

The passing of George Gaynes has led me to some research about his son Matthew, which made me come across your blog. Thank you for giving me further insight to Matt´s early life, a great effort to share your experiences.

Here is some information you might or might not be aware of, probably.

From 1987 until 1989 Matthew Gaynes had been a member of the infamous Alpiner Kajak Club.

The Alpine Kayak Club is an association of international extreme whitewater river runners, dedicated to alpine kayaking all over the world and pushing the limits of the sport.

The AKC (not to be mistaken with the American Kennel Club) was founded in the Bavarian capital of Munich in 1972 and is mainly run and organized by German members. At the time Matthew Gaynes was one of their most prominent international members who has left traces within this community.

In the mid 80´s, during a longer stay in Austria and Bavaria he had already been part of the local whitewater scenes, paddling with former whitewater slalom world champions Norbert Sattler and Toni Prijon jr. But especially from 1986 until is death in 1989, Matthew had been in contact with several of the German friends of the Club, during trips to Europe and/or meeting up with expedition-members in the U.S. and Canada.

This led to a very special friendship with one particular personality of the AKC, considered at the time as the international ambassador of the club. During multiple international trips and expeditions throughout the world the two of them were one of the most active teams in the scene.

There is a substantial testimonial to this friendship, a compilation of pictures and little stories.

The author at the time was a prominent photographer and author, with several publications in this special interest group, publishing in magazines, holding international lectures, as well as minor publications in the internal little underground AKC newsletter, TIP.

Yours sincerely

Martelle jr.

Actually, I very much remember how excited Matt was to be included in the heady, crazy world of hardcore European kayaking. He spoke of Norbert and Prejon with profound respect for their abilities and achievements, and was delighted (and, truth be told, rather humbled) that they took him seriously.

I have a second reminiscence, this one from B. Wilhelmi. It takes place in Corsica, at Liamone/Fume Grasso. Before I get to that, however, I did a quick search to see what I could find about this location. The description below is from a website by Pat Thoyts, Pat’s Paddling Guide to Corsica. (https://www.patthoyts.tk/canoeing/corsica.html#Fiume%20Grosso; Pat, if you see this and want it removed for any reason I’ll be glad to do so.). Pat, obviously an experienced kayaker, describes Corsica as “The finest whitewater paddling in Europe.” He writes of this particular stretch of river rather interestingly:

Fiume Grosso and Upper Liamone. 5km Grade V (VI) 8hr {90}

Access is at the bridge by Bains de Guagno, and egress is at the Pont de Belfiori. One helluva river. The level was about 6 inches above the vague Haas guides “slightly covered rock” mark. It continued to rise while we were on the river. The 8.5 km took 8 hours to complete. Start early or finish in the dark (not recommended). There were somewhere between 6 and 10 portages, 2 or 3 of these looked impossible, others looked to have uncertain outcomes. We made upwards of 20 inspections – don’t spend too long making up your mind. This was a continuously hard epic. At this level the steep boulder fields and ledges produce powerful stoppers and holes. Walking out is impossible, and some of the rapids must be run.

Ok, that understood, Matt Gaynes and B. Wilhelmi ran it. Mr. Wilhelmi tells the tale:

Corsica 87: The Liamone/Fiume Grosso Incident

Matthew and I paddled along the Fiume Grosso, the big tributary that leads into the Liamone after a few miles. We came up to the first difficult rapid. It is a tricky ledge hole that requires full attention in order not to tip over. I ran it and continued floating along in the flat water, watching Matthew’s run. He was slightly off balance and got tipped over, had to roll. He looked like a complete beginner. I was roaring in laughter. Unfortunately he had slammed his already damaged left wrist into the rocks while rolling up and was writhing in agony with his scratched fingers bleeding. He had heard my laughter and was obviously pissed off.

He ignored my presence for another mile.

Three weeks later, Matt had long left Corsica, I ran the Liamone again with other friends of mine. Carelessly floating into that particular ledge hole I tipped over and, rolling up brutally scratched the fingers of my left hand. I could hear Matthews imaginary laughter.

Today, almost 30 years after, the remaining scars remind me of that little episode.

Hairball kayakers, indeed.

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