Ya otter have fun

Water antics keep you cool

Staff WriterJuly 3, 2005 

Like the water they crave, Slippery Otters are always in motion and a little unpredictable. That's why Slippery Otters can revel in slowly wafting down the Eno River or they can cherish the energy and risks involved with learning to hang 10 at the beach.

For Slippery Otters looking to stay within the Triangle, Dave Owen (better known as Riverdave), a resident field naturalist at West Point on the Eno park in Durham, recommends an excursion down the Eno River called "wafting."

Owen describes wafting as floating gently and slowly down a calm river.

"I've found most adults like to slow down anyway," he said, "because people live too fast-paced lives, and they like to watch their environment [as they relax]."

From April through October, Owen offers day wafts down the Eno as well as what he calls "moonlight wafts" or "starlight wafts."

During the day, he says the focus of the trip is on using the senses -- mainly sight -- to observe the creatures and greenery surrounding the river.

At night, the purpose is for Slippery Otters to use just their noses and ears. That's fine by them, since they're so easily adaptable.

After the sun sets, one can hear the sounds of 175 species of birds, five species of frogs and the chirping of katydids that come out during July, Owen said. Of the birds, Slippery Otters might hear cuckoo calls, owl hoots or the heron's cracks.

"Foliage has a certain smell to it in the summer," he said, especially at night, when the flowers open up.

While drifting down the south bank, one can breathe in the crisp, mountain smell, particularly of rhododendrons.

But plug those noses while wafting along the swampier north bank of the Eno, which Owen characterizes as having a rank, decaying smell.

Outside the Triangle and somewhat farther lies Kure Beach. Here, the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher offers the "Surf's Up!" program, which is particularly fortunate for the sensation-seeking Slippery Otter. The instructors -- trained and certified in ocean rescue -- teach beginners the basics of surfing.

According to aquatic program registrar Danielle Wallace, the first 30 minutes of the two-hourlong class is taught on the beach and instructs students in the correct way to paddle, the way waves are formed, how to attach the leash to the surfboard and the right way to stand up -- or "pop up" -- on the board.

Afterward, Slippery Otters are brought into the water to splish-splash around and try it out for themselves.

These group sessions are limited to six people so each Otter gets more one-on-one time with the instructor.

Slippery Otters who are under 10 shouldn't take this class, and those who are 10 to 14 years old are allowed if they are accompanied by an adult. Adult-only classes also can be requested.

The $20 fee per session pays for instruction and a foam board (because they don't hurt), and Otters can bring their own boards as well, Wallace said.

Because the program is dependent on the weather, calling in advance and pre-registration are recommended.

Wet 'n Wild at Emerald Pointe in Greensboro is one place where Slippery Otters can just plunge into the water with the help of such man-made devices as slides, controlled currents and manufactured waves.

There's no doubt the bold Otter will be drawn to the attractions with such alluring names as "The Edge," "Double Barrel Blast" and "Dare Devil Drop."

The thriller rides at Wet 'n Wild range from an almost-vertical slide to a chute that spits riders four feet into the air before cannon-balling them into a pool.

Or the versatile Otter can also relax via the Lazee River, where the constant, swaying current encourages drifting.

Slippery Otters can also go to the beach without really going to the beach: Thunder Bay is a 2-million-gallon pool that pulses waves just like the ocean, except there's no sand around to creep into your bathing suit.

Meanwhile, Leisure Lagoon is a shallow pool with no waves or currents -- ideal for little Otters to play in.

Staff writer Meiling Arounnarath can be reached at 829-4636 or marounna@newsobserver.com.

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