PRINCEPORT – The tides are low just off Riverside Road, as a group of young men in yellow rain gear prep a Zodiac to head out onto the water.
They trudge through the thick rolling mud, their boots sticking and suctioning through the pudding-like surface.
Each of the men are trainees with the area’s newest rafting company, Wild Waters Rafting Co., a venture started by two friends with a love for the river.
The Shubenacadie River is where Marty Ettinger and Trevor Tipping grew up, and where they have come to make a living.
“We both grew up here, rafting on the river since we were 17,” Ettinger said, as he sat overlooking the low tide.
Ettinger and Tipping both worked as guides on the river for seven years, before moving on to Tidal Bore Rafting Park for another seven years. After their boss passed away recently, the pair decided to move out on their own and continue living their passion.
“It’s one of those things that is so epic, you can’t help but fall in love with it,” Ettinger said. “It’s such a powerful thing.”
Scouting out a location, they found the perfect spot in Princeport. Dead in the centre of the Shubenacadie River, the plot of land had two sets of rapids on either side, and sported a view like no other. They approached the owner, who lives on the other side of the road, about buying the place.
“He didn’t want to just sell it to anybody for a cottage or a house or anything,” Ettinger said. “But when it came to a rafting business, he was all for it.”
A pair of carpenters worked inside the soon-to-be headquarters on Thursday night as Ettinger led the group of trainees out onto the river. In a regular year, the company will be up and running from May to October. This year, they are aiming for a June 1 start.
Difficulty will range depending on the tides – the Shubenacadie River boasts some of the highest tides in the world, due to its location off the Bay of Fundy – but Ettinger assures they won’t let anyone get too far over their difficulty level.
“With really large tides it can get extremely crazy,” he said. “We just talk to people and feel them out when they make their reservations to be sure we can get them the most appropriate time.”
Adjusting to the changing tides is something Ettinger has grown accustomed to after a life on the water.
“Living your life with the phases of the moon has something special to it,” he said. “Changing your schedule a half-hour ahead or behind here and there – there’s just something awesome about being in sync with that.”
If the rapids get too rough, a safety boat is always nearby to take people back to shore.
Rides will be offered in half-day and full-day outings. It is not advised for children under the age of five, or children under 12 at high tide.
With the season kicking off in less than two weeks, Ettinger is living his dream, and can’t wait to show others how much fun the river can be.
“The rapids are huge and crazy, and it’s right here in our own backyard. It’s the river we know, the trees we know, the fish we know. It’s second nature to be drawn to it.”
Wild Waters will be running promotions on its Facebook page and website throughout the week, with free passes being handed out frequently. For more information, visit www.wildwatersrafting.com.