Meet the Long Creek Gangsters\n\n\n\nA thick mist hung over the Chattooga River as the sun rose, bringing the home known as Thugz Mansion to life. A familiar question soon rang out throughout the house: \u201cHey, can we go kayaking?\u201d \n\n\n\nNestled between the Chattooga and Tallulah Rivers in Long Creek, S.C., lives a young group of prominent whitewater kayakers named KLCG, which stands for Keep Long Creek Gangster.\n\n\n\nAmong the members are Hunter Cooper Ben Drew, Jackson Singleton, Holt McWhirt, and Howard Magely.\n\n\n\n"We were paddling together for a long time," explains Cooper. "People started calling us the Long Creek Boys and saying, \u2018Yo, those guys are gangster!\u2019 We thought it was kind of funny and now it\u2019s become this whole thing.\u201d\n\n\n\nThe gangster portion of the title has sparked some controversial conversation in the whitewater community. But the paddlers say their focus is on the water. \n\n\n\n\u201cPeople were calling us the Long Creek Gangsters and we were getting such big hype up about us and we really weren\u2019t doing that much except going kayaking,\u201d Cooper said. \u201cWe embraced it and leaned into our times hanging out with each other and doing some crazy stuff.\u201d\n\n\n\nKLCG became more widely known after they competed in the Green River Rodeo, an annual slicey-boat competition down the Green River Narrows in Saluda, N.C. \u201cWe kind of brought slicing back to the Southeast,\u201d Singleton said. \u201cWe try to encourage each other and other paddlers to take challenges on the river, which is exactly what slicey boats will do.\u201d\n\n\n\nKLCG is classified as a club, and they enjoy meeting new people and having them join the crew\u2014including females. \u201cEveryone is KLCG,\u201d Drew said, including women paddlers Rachel Fleischut, Katie Jackson and Katie Dean.\n\n\n\n \u201cIt\u2019s an all-love mindset here," says Singleton. "No one is trying to one-up each other in a terrible way. We have friendly competition and we watch out for each other,\u201d Singleton said.\n\n\n\nBecause the members have sponsorships, they have various media expectations and frequently capture video of the adventures with KLCG. \n\n\n\n\u201cWhile media is playing a large role in the development of outdoor recreation now, it shouldn\u2019t be the main focus of why you\u2019re getting out there,\u201d Drew said. \u201cWe all go kayaking for the sake of kayaking. If there\u2019s a camera there, cool. If we get enough video to make an edit, cool. If not, that\u2019s also cool. Odds are, we had a great day kayaking together.\u201d\n\n\n\nThe friends have traveled across the country and world for paddling, Singleton has completed four semesters with World Class Academy traveling around the world to kayak. \n\n\n\n\u201cA stout moment for all of us happened when we went to Washington and kayaked on Upper Lewis Falls,\u201d Singleton said. \u201cHunter [Cooper] swam a 20-foot double waterfall.\u201d \n\n\n\n\u201cI felt like I was in a washing machine,\u201d Cooper said. \u201cAll I could do was take a breath at the lip of the second waterfall. Then I just fell and got rag-dolled at the bottom for a while. Finally I balled up and shot straight down until finally I popped up, saw Holt McWhirt, and thought, \u2018Thank God.\u2019 It felt like a vortex.\u201d\n\n\n\nThe friends depend on the rescue skills among the group. They have all had moments where the quick actions of the others have made potentially devastating situations calm and organized. \u201cThe main thing that keeps us united is to watch out for each other. Of course, we sometimes do other gangster stuff too.\u201d\n\n\n\nFrequently, the members will organize river cleanups, food drives, and clothing donation centers to support the surrounding community. The group also remains active in river research and protection against pollution, particularly in the Chattooga River watershed. KLCG as a whole is also attempting to adopt Highway 76 by the Chattooga River to take responsibility for the cleanliness of the road between the put ins and take outs. \n\n\n\nThe Chattooga River is their home river because it is free-flowing and offers new lines at different levels. Singleton said the lines taken and moves made on the Chattooga mimic others he has done around the world. \u201cThe Chattooga runs every day of the year. The only thing holding you back is yourself,\u201d McWhirt said. \u201cIt\u2019s beautiful, it\u2019s fun, it\u2019s got history, it\u2019s home.\u201d\n\n\n\n\u201cThe river gives a lot to us, so we try to give back any way we can,\u201d Drew adds. \n\n\n\nWhile most of the paddlers are either employed full-time or in school, they frequently return to Long Creek to paddle together. \u201cIt\u2019s really important to appreciate Long Creek and our ability to explore the beauty,\u201d Drew said, \u201cIt\u2019s rare to find a place like this, especially in the Southeast.\u201d\n\n\n\n\u201cPaddle with people you\u2019re confident in and who are better than you, you\u2019ll always learn something new,\u201d says Singleton.\n\n\n\n\u201cI\u2019m always getting pushed because these guys are sick kayakers,\u201d Drew said. \u201cDo your thing, stretch, drink lots of water, brush your teeth, and go kayaking."