Dear Mountain Mama,

This weekend I paddled a Class III stretch of river for the first time. One of our friends flipped at the top of a rapid. He tried to roll his boat, but after three attempts he bailed and swam the rest of the rapid. The more experienced paddlers raced after him, his boat, and his gear.  At the take out, the others started heckling the swimmer and finally he yanked off his bootie and then chugged a beer out of his nasty river shoe. My stomach churned at the prospect of drinking a mixture of beer, foot funk, and river water. What’s this all about and will I be taunted to into consuming alcohol out of disgusting river gear if I continue to kayak?

Thanks,
Grossed Out

Dear Grossed Out,

Congratulations on paddling your Class III stretch of river Grossed Out. Now that you’re officially an intermediate paddler, you’re subject to the unofficial kayak rule of the bootie beer. Consider it a rite of passage.

The unofficial beer bootie rule requires that if a kayaker bails from her boat, she’s obligated to chug a beer from the footwear of a fellow kayaker. Not to be confused with a “beer booty,” which the Urban Dictionary defines as “a girl that is so ugly that you must be completely wasted to have any relations with her.” That comes later in the festivities, way after all the requisite beer booties have been consumed.

Turns out that your friend actually got off lucky by drinking the beer out of his own booty. Typically, paddlers take pains to identify the oldest, most rank fungal-infested bootie to serve up the beer. And in the Southeast it isn’t uncommon for moonshine to be used instead.

Some say the tradition is a penance for a swimmer risking his friends’ safety, as they chase the swimmer, his boat, and gear down the river. Others maintain that the ritual is good karma. Those who don’t do it after a swim risk upsetting the river gods and many say the river gods won’t be as forgiving on the swimmer next time.

And Grossed Out when the time comes for your first beer bootie, remember that using footwear with holes is entirely unacceptable. So is spilling.

Cheers!
Mountain Mama