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GoPro camera captures ‘wild’ kayaking trip down icy James River

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RICHMOND, Va. -- It was a kayaking trip they had taken hundreds of times before, but never quite like this. Elli Morris, a photographer/filmmaker and professional kayak instructor for Chesterfield County, and her friends rode down the icy James River Monday -- two days after nearly two-feet of snow fell across Central Virginia.

"It was wild," Morris said about the trip. "We had to bust through Reedy Creek -- I've never paddled through anything like that before."

While her friends kayaked the James  on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it was not until Monday, Morris said, that the river filled with ice.

"First, we had to get out of Reedy Creek which was frozen with a good 2-inch-thick layer of ice. The GoPro footage docks 6 minutes to go 50 yards. Once we made it through that frozen arctic land of ice and snow, our trip through Richmond, Virginia’s downtown rapids took us about two hours," she said. "We were entertained with how hard it is to brace against blocks of ice instead of water, how the ice would throw off our timing of taking a stroke that didn’t get into water, just bounced off ice. It was beautiful out there."

Ice kayaking James River

"It was really thick. The whole river was very chunky," she said. "We had to scout the river for an hour before we got in, just to make sure there was enough flow."

Ice kayaking James River 02

Ice kayaking, she said, can be extremely dangerous and should be left to the experts. Appropriate dress, to keep warm and fight hypothermia, is a live-saving must.

"It was almost surreal. I was so warm -- and then I looked around and there was so much ice and snow," she said. "There were a couple sections where I wasn't sure if the eddies were going to be frozen and then you wouldn't have an escape route, but they ended up being fine."

Morris called the experience a "great time."