I was driving back to town after a weekend out when the news hit: Conrad Fourney, the all-around good guy who made national headlines for a daring kayak rescue late last year, had died.
I'll start by saying I didn't know Conrad well. He was one of a large and dynamic circle of friends that make life in Idaho just what it ought to be: full of fun, camaraderie and inspiration, as well as admiration for what this state has to offer. In a community of hard-core whitewater kayakers, Conrad was one of the good ones. Yeah, he could paddle the big water. But he also had a great smile and was the kind of guy who always made you feel welcome. He listened.
Guys like him make certain gatherings more fun, inspire you to be better at the things you do, and cause you to shake your head in wonder.
In another difficult descent of the notably gnarly North Fork of the Payette River, Conrad apparently tumbled from his boat in a Class V rapid, got his foot caught in a rock and drowned.
After Conrad rescued Sarah Cox from a near-fatal whitewater incident on the Payette last November, he was instantly a national hero. Friends gathered on porches and sniggered about Conrad's fame, knowing he would handle it well, but that we were going to tease him mercilessly about it. Of course, we couldn't think of a better ambassador for Idaho's whitewater community. I still can't.
The other thing that comes to mind is harder to ponder, that this is what guys like Conrad like to do: run the hardest rapids, where mistakes are truly costly. He took the precautions, and he boated with solid river partners. But sometimes that's not enough. Now, his friends and family have some hard times ahead coping with the loss.
Conrad, we miss you. Thank you for inspiring us and for being a friend.