In June 1989, the Savage River was not its usual hidden self. Thousands gathered along the country road that followed its course. People scrambled the steep banks, crouched in the lush forest, and filtered on to recently constructed observation decks. All wanting the optimum view of the red and green poles hovering over the rapids. They were here to witness the Canoe and Kayak Slalom World Championships—the first of which had ever been hosted in the United States.
Tomorrow, Saturday December 14, athletes will conclude the second Annual Whitewater Grand Prix with a “Big Water Enduro Race down the Rio Futaleufu in the Patagonia Region. Thirty of the world’s best extreme kayakers, including several Olympians and world record holders, gathered to test their skills against each other as well as the legendary rapids of Chile while bringing a spotlight on some of the most endangered rivers on the planet.
Canoeing icon Ralph Frese died December 10 in a hospice overlooking the Chicago River’s East Branch. He was 86 years old. The proprietor of Chicagoland Canoe Base began paddling in a canvas-covered kayak on the Illinois River when he was a teenager. By the time he was 24, Frese was mass-producing canoes for his local Boy Scout troop, and in 1967 he paddled voyageur canoe replicas from Chicago to the World’s Fair in Montreal. In 1973 he retraced Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette’s 3,000-mile 1673 expedition.
Mood took on 41 other competitors assembled from Hobie’s far-flung pro staff network to become winner of the second annual Hobie Fishing World Championship, the first held on U.S. shores. They came for a not-so-traditional Texas fishing throw down centered on an American angling obsession, the largemouth bass.
The athletes kicked off the second annual Whitewater Grand Prix race yesterday with the first whitewater enduro stage on the Rio Gol Gol. They raced against the clock on a nearly one mile-long stretch of class V whitewater, navigating not only extremely technical rapids, but also several 15-20 foot waterfalls.
If you caught Vavinec Hradilek’s silver-medal performance at this summer’s Olympic Games, you witnessed one of the world’s most dynamic slalom paddlers lay down a near-perfect run. But you probably missed the 25-year-old Czech’s clever shout-outs to his steep-creeking buddies.