FACES OF WHITEWATER: The Little White Salmon Race

Mountain Mind Collective captures the Pacific Northwest's marquee race event

In the latest installment of Mountain Mind Collective’s ‘Faces of Whitewater’ series, Todd and Brendan Wells chronicle The Little White Salmon Race, what Brendan Wells calls, “the spring’s most anticipated event.”

“West Coast boaters train hard for the race that kicks off the spring and summer racing circuit,” Brendan adds. “Beginning at the Little White Salmon Race, a group of athletes will more or less travel together to the best of the West’s extreme races including the Little White, GoPro Mountain Games, North Fork Championship and more. Due to abnormally low water, this has been a tricky year for the Little White Salmon Race. The race day was pushed forward a month before usual (from late to early May), but the gauge still read a low 2.4 feet (the flow that most paddlers stop regularly running the Little White). Because of the low water, the normal "Spirit Slalom" race was cancelled this year, while the 16- to 20-minute downriver extreme race from ‘Gettin' Busy’ to ‘Wishbone’ drew many paddlers and spectators.”

“This one was as exciting as any previous year,” said Todd Wells, noting the challenges of the lower water conditions. “There were a lot more exposed rocks which made the course much more challenging and technical. For this reason there was a wide range of times over the top 10 finishers.”

Spain’s Gerd Serrasolses won Saturday’s main time trial event, followed by Rush Sturges in second, Dane Jackson in third, Isaac Levinson in fourth and Todd Wells in fifth. Meanwhile, Kim Russell won on the women’s side as the race’s only solo female competitor. (Click for full Little White Salmon Race results.)

Women's Little White Salmon Race winner Kim Russell
Women’s Little White Salmon Race winner Kim Russell
Men's winner Gerd Serrasolses
Men’s winner Gerd Serrasolses

In addition to Saturday’s classic time trial on the Little White Salmon, the local paddling community decided that due to the low water they would host their own Community Race, Friday on the White Salmon River from ‘Elbow Basher’ to ‘Karen’s Box,’ where racers navigated the most difficult section of the White Salmon River in a six- to seven-minute official time trial event. Rapids in this event included ‘Bob’s Hole,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Little Brother,’ and ‘Double Drop.’ In addition to the time trial, paddlers set up an unofficial slalom competition farther downriver on another one of the river’s most challenging rapids: ‘Upper Zig-Zag.’

“Although competitors come from all over the country for the Little White Salmon Race and the beginning of the West’s extreme race circuit, this event still feels like a genuine local gathering of paddlers of all levels,” Brendan Wells said. “The Little White Race marks the beginning of drytop weather and summer boating, and is a great excuse for everyone in the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding area to get together for a weekend of racing, stoke floats and celebrating.”

“Big shout out to World Class Kayak Academy for making this event happen,” Todd Wells added. “Also thanks to Cascadia Adventure Education School for their help with running shuttle, Discover Bicycles for hosting an awesome after-party, and Pioneer Pizza / White Salmon Bakery for the prize donations.”

Stay tuned for more photos and coverage from this weekend’s races. Check out photographer Jasper Gibson’s coverage of Friday and Saturday’s events on C&K’s Instagram feed.

Click to watch the previous installment of Mountain Mind Collective’s Faces of Whitewater series at China’s Nujiang River Race, as well as ‘Faces of: Rey del Rio’ at the November’s Whitewater World Championships in Chiapas, Mexico.

— Watch the two-part ‘Journey to the Stikine and Sacred Headwaters’, the latest in a series of MMC feature episodes debuting exclusively on CanoeKayak.com, and stay tuned for the premiere of ‘Backyard Ventures.’ Follow MMC on VIMEO and FACEBOOK.