By Eric Adsit
Nothing can prepare you for it. The tingling, jittery nerves, the breathlessness, and later the dead weight of your arms, utterly spent and barely able to hold up the paddle. This is what creek racing is all about, and this is what the Northwest Creeking Competition inspires.
The "Creeking Comp," as many refer to it, features a series of races on Southern Washington's East Fork of the Lewis River and Canyon Creek. The two-day event draws rafters and kayakers alike from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond and has even garnered itself a place in the Western Whitewater Championship Series.
Born in the early '90s in an effort to protect the river from hydroelectric development ,the Creeking Comp started out as just the Canyon Creek Race. Initially relatively small, the race quickly developed a strong following of class IV and V paddlers for the quality of the ledges, boulder gardens and waterfalls featured in the course.
This year, a few rainy days arrived just in time to boost river levels to perfect medium-high flows, offering fast lines and no shortage of carnage. Due to recent discrepancies between the online and visual gauges, many people were nervous about water levels as they loaded up in shuttle vehicles. The visual gauge showed a perfect race level however, and those in the know took off downstream to the starting line before levels dropped any further.
Both the time trials and mass start kayak races began just above 17-foot Sunset Falls and finished roughly a mile and a half downstream just below the aptly named "John's Swimming Hole." The rafters took off from the same starting point, but finished a bit further down above a second waterfall known as Horseshoe Falls.
Screaming Left, Dragon's Back and John's Swimming Hole were the source of many rolls, swims and even a few broken boats. The safety team minimized damages to both body and boat, and as paddlers loaded their gear into the shuttles provided by Alder Creek, Next Adventure and eNRG Kayaking, it was difficult to find anyone with a frown.
Evan Garcia, who won the EFL mass start said “Super great vibe from the organizers and competitors! Plus you don’t see that kind of crowd and participation at kayak races or events anymore … It was good to see so many people stoked on kayaking once again!”
The following day, the crowd gradually gathered gear for fun laps on the East Fork, and the die-hards geared up for the Canyon Creek time trials just a short drive away.
The racers began their time trial above Thrasher, a nasty pocket-hole with a clean boof on the right, and navigated several boulder gardens, an 18-foot folding waterfall, and a few clean ledges. As with the East Fork Race, a solid safety team prevented any true carnage, and everyone pulled into the finish line eddy exhausted and stoked.
Results were announced to the fraction of the original 131 registrants that hadn't been burned out by the damp conditions or rallied straight back to the put in for a more relaxed lap. The generosity of sponsors and volunteers made the event run as smoothly as it does. Everyone seems to be looking to next year’s event already.
LOUIS GELTMAN 0:04:52
GERD SERRASOLSES 0:04:58
DAN RUBADO 0:05:09.30
ANDREW MCEWAN 82 2:03:00 2:08:09.69 0:05:09.69
DARREN ALBRIGHT 13 2:06:00 2:11:11 0:05:11