smalls to the walls

Smalls to the Wall

Maine’s Steep Creek Race

By Nathan Warren | Photos by Regina Nicolardi

On a cold snowy day in late April, northeast paddlers converged on Smalls Falls, a set of stacked class V- waterfalls on the outskirts of Rangeley, Maine. Mother Nature contributed her good will by blessing the event with a medium-low flow–enough water to allow the race to happen and not too much to make it dangerous.

The banks were lined with paddlers, EMT’s, photographers and local Mainers who had all come out to see the Northeast’s steepest race. Twenty-five racers with Gorilla-taped numbers on their bows hiked their boats 200 yards up from the takeout to the put-in.

smalls to the walls
Launching from the start ramp.

The race was a simple time trial in which each participant was given two chances to earn the best time possible. Time started when racers hit the water after launching from a wooden ramp into the pool above the first slide. After that, the goal was to get down the five drops in as little time as possible. With a total drop of over fifty feet and the winning race time at 36 seconds, racers dropped well over one foot per second throughout the race.

The highlights of the race were the second and third drops. The second, “Down and Out” is a 12-foot vertical-to-slide drop which feeds directly into “Biggie Smalls,” a 20’er with an elusive boof line and a vertical ten-foot boof three boat lengths downstream. Though the big drops drew the crowds, the true challenge for the racers was navigating into the narrow raceline chute of the first slide and past the swirling eddy in the catch basin of the fourth drop.

smalls to the walls
Safety set on Down and Out rapid.

Local paddler Riley Adams proved the most able paddler of the day, followed by Sean Madden then Dan Burke, all of whom finished in less than 40 seconds.

The after party was held at Sarge’s Pub, where top three finishers got to choose from a bevy of donated gear–including a drysuit from local drysuit producer Mythic Gear–that organizer and promoter Andrew Scott Cooper collected from local distributors over the course of the previous months.  After the top three collected their prizes, the remainder of the gear was raffled off. The party and giveaway culminated with a final raffle for a donated Pyranha Burn III, won by Maine Whitewater Championship Race Series coordinator Taylor Walker.

For full details on the race, including complete results, follow “Smalls to the Wall” on Facebook.

smalls to the walls
Looking up from the bottom of the course.