Rush Sturges commits to a stylish ear-dip boof off the Little White Salmon's signature drop, 33-foot Spirt Falls. Photo: Jasper Gibson

Rush Sturges commits to a stylish ear-dip boof off the Little White Salmon’s signature drop, 33-foot Spirt Falls. Photo: Jasper Gibson.
Follow Gibson’s coverage of Friday and Saturday’s events on C&K’s Instagram feed.

Before the new year even begins, many West Coast boaters are already thinking about the spring’s most anticipated event: The Little White Salmon Race. Between high water and weekly mock races, West Coasters train hard for the race that kicks off the spring and summer racing circuit. Beginning at the Little White 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 has already been pushed forward a month before usual, and the gauge is still at about 2.8 feet — the flow that most paddlers stop regularly running the Little White. Because of the low water, the normal "Spirit Slalom" race wasn't one of the main events this year. However, the ~15-minute downriver extreme race from Gettin' Busy to Wishbone still draws many paddlers and spectators. (Though Friday’s race was still undecided at press time, Saturday’s will remain the classic downriver race, check the race’s Facebook page for further details).

Although competitors come from across the country for the Little White Salmon Race and the beginning of the West Coast extreme race circuit, this event still feels like a genuine local gathering of paddlers of all levels. 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 celebration. Spectators young and old scurry down the scree field leading to Spirit Falls to catch a glimpse of dozens of colorful kayaks plunging the run’s iconic waterfall, pictured above.

Follow photographer Jasper Gibson’s coverage of the races on C&K’s Instagram feed, and check back on Monday for Mountain Mind Collective’s latest Faces of Whitewater installment profiling the athletes and highlighting the action at this year’s Little White Race.