“We’ve been doing this a long time," declares Jason Hale, strolling into a crowd of 164 racers. "Welcome to the 20th annual Green Race." What started as a friendly competition organized by Leland Davis in November of 1996, and included legendary names still in the industry today, is now possibly creek racing’s most iconic competition.
Each year the event proves to be action-packed, as over 100 paddlers launch 12-foot-long boats down the technical and visually spectacular stretch of river where you wouldn’t expect them to fit. All competing for nothing more than their best time. The 20th installment of the race did not disappoint, with plenty of new record times, crashes for the audience, and even a tie for first overall.
"It’s amazing you can have the same stretch of river, and race it over and over again, and it is still exciting for everyone involved," explains racer and Team Dagger Manager Chris Gragtmans, who believes while many large extreme races have come along, some even with cash prizes such as the North Fork Championship, North Carolina’s fall classic is still the event circled on the calendars of many of the world’s best paddlers. "The allure of winning the Green Race is a powerful thing."
In the long C-1, Jordan Poffenberger set a new record with his time of 4 minutes, 23 seconds, just 10 seconds behind the overall winners and the fifth fastest time recorded at this year’s event.
Adriene Levknecht took home her seventh women’s title with a new record time of 4:38, and also the 14th fastest overall time recorded at this year’s race. She would also record a record setting women’s short boat time of 5:09.
Two men achieved the title of Green Race champion that has eluded them, though they will have to share it. Dane Jackson and Eric Deguil (pictured below) finished with a time of 4:13 across all the clocks, the first ever complete tie for champion in the history of the race.
"It feels good. I am stoked to be at the top with Deguil," says Jackson (pictured below), who has finished second place the past three years. Most recent of which was a virtual tie with Isaac Levinson, which came down to the third watch putting Levinson ahead.
"Next year we will have a chip or laser timing system," race organizer John Grace insists, in an effort to avoid a similar scenario in the future with how tight the competition has become. "We owe that to our racers."
The improvement of the timing system is just one evolution Grace has in mind for the race. He also hopes to bring some form of live streaming to the Green River Narrows, so individuals unable to access the gorge have the opportunity to watch what many participants call, "the greatest show in sports." It is an aspect Grace is careful while approaching, wanting to be sure the Green Race maintains the identity that has made it an intrinsic part of the region’s paddling community.