As a testament to the skill level of a stacked, international field of nearly 30 racers in the Elite Division of the second annual North Fork Championship, Saturday’s slalom showdown down Jacob’s Ladder ended with no swims or no carnage. So a lot of winners walked away from the continuous, marquee Class V rapid of Idaho’s North Fork Payette. More specifically though, Louis Geltman walked away with the $4,500 purse for the fastest time, with Gerd Serrasolses (Spain) following in second, and Rush Sturges following in third. Just missing the cash-prize podium were Evan Garcia in fourth and Andrew Holcombe in fifth. Ryan Casey, last year’s local champion, came in eighth overall. After racers stepped off the river, where water levels had increased to above 2,000 cfs for the event, the awards and celebration moved to nearby Crouch, Idaho, for competitors, organizers, and extra safety crew members to relax after pulling off what many racers gave the nod to as, “hands down the hardest race in the world.”
Check back for more video, plus athlete reactions from the event later this week. Click HERE for full results.
Click HERE to watch video from the Day 1 Time Trials.
Here’s Chris Gragtmans’ analysis of how things played out in the Elite Division. (Click HERE to read Gragtmans’ race preview).
-- We had two good moments of silence for all those who have passed away on the North Fork, and especially for young Eric Weigel. One was right before the first paddler went off the ramp and the other at the beginning of the party/awards ceremony. It was clear after both of the moments that we were all celebrating the lives of those people. To make sure that all safety precautions could be taken for all paddlers, only one racer was on the course at any one time.
-- The water level was a bit higher than last year, but it was the same high-stakes course--drop into a bad pocket hole and you’ll get absolutely hammered. Eric Deguil swept the first two races, but failed to make top 10 in the Elite race in Jake’s. Everyone paddled spectacularly. There were a few flips and a few surfs into the right wall at Rodeo Hole (1st drop), but the field showed why they are the best in the world. This event, moreso than any other, MUST remain exclusive because of the stakes of making a mistake and swimming. It needs to be avoided at all costs, and the only way to do that is to vet paddlers through entry races and peer approval.
-- Gate 2 was the crux of the course. Probably 30 percent of the competitors made it in their run. Gate misses were a 50-second penalty, so that created big divisions. Though it was still tight at the top; the new chip timing system was crucial with very tight times in the top 10. The winning runs were an incredible balance of precision and power, and the top five laid down great runs.
-- My runs? Interesting, I’d say. After a mediocre first run, I came through my second one on the race of my life. I cleared the top three gates and all of Jake’s extremely quickly, and realized toward the bottom of the course that I was racing for the win. I stepped on the gas more as I came down the latter part of the course, but couldn’t hold it together as I made a stupid move and flushed deep into the eddy on the final upstream gate. I almost flushed out the bottom, but clawed a rock and finally worked my way up and around the gate. Definitely heartbreaking, but goes to show how fickle these events can be. I’ve done this race two years now with frustrating mistakes, and I want redemption next year! Regardless, just an awesome experience all around.