By CHRIS GRAGTMANS
This past weekend was an epic one in New York state. Every Labor Day weekend, paddlers rally from all over the Northeast to converge on the western edge of the Adirondack Mountains. A series of releases on the Taylorville, Mosier, and Eagle sections of the Beaver River, as well as the Black and the Raquette, provide something for every ability paddler.
Now in its second year, the King of New York race series takes advantage of these releases, and is set to become the next classic race circuit. The series’ four race stages are held on the Black, the Eagle Section of the Beaver, the Raquette, and the Moose. Between these four rivers, every type of race is covered--sprint, endurance, time trials, mass start, portaging, backward starts, you name it--across a myriad of different river volumes, characters, and geologies.
With a best three-of-four scoring format, paddlers knew that the two Labor Day races were important for their overall standings. Both races saw excellent turnouts and lots of fast paddlers pushing themselves and chasing the title. Highlights included the Topo Duo team of Tony Gianfanga and Ciaran Brown, 16-year-old ripper Ryan Mooney, the high numbers of spectators at the Eagle, quality rapids on the Raquette, great camping, and plenty of time to just chill with friends throughout the weekend.
I came into the events hungry for the title after winning the Black Race in July. The Beaver was interesting because we were hitting the ‘live course’ at random intervals, with no warning to other paddlers that we might be coming. There were definitely some racer/recreational paddler mixups throughout the day, but overall everyone did well. Full disclosure: My first run was solid (albeit with a few rec-paddler dodges), and I was pretty confident that it was going to put me in first. Run No. 2, however, was great until the end, when I dried out on a shelf next to the main flow. In the end, Geoff Calhoun proved me wrong, laying down a blistering time and repeating his Beaver title from last year.
The next day, the whole show migrated to the Raquette River. If you've never paddled the Raquette, I would recommend putting it very high on your list. It is a beautiful Adirondack pool-drop river with nothing but high-quality rapids, and it seems to be created for long boats. As N.Y. local Matt Young puts it, "The Raquette in a Green Boat is the most fun that you can have with your clothes on!"
There were 34 start times and the energy was high. Paddler after paddler battled their way through Colton Falls, the Narrows, the Tubs, and Particle Accelerator on a gorgeous sunny day. Calhoun once again took the fastest time of the day with a time of 5 minutes, 56 seconds. Stay tuned for coverage of the final King of New York race, Oct. 13 on N.Y.’s Moose River, and a Currents episode from Five2Nine Productions featuring the two races as a prime example of the growth in grassroots creek events.
Here are the top 5 from each race. Click HERE for full results:
Eagle Section of the Beaver
Geoff Calhoun 1:30/1:22
Chris Gragtmans 1:31/1:29
Chris Kyle 1:50/1:32
Ryan Mooney 1:34/1:37
Emrick Blanchette 1:44/1:35
Geoff Calhoun 5:56
Chris Gragtmans 6:00
Matt Young 6:18
Chris Kyle 6:22
Jared Seiler 6:23
Check out Gragtmans’ runner-up runs on the Beaver and on the Raquette, respectively. The races were the end of an epic weekend of paddling for the Team Dagger paddler and C&K correspondent, following a nighttime circumnavigation of Manhattan Island. Stay tuned for the full story …