Jackson going for the win. Photo: Gary Ertter

By Eugene Buchanan

A few paddlers might be chipping in for shuttle money a little easier now, thanks to the Payette River Games, held June 21-23 in Cascade, Idaho. The event paid out a whopping $54,000 in cash prizes to top finishers in its paddling events, including freestyle kayaking, boatercross and a SUP sprint race, making it one of the most cash-heavy whitewater events in history.

Women took home the biggest checks, thanks to the progressive payout scale (equal prizes for men and women) and collecting cash from multiple events. Claire O’Hara claimed the top cash spot with a $6,000 payday for second-place finishes in freestyle and boatercross. Adriene Levknecht was second on the money board with $5,500 for her first-place showing in boatercross and  third-place in freestyle. Jackson Kayak’s Stephen Wright took home $4,000 for winning the men’s freestyle, while a very pregnant Emily Jackson won the same amount for her victory in women’s freesyle. Her husband Nick Troutman will be buying a few diapers with his $3,500 in winnings (fifth in boatercross, first in SUP), while uncle-in-waiting Dane Jackson walked home with $3,000 for his second-place showing in men’s freestyle.

In all, $20,000 each was parceled out in the sprint and freestyle events, with another $14,000 in SUP, for a total of $54,000 in the paddlesports pie. Similar cash prizes—$4,000 for first, $3,000 for second, $1,500 for third, $1,000 for fourth and $500 for fifth—were awarded for the sprint/boater cross events for both men and women.

“Everyone was super stoked to see the huge cash purse this year, which was the largest I’ve ever heard of,” says Wright. “One of the most exciting things wasn’t the massive first place pay-outs, but that good money was paid down to fifth place. Paying to fifth makes it much more likely that lots of people can win something, which encourages participation and makes it more exciting for everyone.”

The formula worked. “This year’s Games were a huge success,” says event director Mark Picard. “People are already referring to it as the next Teva or GoPro Games.”

In all, he says the event drew more than 375 athletes and 14,000 spectators to Kelly’s Whitewater Park on the North Fork Payette. Next year, he adds, should be even larger and better. “The cross events were a huge hit with the spectators and challenging for the athletes,” he says. The weekend also saw competitions in climbing, disc golf, volleyball, dog fetch, fitness, golf, fly casting, even axe throwing and log rolling in the lumberjack division, but it was paddling that stole the show. And the purse was only outmatched by the playspot, which is quickly proving to be one of the best in the country.

“Kelly’s is an epic playspot, which allows for both legit great wave tricks and all the big hole tricks,” says Wright. “It’s the only place I know where after prelims was done, literally every trick on the sheet had been scored by someone. My best ride had wave moves like airscrews, flip turns and helixes; hole moves like lunar orbits, phonix monkeys, and loops; and combos of the two like clean blunt-mcnasty combos and wave monkeys. Beating Dane required scoring the highest rides in US history—Dane is incredible, and it’s tough to beat him anywhere these days.”

#35, Alec Voorhees doing some rubbin' is racin' action on Nicholas Troutman during the men's boater cross. Photo: Gary Ertter

Results (and cash pay-out)

Kayaking – Men’s Freestyle
1st Stephen Wright – Walling, TN $4000
2nd Dane Jackson – Walling, TN $3000
3rd Jason Craig – Reno, NV $1500
4th Clay Wright – Walling, TN $1000
5th Eric Jackson – Walling, TN $500

Kayaking – Women’s Freestyle
1st Emily Jackson – Rock Island, TN $4000
2nd Clair O’Hara – UK $3000
3rd Adriene Levknecht – Greeneville, SC $1500
4th Cortney Kerin – New Zealand $1000
5th Erin Clancy – $500

Kayaking – Men’s Sprint / Boater Cross
1st Gerd Serrasolses – Spain $4000
2nd Galen Volckhausen – Ithaca, NY $3000
3rd Eric Jackson – Walling, TN $1500
4th Alec Voorhees – Meridian, ID $1000
5th Nick Troutman – Rock Island, TN $500

Kayaking – Women’s Sprint / Boater Cross
1st Adriene Levknecht – Greeneville, SC $4000
2nd Clair O’Hara – UK $3000
3rd Brooke Hess-Homeir – Missoula, MT $1500
4th Devon Barker-Hicks – McCall, ID $1000
5th Alicia Casas – Spain $500

Kayaking – Cadet
1st Hayden Voorhees – Meridian, ID
2nd Kenny Kellogg – Glenwood Springs, CO
3rd Dally Kellogg – Glenwood Springs, CO
4th Skye Titus – Cascade, ID
5th Connor Voorhees – Meridian, ID

Kayaking – Junior Men
1st Grady Kellogg – Glenwood Springs, CO
2nd Brody Kellogg – Glenwood Springs, CO
3rd Kaito Roemer – Missoula, MT
4th Crosby Crevelt – Cascade, ID
5th Joaquin Trevelline – Missoula, MT

Kayaking – Junior Women
1st Sage Donnelly – Carson City, NV
2nd Anna Scheher – Salida, CO
3rd Darby McAdams – Missoula, MT
4th Kady Kellogg – Glenwood Springs, CO

SUP – Men
1st Nick Troutman – Rock Island, TN $3000
2nd Benjamin Sarrazin – Petaluma, CA$1750
3rd Chris Gragtmans – Asheville, NC $1000
4th Kenneth Hoeve – Gypsum, CO $750
5th Eric Jackson – Walling, TN $500

SUP – Women
1st Nikki Gregg – Hood River, OR $3000
2nd Haley Mills – Elizabethtown, KY $1750
3rd Jen Kjellesvik – Bend, OR $1000
4th Cortney Kerin – New Zealand $750
5th Sage Donnelly – Carson City, NV $500

Next year’s Payette River Games will be held June 20-22, 2014.