The 2017 North Fork Championship was one for the record books. The highest flows in the event’s six-year history rewarded spectators with the perfect road-side glimpse into whitewater kayaking’s best. And those athletes had to push themselves harder than ever. Thankfully race organizer James Byrd brought on some incredibly talented photo and videographers to capture some timeless moments amidst the blur of action. We put the event shooters on the spot, asking four of the photographers to select a single image and explain what special something that it defines.
As Byrd will be the first to tell you, “whitewater is extremely hard to shoot. To capture its immensity and power and portray that to the non-kayaker is an impressive skill. This year the river was going so fast that half the time they disappear behind waves or holes. They absolutely kill it for us every year.
“We are always blown away by the quality of these photographers and their attention to detail,” Byrd added. “They really capture the sense of community and high energy throughout the weekend with their images.”
Photographer John Webster: This year’s NFC was incomparable to the five years prior. Flows were at a scary stage for the North Fork in general and the athletes involved with the Jake’s race were hesitant, with good reason, not to do too many practice laps. Hayden Voorhees was one who earned his spot in the Jake’s race by qualifying in the Elite Race days before. Being one of the younger qualifiers it was impressive to see him take on the task of attempting to master the un-masterable and burly Jake’s race line. No one was having a flawless line, no one really does have the perfect line in this chaotic mess. I don’t think anyone hasn’t used the word ‘respect’ for describing this rapid. Nonetheless Hayden showed how fast and precise one can be on multiple laps, both while practicing and racing. After having seen a bad swim at Jake’s and making the decision to paddle in the race this year makes people like Hayden a great example of the future of kayaking — calm, calculated, and cognitive.
Jasper Gibson: This shot is from the morning of the Jacob’s Ladder race, while all the competitors were being transported from Banks to the put-in. The energy on the bus was palpable. It was interesting to see the different demeanor of the athletes; it was a confluence of nervous energy, apprehension, focus, lightheartedness and camaraderie.
Eric Parker: You know that special time of the year when friends and family gather from the far reaches of the planet to celebrate and give appreciation? If you guessed Thanksgiving or Christmas you are totally wrong. I am talking about the one and only North Fork Championship! For six years in a row, James and Regan have successfully organized the biggest, rowdiest, and the best kayak race on the planet. Whether you are competing, documenting or simply spectating, this race is a wonderful time for all parties involved.
This shot of Carson Lindsay was my favorite image from this year’s NFC. Carson sailed a boof off of Rock Drop as he fought his way down Jakes, which was quite possibly the rowdiest race course of all time. It was so rad to see so many different and young competitors this year. Sure we all want to see shots of Dane's winning run, but I personally would like to highlight some of the other upcoming competitors!
Mike Leeds: Dane launched off this wave like the old Nintendo game Excitebike. After years of shooting this rapid, I try to get some new and different compositions every year which is a challenge for me personally. The composition combined with the light and Dane’s extraordinary ability made this shot for me. I haven’t seen kayaks launch off of waves like this very often.
And then there’s the video crew … This year’s River Roots edit speaks for itself:
— Complete gallery and race recap from the 2017 NFC.
— Exclusive interview with James Byrd prior to the 2017 NFC.
— View work from Jasper Gibson and John Webster on the C&K Photo of the Day page.