Words by Eric Adsit and photos by Scott Martin
The 2013 Labor Day releases on the Beaver and Raquette Rivers of northern New York brought drew the usual surge of paddlers to Beaverfest. Boaters from all corners of the world gathered to celebrate these two classic Adirondack rivers, and compete in the Raquette Race and Beaver Race, respectively the second and third rounds of the King of New York Series. The weekend finished with Empire State natives seemingly shut out of the series title race. The King of New York crown now appears destined to go to a Pennsylvanian, or a Quebecois.
With pro paddlers Geoff Calhoun and Chris Gragtmans absent from the weekend, Quebec's Billy Thibault and Pennsylvania's Jared Seiler are in close competition for the KONY title. Thibault finished in a close second at Raquette on Saturday, and tied for first with Emrick Blanchette at Eagle on Sunday, giving him the series lead. While a poor performance by either Seiler of Thibault at the Moose race in October could open the door to other competitors, it seems a U.S. vs. Canada showdown will keep suspense levels high.
"Calhoun and Gragtmans gave the race legitimacy over the last two years," says series organizer Kenny Unser, "but I think a lot of people were excited they'd be missing because it actually gave them a chance to win." Folks from as far as Ireland, the Ukraine and South Africa joined the usual swarm of Northeastern paddlers.
Whether it was the added pressure to perform or the reportedly "bigger feeling" release, this year's Raquette Race featured more carnage than usual. While no serious injuries were inflicted, the Raquette showed its teeth with multiple broken paddles, swims, scraped knuckles and an extended pin in Colton Falls.
After the Raquette Race and Eagle Race, both serious Class V paddlers and those just stepping it up rallied deeper into the Adirondacks to enjoy New York's most elusive dam release stretch, the Moshier. For only four hours each year, water is returned to the riverbed on the Moshier section of the Beaver. On its way downstream, the water cascades over a massive slide at the put-in known by most simply as "The Spillway,” where only the best, bravest (or dumbest) paddlers challenge it. The mortal paddlers start below, where they almost immediately come up to a friendly 12-footer and land in a pool. Races paddle another hundred yards before coming up to another 10-footer just downstream. They finish the race another two miles down on the crown jewel rapid of the Beaver River, Moshier Falls.
After the paddle on the Moshier Section of the Beaver everyone then made the short, dusty drive to the Eagle section for the Sunday race. Those still not satisfied on their whitewater fix made lap after lap, and those too exhausted to continue made their way down along the river's edge to cheer friends on in the third portion of the KONY series.
The Eagle Race best equates to a kayaking dragstrip. A quarter mile long, with four steep rapids and a natural amphitheater make it the perfect venue for racers and spectators alike. It might just be the shortest downriver kayak race, with record times coming in at less than a minute and a half. And it's not limited to kayaks, though results show the Dagger Green Boat filling podium spots for the last two years. C1s, OC1s and even tandem kayaks have made appearances throughout the Race’s three-year history.
Monday served as a cool down for many, while some returned to the Raquette for redemption. Still others found their way back to the Eagle for one (or maybe three) more trips down the narrow slides before heading home.
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Be sure to check back at CanoeKayak.com for the final wrap up of the Moose Race October 17-19.