Giant Slalom, The Crowning of a King (Inside the NFC with Capo Rettig #8)
Inside the NFC: Giant Slalom, The Crowning of a King. By Capo Rettig
On Saturday, a line of cars stretched down highway 55 and Idaho State police directed vehicles loaded with kayaks into parking spots with a smile and a wave.
Half of the road was closed down making room for spectators, sponsor’s tents, and athletes.
A loaded passenger train that came up from Boise parked on the river left, offering its occupants the best seat in the house. Dogs on leashes with their tongues dangling in the sun prowled the bank, their white-haired owners looking for the perfect angle to see the action.
Families with woven straw hats protecting themselves from the sun looked around wide-eyed at all the big-name pros, some in gear, some in board shorts, bull-shitting about life, rivers, travel and the the North Fork. Distinguished community members of all the major whitewater States in the U.S. were here. French was being spoken, Spanish, and even a little Portuguese.
A helicopter from the AIR St. Luke’s hospital flew overhead and several drones buzzed back and forth, hovering over the course.
Guys with beards, tattoos, and skinny jean-shorts led cute girls with pale white skin by the hand, weaving through athletes and event organizers, some smiling, some serious, as they looked down upon the Giant Slalom course on Jacobs Ladder.
All energy, hopes, excitement, anticipation, and vision had collided in this moment for the grand finale of the NFC IV.
The Giant Slalom, the main event of the NFC weekend, is perhaps the hardest racecourse in whitewater kayaking, requiring a mixture of strength, technique, and an expert’s understanding of reading whitewater. This year’s gates were changed from the previous year’s course, giving athletes and organizers plenty of opportunity for speculation, concern, and re-calculation of the all the little details that would require a winning run.
Athletes launched themselves down a wooden ramp suspended over the river and immediately dropped into the top of the rapid. The first left to right move through rodeo hole was perhaps the rowdiest boof on the section, giving racers plenty of opportunity to show off the bottom of their boats.
The second gate through Rock Drop was the most inconsistent, making athletes line up with a diagonal seam that would pull them through the second gate… or sometimes not. Taphy Puller was all about charging right of center, but some just went through the middle. Once you got left at Witches Tit, you were home free.
Racers took practice laps while spectators and organizers got into position. Ryan Baily, MC and one of the keeper’s of the North Fork pumped up the crowd, and by the time the first racer, Liam Fournier from Alberta landed in the water, everybody’s focus and attention was on the course. The Race had begun.
Each racer took two rides, with the fastest time counting. Racers where distinguished by the color of their bibs, White for returning athletes or those voted in for an automatic bid, Red for the Wild Card winners, and Gold for the reigning champion Jules Domine.
The athletes began to get into a rhythm and the lines, control over the rapid, and consistency of athletes making the gates indicated that this event would be close. It was hard to get a gauge of who was winning.
Some prominent athletes were battling injuries. Todd Wells was nursing a shoulder injury after a Thursday-night party injury and the defending champion Jules Domine was nursing bruised ribs, a little good-bye kiss from the Colombian rivers where he recently had came from.
Dane looked fast, so did Aniol and Isaac. Gerd was as methodical as ever, but botched the line on his first run, causing him to miss a gate. Besides a few roles, and some scattered correction strokes, each athlete commanded and controlled the rapid with mastery, causing many to feel like they too could run this rapid with style, class, and success. The pros always make it look easy, which it was not.
The crowd continued to swell during the day and the hot sun caused layers to be lost, skin exposed, and cold beers cracked from coolers. The smoothness of the event was impressive and before long all the athletes had completed both rides.
And while many looked fast, it was impossible to predict a winner.
The Awards Ceremony was kicked off in Crouch up on the South Fork of the Payette with music, food, conversation, and a corn-hole tournament. The positive vibes and excitement was tangible and there was a distinctive buzz of anticipation hovering over the crowd.
As the top-ten was announced, the cheers grew louder and louder, with a frenzied explosion of yips and yells when Nouria Newman received her 8th place finish. Familiar names popped up as Baily got closer and closer to announcing the top winners.
Isaac Levinson came in with his hands raised with the third place finish and when Dane was announced as the second place winner, the whole crowd realized who had won, making everyone search the crowd for the Spaniard Gerd Serrasolses, who was soon lifted high on the shoulders of his fellow kayakers and crowned the Champion of this year’s NFC.
- Gerd Serrasolses
- Dane Jackson
- Isaac Levinson
- Aniol Serrasolses
- Alec Voorhees
- Tren Long
- Todd Wells
- Nouria Newman
- Kyle Hull
- Kalob Grady
The celebration began in earnest and friends new and old gathered under a star-filled Idaho sky as music blared, conversation grew to a roar, Norwegian candles were lit, and the Dirty Shame bar began to explode with the rhythm of victory.
A huge shout out to event organizers James and Regan Byrd for creating such a special event and all these moments that will never be forgotten.
Stand by for more coverage and a final NFC event re-cap video dropping on Kayak Session and thanks for being part of Inside the NFC.