Interview: John Grace, Green Race Organizer
John, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, as I am sure you are quite a busy man at the moment…
JG: Thank you for having me, KS. We’re stoked to work with such a core publication as the Green Race’s official media sponsor!
« In short, yes, it is happening, but it was a difficult decision nonetheless. »
KS: Let’s start with the main question. Is the Green Race taking place this year? What went into making this decision?
JG: In short, yes, it is happening, but it was a difficult decision nonetheless. We always wanted to do it and know that being outside, staying fit, and paddling are the kind of healthy activities that have never been more important. Having said that, it wasn’t until we took a poll from the area’s businesses, safety team, and the local community this past July that we made the final decision to have the race. Everyone was 100% behind us holding the event. That is really what it took for us to make it happen.
KS: What about the racers? What do they need to do to enter this year, and what can they not do? Did you request a COVID test from participants or give recommendations on shuttles, so people aren’t stacked in the same car?
« Our solution was to put together a live stream out of the canyon so people could watch from home and ask that spectators take a year off. »
JG: Face-coverings during shuttle and only electronic waivers and check-in are permitted. As mentioned above, racers are never bunched together. As a racer, during the event, you kind of get the river to yourself. It’s kinda perfect for the age of social distancing.
KS: What is the plan? Will the race be the same format as always, with the event run the same way, and the traditional community vibe and festival feel?
JG: We have always started in one-minute intervals, and the racers are spaced out all day. Other than masking up for shuttle and electronic waivers, nothing really changed as far as the race goes. The biggest challenge is the spectators. The last few years, we’ve had close to 2000 people in the canyon on race day and having that many people shoulder to shoulder, even with masks on or outside, isn’t responsible. Our solution was to put together a live stream out of the canyon so people could watch from home and ask that spectators take a year off. 90% of our fans understood and are stoked on the opportunity to watch the greatest show in all of sports from home. Finally, our awards party has been changed from a festival style to more of a drive-in concert. Attendees basically get a campsite where they can mingle amongst their group, listen to live music and see who the 2020 champs are live.
« There is no cell service down there, and yes, the logistics are nuts. »
KS: Whaaaat? You are going to bring the Green Race live, online, for the world to watch!!!! How cool! How crazy is the logistics behind this undertaking?
JG: This has been the biggest challenge for sure! We’ve wanted to do this for years, but the gorge is so remote, it has never felt feasible. There is no cell service down there, and yes, the logistics are nuts. But as soon as we decided to do the race this year, we knew we had to get a feed out to limit in-person spectating. I could go on and on about this but just envision us scrambling around cliffs and stringing thousands of feet of fiber optic cable. It’s quite the undertaking!
Is the Mullet craziness happening again this year?… Hell yeah!
KS: What about the Calcutta? Is the Mullet craziness happening again this year?
JG: Hell yeah! On Thursday night before the race, we’re going to do a live virtual Calcutta to raise money for the Green Race Conservation Project. We’ll announce seedings, handicaps, and give mullets when fundraising goals are met, all the while supporting American Whitewater and Green River Keeper.
KS: What does it cost to pull this off? How can we all help out to make sure you do not have to sell your house after the event?
JG: It’s expensive. Really expensive, and as I’m sure you know KS, sponsorships in our industry aren’t exactly handed out like Halloween candy. Especially in the year 2020. Our only option was to go with the Pay Per View model.
« Our message to paddlers out there is this: We are taking a huge financial risk getting this show/coverage put together and out of the canyon… If this event and other amazing events are to be broadcast- and survive- it will take viewer support. It’s really that simple »
KS: In other words, you need the community to pull this off. What are you asking from the people? You need the Euro paddlers to playing the game and show support too, right? Is the Paddle Sports industry helping?
JG: You nailed it! Our message to paddlers out there is this: We are taking a huge financial risk getting this show/coverage put together and out of the canyon. Sponsors can’t foot the bill, and even if they could, it wouldn’t happen year after year. If this event and other amazing events are to be broadcast- and survive- it will take viewer support. It’s really that simple.
KS: John, you’re once again at the forefront, just like Daniel Delavergne was. This is such a great way to celebrate his memory: creating a crazy plan of live-broadcasting a race that takes place an hour’s walk from the nearest road, with the budget of a five-year-old’s weekly allowance. Do you see this as a fantastic opportunity to set the example for the future of paddling events?
JG: Damn, I miss that guy. He would love this! To answer your question, let’s see if we pull it off first, but yes, we would love to help other events do this in the future. It can solve many problems… From in-person spectators impacting the landscape to simply allowing families to watch their kids, parents, siblings, and friends do their thing.
KS: Now, the most important thing. Where can we book our tickets to watch the show live? I imagine the sooner you sell the 400 « tickets » needed to run the event, the better you feel, right?
JG: Go to https://hammerfactor.com/green-race-live/.
We have put together an amazing team that deserves mentioning. Brian Miller, Al Gregory, and Dixiemarree Pricket will be announcing. Sarah Ruhlen, Wylder Cooper, Adam Freeman, Dustin Cogswell, Chris Wing, and Jake Cooper are all manning cameras or flying drones. Tim Koerber will be feeding graphics to Brad Roberts running the switcher. Jack Pitfield will be on top of the mountain manning the live stream. It’s a complex, labor-intensive effort, and yes, every viewer’s support is very much appreciated.