North Fork Championship V – Final Report
In the five years since its inauguration the North Fork Championship has become the premiere event in the world of whitewater kayaking, famed for both its whitewater and its festivities. The four-day event runs the gauntlet from family friendly; with a whitewater festival and The Melt Awards to the main event, a Giant Slalom on the North Fork Payette’s famed Jacob’s Ladder. Arguably the capstone of the nearly 15 mile long stretch of class five whitewater, running Jacob’s Ladder is a right of passage for North Fork Boaters, and the idea of racing down daunting for all but the best.
When organizer James Byrd first came up with the idea of a race down the tumult of cascading water he wanted to push the limits of what was possible in extreme racing, promote and highlight Idaho’s North Fork Payette and the Banks community, bring together the worlds best kayakers, and host a debaucherous party. He has without doubt succeeded. While racing Jake’s is no longer a novel concept, the North Fork Championship continues to set the bar, demanding the best of the best, making kings of men.
While the levels were lower- 1600 compared to a high as 3000 in years past- the course was the most difficult yet, with only half the paddlers managing to make all the gates cleanly. The crux move on the course was gate two, a left upstream directly below Rodeo Hole. The frustration was evident on Todd Wells’ face as he was rejected by the boils guarding the gate not once, but twice, ruining his chances of a top 10 finish.
Yet making the gates wasn’t enough to guarantee an invite back for NFC VI.
Times were tight, with 11th place finisher Isaac Levinson only 9/10 of a second behind Wild Card Evan Moore.
The man in red, Rush Sturges, returned to the top ten, making up for a disappointing first run and proving why he is one of the best known and respected paddlers on the course.
Will “Jamboy” Griffith surprised a few people when laid down a clean, smooth, fast second lap that fired up the BDP crew and earned him 8th place.
Ottawa native Nick Troutman reminded spectators that he is far more than a big water playboater. The Stakeout alum and 2015 ICF Freestyle Bronze medalist showed why edge control matters, driving his Jackson Zen in and out of eddies for 7th place.
Narrowly behind the top 5, Brit Joe Morley’s past life as a slalom paddler paid off as he charged down the course taking 6th, well ahead of fellow country men and wild card entries Phil Mitchell and Sam Ellis.
Aniol Serrasolses spent the last month in California, where he was part of a crew that ran Fantasy Falls higher than it has ever been run. One of the smoothest, best, paddlers out there at the moment, Aniol possesses boat control like no one else. While he moved down in rank from last year, Serrasolses took the number 5 spot.
North Fork local favorite, at 19 years old and 6’3’’, Alec Voorhees was both the youngest and tallest competitor on the course. A popular choice for people making bets on future Kings of the North Fork, Alec finished in fourth position, guaranteeing him an opportunity to challenge the Crown next year.
Kyle “King Hesh” Hull found the time to pull some faces and have fun. Hull ended up third with a time of 1:59, inclusive of a 5 second penalty from the stern of his boat kicking up to clip the Oceana Gate. Without the penalty, Hesh would have had the fastest time on the course by 3 seconds. In this race, both precision and speed matter.
Tad Dennis blew everyone away on Saturday. The former US slalom team member paddled it on his knees, with one paddle blade. Dennis was a last minute addition as the third Alternate and proved beyond a doubt that C-1 can be every bit as fast and smooth and powerful as the best kayakers. His boat never stopped moving, lining up gate 3 before he had left gate 2. Be sure to look for him again.
“King Dane.” The man is a machine. The first competitor to win both the Boater X and the Jacob’s Ladder Giant Slalom, this weekend belonged to none other than Dane Jackson. His insatiable love of kayaking was evident as Jackson paddled the Jake’s course more than most other athletes combined. Cheering on his competitors, offering support and encouragement, and constantly sharing his stoke, Jackson wears the crown of King of the North Fork well.
Full results go to: https://www.kayaksession.com/the-2016-north-fork-championship-full-results/
Watch the Elite Giant Slalom Video recap: https://www.kayaksession.com/north-fork-championship-v-final-report/