Friday, November 23, 2012

Green River Narrows Race

Working on getting the nose back down after slipping through the Notch, Chris Baer, Green Race, Gorilla, NC, North Carolina, 2012,
Working on getting the nose back down after slipping through the Notch
Racing usually allows the participant to push their personal envelope on a relatively safe course. No matter how many ropes, spectators, cheering fans, and Frog Men there are The Green River Narrows is NOT a safe course.

I love this race!  …..
Well, actually I don't like racing,
Why would I want to go as fast as I can through such an amazing canyon?
It's an entirely different rush, trying to challenge the stop watch and the river at the same time.

Practice, Makes Perfect?

The Green River water flow is seriously augmented by a damn that is located just a few miles upstream of the race venue. During the week leading up to the race, competitors were greeted with an interesting and unstable two hour dam release. The release water ran at a moderate flow of eight inches.

Race day, the generators were cranked up. Twelve inches was splashing on the gauge. Most of the competitors, weren't ready for such a step up. Competitors from out of town, internationals, and the folks that thought they might be able to make it down at 8 inches with safety set up everywhere, were about to get handled.

The Starting Line 


The starter looked down at me, 

"Chris you got 10 seconds"

Quickly I responded with a huge grin and a solid

"WHOOOOOP! this is so scary"

5    breathe
4    chuckle
3    splash water in face
2    breathe
1    laugh out loud


as Brad McMillian puts it, "the scariest words I hear all year"

Sliding towards the finish line, Chris Baer, Green River Narrows, Race, 2012, NC, North Carolina,
Sliding towards the finish line

30 seconds later I muck up my line. Instantly I realized that I wasn't going to succeed in my goal of finishing in under five minutes. Then another small bobble, I had to sneak Go Left, someone had already created some spectacular carnage there. A racer had pinned their boat in the drop (a week later parts of the kayak where recovered). Next, I got loose coming through Zwicks, and pulled off an amazing side ways boof over a sticky ledge. Panting hard, I spot 100 of my best friends, along with 700 random yelling people, I was about to enter Gorilla (the big one). A quick gasp for air, a precise stroke, and I flew through the Notch. Skipping around the 90° left hand turn, and flying off the 18 foot fall, I hear all 800 of them cheering. The following slides, where a mess. Spinning through eddies I continued to pant. The last couple strokes sprinting towards the finish took every thing I had. All of the bobbles, spins, and a week of training at a vastly different water level lead to a personal best race time of 5:33. I could have done significantly better, but that's racing. It's not what you can do, it's what you do, that second, when they say GO!

800 friends, and a lot of vertical to cover to the finish line, Chris Baer, Green River Narrows, Race, 2012, NC, North Carolina,
800 friends, and a lot of vertical to cover to the finish line
Five years of racing the infamous Green River Narrows has produced some entertainment for me and the crowd,

2008   7:52    actually got lost on the race course and had to ask for directions
2009   6:03    tried to go fast
2010   6:14    stopped at the Notch eddy and blew a fun whistle all the way to the finish line
2011   6:30    stopped below Chiefs and set off a Roman Candle attached to my helmet
2012   5:33    first race in a long boat, tried  to go fast

After some analysis of my race times, I might just go back to silly antics instead of trying to go fast.


Post Race


Wandering back up to "Gorilla" hooting and hollering for my friends, I received the information that more then a couple good boaters had crashed. "WHAT? Hale swam?"  I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It wasn't just me that had blown some lines, the entire field was crashing.


Frog Men


Bill Clipper came over to ask me to join him in the "Pit" (the base of Gorilla) Bill said, "we need to relieve some frogs down there" The pit is a cold place, covered in spray from the falls, and slick as snot. There, we the Frog Men, assist racers that tomahawk off of Gorilla. We had our hands full.

Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer
Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer

Monday, November 12, 2012

How young is too young for kayaking Class 5

How young is too young for kayaking Class 5

For the last few years I have been "organizing" a race on the Pine Creek section of the Arkansas river. My goal with the race is to have as much fun as possible and create an amazing spectator event. Chaos is always fun and the crowd seems to love it... so mass start is the way I try to start the race. Over a dozen kayaks, Seven rafts including the current National Champions, a couple duckies and shredders, toss in a pair of tubers, and a Topo Duo to round out the junk show.

Holden Bradford, is a fired up 10 year old with a ton of charisma. His parents have allowed him to have an amazing ability to look at adventure with truly open eyes. Race day he woke up early and hiked to the top of a peak just outside of Buena Vista to go paragliding. Right now he is probable tearing up Breckenridge ski resort, day dreaming of the spring when he gets to go kayaking again. Holden started rafting when he was only 18 months old, and has been kayaking for 5 years. He can truly read white water.

When I first approached Holden's father about the idea of Holden and I racing together I could see a little apprehension, but what came out of Josh's mouth was YES! The Plan was for Holden and I to race a two person kayak through the class 5 section of the Arkansas river. Race day I chatted with Holden at the put in. I asked him if he had ever paddled Pine Creek before, or been in a two person kayak, or seal launched? Holden responded a little hesitantly with "well no, but I have looked at pine creek a bunch, and I know we can do it!" Holden and I were about to experience a bunch of firsts together.

Holden and I charging through Pine Creek, Holden Bradford, Chris Baer, topo duo, dynamic duo, CO, colorado, arkansas, river,
Holden and I charging through Pine Creek
The pine creek mass start has never started cleanly, and this year would be no different. The field took off in two slightly different waves, and at that point neither Holden or I was in our kayak. It took a couple seconds to hop in the kayak and slap the spray skirts on. We pushed off the embankment and skidded into the water instantly cranking out strokes trying to make up for our delayed start.

Holden paddled like a man on a mission. I couldn't help from smiling as our boat flew over some wave and crushed into others, plowing Holden deep into the water. Pine Creek went supper well and both of us were glowing from the cheers of the crowd. Coming through triple drop the stern hung up in a hydraulic and I looked up to see Holden a solid 4-5 feet out of the water. As I set the boat back down level Holden let out a solid laugh and we started to link strokes and pass one white water vessel after the next. I felt like I had an outboard engine strapped to the front of my kayak. We would come into a  hard corner,  and Holden would start cranking out paddle strokes whipping us around the corner.

Twenty minutes into the race we had passed every one but the two fastest raft teams, and three kayakers. Holden's father was in the raft directly in front of us, we paused for a strategic pass. "GO HOLDEN GO!" I hollered as we came screaming past his fathers raft. The last few minutes of the race were grueling and Holden let out a couple groans as we inched closer and closer to the National raft team.

As we came across the finish line Holden reminded me that he came in 5th and that I was definitely 6th. Post race we were bombarded with questions. " I felt a little proud watching Holden go from tentative to confident while explaining that there would be no reason for us to roll, and to watch out for next year when hopefully Chris can get a proper start to happen. When asked how we did, Holden smiled and let it be known that "We slayed it!"

So how old is old enough to paddle class 5? In the proper craft, with the proper guidance, Holden Bradford, and I would agree, you can definitely fire up Pine Creek when your 10.

Thank you Holden for letting me paddle along with you in such a fun event.

Another adventure brought to you by Holden Bradford, and Chris Baer.