An Air France 777 just took off outside and the little trucks are
scurrying around desperately trying to get another plane loaded in time
for departure. I just flew into Montreal and am sitting here enjoying a
beer watching the airport busy itself all around me. This is the last
leg on what has been an almost three week trip from Massachusetts to
Maryland, North Carolina and back again.
Two days ago I raced in the Green Narrows Race. At around 12:30 on
November the 3rd I joined around 140 other races bombing down through
the Green’s many rapids to get to the bottom panting and just happy to
be in one piece.
After finishing up the Linville, a week ago, not too long before
sunset on the top of Chapel Tower, one mile of hiking straight up hill
behind us our attention turned to the Green and the race a week from
then. With a quick stop in Boone, NC to get some kick-arse burritos
from some very lovely young ladies and fuel up on coffee we were
driving down Big Hungry the next morning to the put-in and the walk to
Having lucked out on the water during the previous week it was our
turn to endure the conditions that have been plaguing the South East
for the whole year. Even with the Green at 100% with no natural flow
the river loses some of it’s padding and while a couple of rapids get
easier, the majority get a little tighter. Gorilla becoming a snarling
beast through dehydration, and starts to break at the lip, pushing
paddlers right into the shelf. Given that this is 4 minutes into the
race it’s not a good thing to have a difficult rapid turn worse. Having
said that, it’s the Green Race, it’s not easy in the first place.
John Wallace was kind enough to lend me his Prijon Invader, but
after paddling it was pretty evident that the rocker profile and volume
would not have been wise to race with the boat. So hard as it was to
venture south without a race boat I took the Jefe down the run for the
first time just to get into the Groove. Joined by Daniel we took Mike
on a whistle stop tour for his first ever run down the Green. Styling
everything we got to Go Left and Die just to give him verbal and off we
went. Go left provided little difficulty for Mike while others were
Gorilla was a slightly different story and since the water was at an
all time low I opted to scout with Mike and check out exactly how nasty
the Monkey was today. For me the worst part of Gorilla has always been
the Notch. I have never experienced any issues but with a very tight
slot with an undercut to the right it’s just intimidating. The lip was
breaking a bit but not enough to cause me any concern, catch the eddy
and fade into a slight right boof, tuck forward and land. All good.
Sunday was going to be Daniel’s run in the Tornado and his first run
through Gorilla in the long boat. Unfortunately he crashed really hard
breaking his boat, flattening the first foot and cracking the seam. A
little shaken he pulled it back together and fixed the thing in time
for another the Friday before the race, this time styling it.
My week was spent bouncing back and forth trying to decide to race
short or man up and race long boat. Organizer and general orator of the
Green Race, Jason Hale, is always a proponent of the only boat class so
my decision was made. Why the hell would anyone want to paddle the
Corsica Matrix? They wouldn’t, but it was all I had, that or a Dancer.
Not having access to the boat until Thursday the Remix 69 would be a
quasi-long boat for the time being. Fast as hell this would do quite
nicely, but hiking back up for a second run of Gorilla to try and dial
in the direct line to the pad was almost met by disaster when I cam off
the pad with my body back and the boat twisted. A little mid air pray
for help stroke meant that I did not land face first but I was a little
nervous to say the least. That was a great way to kick off my birthday.
That afternoon we spent an hour or two in the Asheville skate park
mellowing out and taking our minds off the race. It’s a good thing they
have a strict helmet policy since right at the end of our time there I
took a digger right to the dome. A few Houdini ESBs at the Brew and
View sorted that right out. LVM 24 premiered with my first appearance
running the take out falls of Big Kimshew. I was psyched, especially
since I had no idea.
Pat’s basement was then the venue for the underground gambling,
better known as Calcutta. Each competitor is given a handicap based on
a projected time, or their time from the previous year, this is then
deducted from their time this year and the new fastest time wins a
decent amount of money at the party for whoever bet on them.
Underground betting on kayaking is the most bizarre thing ever,
hilarious, but bizarre.
Friday saw my one and only run in the Corsica before the race. By
myself, I picked my way down carefully at a nice flowing pace just
getting used to the boat. With a flat top deck it resurfaces slowly and
with less rocker than optimum it liked to be under water in the first
place. This was going to mean I had to be conscious of edging
aggressively out of holes and trying hard to keep it on the surface in
the first place.
The morning of this race has the most charged atmosphere of any
competition I have ever been to. People are amped-up, scared, excited,
quiet and nervous, and just plain happy to be there. Beyond all that
everyone is there to enjoy themselves and take part in really what is
the best kayaking event of the year.
The sun was shining at the start and with a 5,4,3,2,1 GO. I was at the
bottom 4 minutes and 57 seconds later, happy to be there and feeling
good about what had been a pretty good run. I was not going to find out
the time till much later at the party and was psyched to see that all
had gone well. Despite getting back flipped out of the Speed Trap and
having to roll up I was on my way quickly. The top of the run was
really where I felt I made up a lot of time, Frankenstein went well and
keeping my bow dry and clean through Pencil Sharpener worked out very
well. Coming out of Boof or Consequence I managed to stay high and keep
a good line through Go Left and Die. This was my major mistake last
year and so getting through I was feeling good and started to increase
my pace through the next flowing section down to Gorilla.
After a couple of phone calls attention turned to the party and the
results. Woody is the Man! and kindly donated his beautiful and just
finished house and garden for the post-race party. It’s hard to
describe the atmosphere down at the race and the party, it’s just like
a big family gathering.
While the Green Race is about the fastest time, it’s about getting to
the finish line and starting in the first place. It’s about running the
gnar in front of all your friends and about having fun. Congratulations
to all the competitors. But above all congratulations to Andrew
Holcombe for winning, Daniel Whindam for getting back in the Tornado,
Chris Gragtmans for coming 4th even with severe tendonitis and all the
other boaters that raced.
Mike and I drove back despite my Trooper’s best efforts to sabotage
our trip as its transmission died, got up tied some loose ends and
headed to the airport. Happy to be back in the Northeast just in time
for the snow, Mike’s attention was turning to snowboarding and mine to
Right now my plane is about to board and I am off back to England for
the first time in 4 years. Time for a beer in the Pub and home-cooked
meal by me Mum and Dad.
Thanks again for everything and we shall be seeing you at the Green Race again next year.