Riding the Wild Waters
Gore Fest 2016 was a success with heavy competition from kayakers, rafters, and SUP boarders. Kayak and raft races saw some very skilled competitors navigating five miles of constant class IV and V rapids through Gore Canyon.
The fest began on Friday, August 26 for most and was a fun day for spectators and competitors as they floated the Colorado River from Pumphouse Recreation Site to Rancho Del Rio where the camping sites were located. The float was a great chance to enjoy some refreshing beverages and relax before entering the raging and violent water of Gore Canyon on Saturday. Saturday’s events included kayak and raft races, all of which were timed, so competitors started one at a time. They started just as the rapids begin in the canyon, after about four miles of flat water. The winning time for rafters was 26:36 and the fastest for kayakers (long-boat) was 20:43. Imagine navigating some of the most intimidating rapids in the country while worrying about your time as well.
There was no shortage of safety for the races as each major rapid saw about 25-30 people on either side of the river ready with throw ropes and safety kayakers. Safety kayakers are applied when someone is in the water away from their craft and often cannot get to shore. The kayakers paddle up to the swimmer and have them grab handles on the back of the boat, and then paddle them to shore. Safety kayakers can also recover lost kayaks and paddles from competitors that have capsized and become separated from their boat. There were many experienced whitewater professionals with ropes along the shore as well ready to deploy a “throw bag,” containing a rope, which was anchored to a rock or sturdy object. The point of the throw bag is to pendulum a person that is in the water to shore, or pull them to safety in an eddy. Ropes were thrown every time a person was in the water away from their boat, and were rescued before continuing to swim through another rapid. There were also rescuers on shore set up as “live bait.” Live bait means the rescuer is leashed to a rope that is attached to the their personal floatation device (PFD) with a detachable chord on the PFD so they can jump in after a swimmer if needed, without the threat of being stuck on the line. If they feel they are in danger while in the water, they pull the detachable chord on their PFD and swim to shore. Safety is nothing to be taken lightly in whitewater sports, especially in Gore Canyon, and the safety crews were deployed flawlessly throughout the rapids through professional organization and volunteer efforts from all safety crewmembers.
Saturday’s race finished off with a barbecue, awards, raffle prizes, and live music at Rancho Del Rio. An immaculate presentation of stars, and a cloudless sky made the night one to remember after seeing some of the best whitewater the country has to offer-located right here, in Grand County.