Shaving 8 seconds off the course record, Kiwi kayaking kingpin Mike Dawson won both the long and short boat division of this year’s 17th annual Green Race on North Carolina’s Green River, earning year-long bragging rights as well as…the coveted stained glass trophy.
More than 100 spectators hiked into the gorge November 3 to witness the event, which included both carnage (lots) and courage (even more). “It was the most incredible kayak
event I have ever witnessed,” says Madawaska Canoe Centre owner Claudia Van Wijk, whose daughter, Katrina, took second for the women.
In all, 177 kayakers and canoeist entered this year’s “Draw Down,” – the 17th year for the Green Race in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside tiny Saluda, North Carolina, on one of the world’s most challenging whitewater runs. The action included hand paddlers, duo’s, open boats and kayaks short and long.
But it was New Zealand’s Dawson who reigned supreme, shaving his winning time from last year by 20 seconds to win the title yet again in 4:10. CFlose on his heels was Dane Jackson at 4:15 and Issac Levinson in third at 4:19. Pat Keller finished fourth a second back at 4:20, followed by Eric Deguil in fifth at 4:21. Dawson also won the short boat division, hiking back up to finish in 4:30, followed by Deguil in second a second back at 4:31 and Levinson in third at 4:39.
For the women, Adreine “Queen of the Green” Levknecht took the top spot at 4:58, followed by Van Wijk in second at 5:06 — a far better showing than her race last year in which she ended the day with 27 stitches to her forehead.
As for carnage, spectators got plenty, with boats flipping and pinning, paddlers swimming, and rescues that seemed nearly impossible but handled with aplomb by the top-notch rescue team on hand.
A Brief History
The Green River Narrows Race was first organized by Leland Davis in the fall of 1996 with a modest field of 16 racers. It has since grown into one of the greatest shows in the world of whitewater, awarding a piece of stained glass to each year’s winner donated by Todd Grafe. Names like Tommy Hilleke, Jason Hale, Clay Wright, Al Gregory, Pat Keller, and Andrew Holcombe all adorn the winner’s circle.