On Saturday, Aug. 22, a classic was reborn as Timberline Tours took the reins to host the Gore Canyon 2009 race, a classic Class V whitewater race bringing together the finest whitewater rafters, kayakers and paddlers of all types from throughout the Rockies to Paddling Life’s hometown run on the Colorado River…
In all, a couple of hundred whitewater kayakers, rafters and spectator campers gathered on the banks of the Colorado River for the Timberline Gore Canyon Race over the weekend, where old schoolers and new schoolers battled it out for top Class V racing honors.
“About 81 people raced, including a lot of old school kayakers who hadn’t been to the race in a few years,” says organizer Lisa Reeder of Timberline. “The water level discouraged some who had planned on racing, but those people still went into the canyon and paddled. The event had a flavor of times past which seemed to appeal to pretty much everyone that attended. Hopefully we’ll see an increase in racers going forward. Would love to see more rafters.”
Capturing the race’s spirit better than anyone was local kayaker Scott Willoughby of the Denver Post.
“Those who have been a part of the annual race for a majority of its double-decade history can easily retrace its rise and fall by pointing a finger at the poseurs who have since washed into obscurity,” wrote Scott Willoughby in the Post. “But instead of wasting effort placing blame, the river-wise elders decided to use that digit to do something more productive — they pressed the reset button. At a time when industry pundits are lamenting the demise of the whitewater kayaking industry, the 2009 Gore Canyon Race rediscovered the economics of soul.”
That it did. And perhaps no one was more soulful than 49-year-old winner Charlie MacArthur of Aspen, the race’s oldest entrant who clocked the day’s fastest time at 20:27, despite racing against competitors half his age. Following him in second place was Keith Olivier just over half a minute back at 21:01. What did MacArthur do afterward? Spent the afternoon inflatable kayaking the lower Class II Pumphouse section with his family.
There was also no shortage of classes or entrants. Class were held for Kayak 8 feet and under; Kayak 8.1 feet and over; 10 feet and over; Raft; Creature Craft, Riverboarding; Shredder; and Open-Standing Division (the ‘most extreme’ venue for this class in the country).
The success of this year’s event is a refreshing reminder of its grassroots beginning as nothing more than a close-knit Class V race. Then it got too big for its britches, attracting commercial sponsors that incorporated everything from Jumbo television screens to band-filled postrace celebrations. Its low point came two years ago, when the BLM’s Kremmling office took advantage of a flawed permit application to shut down the race.
As Willoughby notes, when it tried to go pro, it failed.
“Dedicated members of the whitewater tribe have long understood that the sports of kayaking and rafting never really were about them,” continued the Willoughby soliloquy. “River running is ultimately about rivers, which is why even those who haven’t picked up a paddle all summer are still inclined to make their way up to Gore to celebrate a special place in a special way.”
1 MacArthur Charlie 10ft+ 00:20:27.00
2 Olivier Ken 10ft+ 00:21:01.00
3 Nemec Jakub 8.1 – 10ft 00:22:03.00
4 Behind The 8 Ball Raft 00:22:10.00
5 Rawstron Will 8.1 – 10ft 00:22:24.00
6 Kennedy Tim 10ft + 00:22:26.00
7 Cook Christian 8.1 – 10ft 00:22:45.00
8 Anderson Leif 8.1 – 10ft 00:22:54.00
9 Copithorn Ben 8.1 – 10ft 00:23:14.00
10 Clayden Alex 10ft+ 00:23:20.00