Local Ryan Casey Wins Coveted North Fork Payette Race


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Talk about a race down a badge of courage. Last weekend, Idaho’s North Fork of the Payette drew some of the best kayakers in the world to Idaho for the first-ever, large-scale kayak race down the notorious stretch of Class V. In the end, local Ryan Casey took top honors, followed by Tyler Bradt and Mikkel St. John-Duncan.

Despite a field packed with some of the biggest names in whitewater, local boater Ryan Casey, 35, who grew up running the North Fork, came out on top of the star-studded field with two of the cleanest runs of the day. “It was home turf advantage, for sure,” Casey says.
It was such a gauntlet of whitewater that competitors like Pat Keller, Rush Sturges, Chris Gragtmans, Ben Marr, Andrew Holcombe and Tyler Bradt even all shared information beforehand about the best lines to take through the giant slalom course at Jakes.

After dropping in off a steep Red Bull-sponsored ramp above Jacob’s Ladder, kayakers were required to catch the eddy at Rock Drop after punching through Rodeo Wave 20 yards above. They were then forced to pull a dangerous ferry from river left to river right, using the backwash at Rock Drop to make a gate on river right. Two more tough gates followed, one at Ocean Wave and another in the heart of Golf Course. “Getting to the right bank was definitely a crux,” says Casey.
Jacob’s Ladder lived up to its reputation, forcing two swims and several aborted race lines where paddlers were rescued from precarious positions.

“I didn’t have my best race but I’m just happy to have survived it,” Sturges says. “I think every kayaker feels the same way. Just running Jake’s on its own is a scary thing to do. When you couple a race in it just adds to the intensity factor. End of the day, everybody getting to the bottom safely, it was a very successful event.”

Organizer James Byrd did a great job putting the event together, from organizing shuttle rigs and meals tolining up safety. “All the amazing paddlers were here,” says Bradt. “The North Fork is this infamous place with amazing whitewater that you hear about since you start kayaking. To have this type of event organized at Jacobs Ladder is amazing. James did a great job.”

“It’s great, it’s a spectator event, it’s roadside but Jacob’s Ladder is that type of rapid where you drop into it and there’s nobody there but you,” Bradt said. “You are very alone on that rapid even with hundreds of people on the bank.”

As for the winner Casey, he was gang tackled by a crowd of revelers as he approached the victory stand and then forced to guzzle a beer through a bong made from a Pink Flamingo yard ornament lovingly nicknamed “Flabongo.” The 6’7″ paddler was then hoisted atop shoulders for a free celebratory ride through the crowd.

1. Ryan Casey
2. Tyler Bradt
3. Mikkel St. John-Duncan
4. Wilz Martin
5. Geoff Calhoun
6. Pat Keller
7. Ben Marr
8. Evan Garcia
9. Jakub Nemec
10. Fred Coriell
11. Kyle Hull
12. Rush Sturges
13. Jonny Meyers
14. Tristan McClaran
15. Lane Jacobs
16. Andrew Holcombe
17. Chris Gragtmans
18. Darren Albright
19. Jesse Murphy
20. Dan Menten
21. Chris McTaggert
22. Dan Simenc
23. Ryan Lucas
24. Ben Luck
25. Mira Kodada
26. Zach Fraysier


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