2013 Little White Salmon Race Recap


Adam ElliotThe 2013 Little White Salmon Race lived up to its hype as one of the wildest and wooliest whitewater competitions on the planet. Team NRS’s Adam Mills Elliot brings you this recap.


Anticipation for this year’s Little White Salmon Race hung over the Columbia Gorge kayak community like a bad cold running rampant through a middle school. Organizers and racers shared it and passed it on to each other, and this passion and drive was fueled, fed, and nourished, by “hot laps” in the dead of winter and precision GoPro video analysis of micro eddies at Spirit Falls and fast lines through the Enchanted Forest.

©Adam Mills Elliott
©Adam Mills Elliott

The downriver course drops 525 feet in the 2.25 mile course – 233 ft./mi., (or, for most of the world: 160 m descent / 3.6 km course = 44 m/km). For the past 3 years, this has been the most challenging whitewater race in the United States. 10 seconds… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! Getting Busy – Boulder Sluice – Toaster Slot – Island – Sacriledge – Double Drop – (damn! what’s next?) Enchanted Forest, S-turn (all these bloody drops!), Back-ender, Bowie’s, and, finally, Wishbone Falls. Time stops when the boat hits the pool at the bottom.

This is the core event of the Little White Race. For the love of the river, a salute to the soul boater, and a celebration of an intimacy with a river only the dedicated are lucky enough to experience. What does that feel like? Out of breath, plunging into the finish line at Wishbone, and emerging into an amphitheater of rock walls and green moss, surrounded by a core group of the kayaking family celebrating your finish… this is the LW race.

Rush Sturges flying off Spirit Falls. ©Sam Drevo
Rush Sturges flying off Spirit Falls. ©Sam Drevo

But just to spice things up a bit, and to take advantage of all the amenities provided by the mother nature, the race added a new event incorporating the most notorious drop on the river: Spirit Falls. The slalom event started in a small eddy above the lip of Spirit, a fast 30-footer straight into massive boils, with a two pesky downstream gates set in the landing zone.

The course incorporated two infamous moves in the rapid below Spirit: The “Hyphy Eddy” right into “Chaos.” This is precision boating at its finest, with the moves so close to one another that the stern of your kayak flirts with Chaos as you tuck in tight under the upstream gate planted in the Hyphy Eddy. Many racers had never made this move until race day, but with good safety set up at the bottom, the time was perfect to raise the level of commitment one more notch.

Live-bait boat retrieval from the guts of Chaos. ©Sam Drevo
Live-bait boat retrieval from the guts of Chaos. ©Sam Drevo

We saw swims, broken paddles, a few “live bait” roll assists and gear retrievals. We saw lots of cheering and jeering; people gawking and squawking. People and gear stuffed into four full-size vans and trailers provided by World Class Academy. The awards ceremony saw a lively crowd of cheering and support as one by one the winners were announced.

As Capo Rettig underscored in the pre-race meeting, “This is a celebration of the river and of our community of boaters.” This grassroots event has been getting bigger and bigger every year. As the second event in the AWP World Series, The LW race draws big-name paddlers from around the world along with a core group of Northwest locals. At its heart, it will always be a tight-knit group of friends coming together to paddle one of the most amazing rivers on the planet.

The competitors' meeting on the Columbia River. BBQ, hats and shirts, lots of information regarding the race, and a beautiful sunset. ©Adam Mills Elliott The competitors' meeting on the Columbia River. BBQ, hats and shirts, lots of information regarding the race, and a beautiful sunset. ©Adam Mills Elliott
The competitors’ meeting on the Columbia River. BBQ, hats and shirts, lots of information regarding the race, and a beautiful sunset. ©Adam Mills Elliott

The day finished up with a gourmet whole-pig open-flame roast, courtesy of Big Man’s Rottisserie, and a lively awards ceremony at Springhouse Cellar in Hood River.

Stay tuned for the highlights video, currently in the editing studio!

A big thanks to event sponsors World Class Academy and NRS, as well as the additional support from the Kayak Shed, Columbia Gorge Kayak School, Cascadia Adventure School, and Big Man’s Rotisserie.

For complete results go to http://littlewhitesalmonrace.com/wp/results/

Here are the top finishers:

Men’s Single Down River
1. Evan Garcia 15 min 2 sec
2. Gerd Serrassolses 15 min 11 sec
3. Louis Geltman 15 min 12 sec
4. Todd Wells 15 min 25 sec
5. Darren Albright 15 min 50 sec

Women’s Single Down River
1. Katrina Van Wijk 17 min 3 sec
2. Sandra Hyslop 17 min 21 sec
3. Nouria Newman 17 min 21 sec

Team Race Down River
1. Michael “Miguel Shields” / Nice Yalan 17 min
2. Orion Meredith and Niko Peha 17 min 7 sec
3. Chris Leach and Matt King 17 min 52 sec
4. Kim Becker and Dave Hoffman 18 min 1 sec
5. Dylan McKinney and Clay Lucas 18 min 8 sec

Men’s Slalom
1. Evan Garcia 50.59
2. Galen Volckhausen 50.86
3. Kyle Hull 54.22
4. Erik Johnson 56.64
5. Rush Sturges 57.21

Women’s Slalom
1. Katrina Van Wijk 1.31.60
2. Nouria Newman 2.54.77
3. Sandra Hyslop 2.56.04