Through the Lens | The 23rd Annual Green Race
Photos & Article Provided By Priscilla Macy
The Green Race once again lived up to its title as the “Greatest Show in Sports” this year. Crowds of over 1000 people - boaters, hikers, family members and locals- line the banks and look into the bedrock amphitheater that is the Green River Narrows. As each paddler comes through The Notch, the crowd comes to life: roaring and echoing through the gorge with cowbells ringing and signs waving. Photographers ready their cameras and get into position. Teams of safety boaters ready their throw bags and bodies for rescue in the case that something goes wrong. With nearly 200 racers, the ritual happens again and again, as each competitor enters the arena at Gorilla and the crowd erupts as if they had been saving their enthusiasm for this one moment. Only to repeat the eruption a minute later for the next racer, and this goes on for three hours. The event itself is a big part of kayak culture as a whole, and to the world, may well be the iconic epicenter of East Coast kayaking. If afforded the opportunity, the event is something every boater should try to experience at least once in their life. The event itself represents a microcosm of some of the ways in which the sport is so special to us and is able to provide bonds and experiences that tie our small and strange community of supporters and athletes together.
This year, a strong contingent of athletes representing Immersion Research competed as veterans, up and coming athletes and as first-timers on the race course. One of IR’s own, Max Blackburn, reflects on his own experience of competing as a racer for the first time:
“Going into my first green race, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Doing most of my paddling over the last decade in the PNW and not having been to the Green in 10 years, I admittedly underestimated this classic section of river and may have taken it a little for granted. I figured some GoPro review of people’s practice and race runs and paddling a sea kayak down the middle White Salmon for a couple weeks would be ample preparation, but after almost flipping in the notch on my first practice run and being fully gassed by the bottom of Rapid Transit, I realized that I had not given this river, nor this race, the respect it deserved.
By the time race day came, I had gained a renewed respect for the reality and risk of racing the Green and an unexpected appreciation for the precision and technical skill required to navigate that section of river successfully.
While my race run didn’t go quite as planned, and I now have a date with some hair clippers when I get back to the gorge as a result of losing an ill-conceived bet with a long time green race veteran, I can’t stop thinking about coming back and doing it all over again next year. I have never experienced anything like coming into Gorilla with over a thousand people screaming at you and cowbells clanging - all while trying to link up the many must make moves with lactic arms that aren’t working like they usually do.
For reasons I’m still not quite sure how to explain, I can’t wait to have that experience again. But even more so, I look forward to joining the community around this race again as it is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone is encouraging, supportive and willing to go out of their way to make sure you feel welcome and prepared. Those who help to make the Green Race happen deserve all the props, gratitude and respect – for it is truly a gift to the whitewater paddling community. Green Race 24 cannot come soon enough"
The race is a result of countless hours and amounts of efforts from a contingent of volunteers, sponsors, local companies, boaters, conservation partners like American Whitewater and longtime event organizers including John Grace, Chelsea Grace and Jason Hale. In an effort to contribute to the continuation of this race and preservation of the access to the Green River Narrows, photographers at the event donated their time and photos with the ask that if you download, share or use them that you please consider donating to the Green Race Conservation Project. You can learn more about this effort and make a donation here.
You can view all of my photos from the event on Flickr.
Congratulations to the members of the IR family that competed this year!
A big congrats to Pat Keller for his 2nd place finish and to those who competed in multiple classes including Tad Dennis who not only placed 14th in K1 but also took 13th in C1 - just barely beating himself!