Friday, March 22, 2013

The Upper Wind Race: 2013 Edition

Last weekend marked the start of festival season in the Pacific Northwest. The Upper Wind Race features a mass start format and consisted of around 50 competitors this year, with several divisions. I competed in the Mens K1 division. There was also a Womens K1 class, a long boat class, and a r2 class.

The event is organized by The Oregon Rafting team, namely Tim Brink, and is heavily supported by Next Adventure, along with several other paddling related entities in the Portland area.

Seeing as this event was initially designed as a 'raft race' the course is quite long and a rather large portion of 'flat water' class III after the initial mile and half of IV+ whitewater. All combined, the course is just over 3 miles in length and takes over 20 minutes to complete. Needless to say, by the time you're at the bottom, everyone is pretty tuckered out.

The week leading up to the festival had been uncharacteristically warm for this time of year, but right on cue, we woke up on Saturday morning to rain and cold temps. Spring is in the air! The rain did bump the water level up to approx. 5.8 feet on the Stabler gauge, which made for a nice flow for racing.

After the long boat class took off, the K1 Mens Division was up. All 30 of us lined up along the banks above the bridge at the Stabler put-in. This year, someone decided to have us start with our bows towards the bank, so the first paddle stroke that everyone took was actually a back stroke. We were seeded based on a poker card we had been issued upon registration. Naturally, I had drawn a 7 of hearts and was towards the back of the pack to start.

The whistle blew and the river erupted into a flurry of boats and churning paddles. This was by far the most challenging part of the race for me! Trying to keep myself in the current while avoiding the serrated fiberglass blades of the guy next to me, the first 1/2 mile of the race was overly tiring and seemed to go on forever!

Just as the racers began to thin out and fall into line, we entered the meat of the run. Initiation down through Climax features a nice blend of class III and IV boulder gardens with one obvious crux at a rapid known as Ram's Horn. Having only paddled this river a few times in the past, I focused on keeping an eye on the guy in front of me as we dropped through the goods.

By the time we came to the last real rapid on the run (Climax) I was overly tired and kind of forgot the line through this often sticky ledge hole. Luckily, I was able to orient myself at the last moment and came through the hole in big stern squirt. Just another mile of flat water to the finish line!

I spent the last mile of the race jockeying for position with Jesse Becker and Michael Freeman. Jesse ended up winning the duel and I came in just a nose in front of Michael. After it was all said and done, I finished in the middle of the pack (9th place) and was a full minute+ behind Dan Rubado (1st Place) and Trevor Sheehan (2nd Place). Times were unofficial and haven't been posted as of today, but you can view the standings at

In the Women's class, which featured 7 racers, Kim Becker edged Heather Herbeck for 1st place and had a pretty exciting duel at the finish line with Nicole Mansfield and Katrina Van Wijk, who were charging in the topo-duo. I believe Kim held them off in the end.

Below is a collection of photos taken by Eric Adsit, Jacob Cruser, and my girlfriend Claire, who was kind enough to hike all the way into Ram's Horn in the pouring rain to watch the show. I've also put together a video of my headcam footage.

Hope everyone can make it our next year! And remember, the Northwest Creeking Competition is only a month away!

Until next time,

Dan Rubado, way out in front at the start of Initiation (Photo: Jacob Cruser)

 The front pack getting into the goods. (Photo: Jacob Cruser)

 More K1 Men routing through Initiation. (Photo: Jacob Cruser)

 Dynamic Duo. (Photo: Jacob Cruser)

 R2 Class (Photo: Jacob Cruser)

 More rubber. (Photo: Jacob Cruser)

Nicole and Katrina rocking the topo below Ram's Horn (Photo: Claire Rothstein)

 Jesse Becker, Leif Anderson, Harrison Rea, and Nate Merrill in the middle. (Photo: Claire Rothstein)

Random chargers below Ram's Horn (Photo: Claire Rothstein)

Dan Rubado trailed closely by Lewis Hooker (Photo: Claire Rothstein)

 Christie Eastman in the long boat division. (Photo: Claire Rothstein)

Harrison Rea and Nate Merrill (author) routing through the top of Ram's Horn (photo: Eric Adsit)

 Follow the leader. (photo: Eric Adsit)

The video!