Northwest Creeking Competition 2014
What do you get when you combine 200 racers with equal parts spectators & volunteers to match, lots of sunshine, tasty beer, amazing raffle prizes and a dash of water? You get the amazing 2014 Northwest Creeking Competition of course! This year team Alder Creek was out in force at the NWCC and this year’s event was better than ever. It was truly great to see so many smiling faces all over the race course and event grounds for what is becoming one of the West Coast’s premiere whitewater festivals. Pros and locals (and many local pros) mingled throughout the weekend on and off the river as hundreds of people converged on Sunset Falls campground on the banks of the East Fork of the Lewis River for this two day, downriver race. On Saturday the stoke from team Alder Creek was at an all time high as Andrew Romanelli celebrated his 30th birthday by participating in the race for the first time and Paul Kuthe took home the hardware for winning the K1 Long Pro race category and turning in the fastest time of the day in his super nifty P&H Hammer. Ninkasi Brewing from Eugene, Oregon made sure that nobody went thirsty on Saturday night (although they may have also ensured a few hangovers the following morning, so it goes) and the good vibrations carried on well into the night. Sunday’s race down Canyon Creek near Amboy, Washington was also a smashing success, this year we had more racers than ever and sunny weather with temperatures reaching 70+ degrees. Despite some grumblings from the rubber pushers about low water I think everyone had a great time at this volunteer run & organized event, we could not have asked for more. A big “thank you” goes out to all of the event sponsors and the volunteers for making it happen, until next year!
I’ve been hearing about this awesome event since moving to Portland in 2010. Two of my co-workers, Paul Kuthe and David Trageser, volunteer a lot of time and effort each year for this mystical race. Each year I get to hear how awesome the atmosphere is on the river while I’m working in the shop over the weekend. At this point in April, we aren’t staffed very heavily which makes it difficult to get three of us the whole weekend off. This year, however, I had something of a golden ticket: the Creek Comp was also my birthday weekend! What better way to celebrate that past three decades than with friends along the river?! It also provided some significant leverage to draw enough sympathy that my shifts got covered! I got to Sunset Falls Campground a day before to lend a hand. In exchange for a bit of yardwork, a nearby resident graciously allows all of these paddlers to take out at his property, the finish line. What took 20 people little more than an hour would have taken him days, and I’m happy that we could help him out! We could all use a little more river karma, right? Practicing “race laps”, searching for the fastest line rather than catching as many eddies as possible, was a new thing for me. Saturday, my birthday, would present the first paddling of being 30 years old as well as my first race ever! Full of buzz Friday night, I sat by the campfire counting rocks, drops and turns in my mind. Saturday came with the sun shining and a steady trail of colorful paddlers streaming towards Sunset Falls. I was very pleased with my race that day! Though I came nowhere close to the fastest times, I look forward to cleaning up my lines and working out my racing strategy. The Saturday race on the East Fork of the Lewis River is a long, hard haul, paddling with sincere purpose and direction for almost 12 minutes (10.5 minutes for the winners). I was exhausted by the time I slid into the eddy at the finish line. Searching for a balance of rest and celebration that afternoon, I had a great time sitting by the falls with endless entertainment flying downstream. Saturday night wrapped up with a great raffle and over 100 excited/exhausted racers. I “birthday’d” about as hard as I raced that night, surrounded by amazing company and cheer, and Sunday came a bit sooner than I would have liked! Slow around camp, my right shoulder was still feeling unstable from the day before, and I felt no guilt in relishing in all of the excellent moments that Saturday offered. Passing on the Canyon Creek race that Sunday, it was nice to leisurely pack up camp and make my way home for a cheeseburger and a nap. I had an amazing time with great people that weekend. Our paddling community is rich (in spirit and smiles, that is) and supportive. What an incredible venue with excellent safety for this stellar event. Oh, and Paul Kuthe won his race for the first time after nearly a decade of volunteering and organizing this event! Way to bring home that belt buckle, buddy! With any luck, the weekend will line up again next year so I can return to this wonderful event. I’m hoping to cut 30 seconds off my East Fork of the Lewis race lap next year, and I’m going to be DIALED for that Canyon Creek race on Sunday. I’ll also be sure to get some more sleep. 😉