Idaho. Day Two. More carnage on the river…
The second day of racing here at the Payette River Games saw the field narrowed down to the top 20 contenders in both the Downriver Race and SUP Cross, ahead of tomorrow’s grand finale.
*Technically* these two races are the main events for the stand up paddlers, however the main event for a few of us today was either the Raft Cross or Lumberjack (or if you’re Jamie Mitchell: Both).
Saturday morning began with the Downriver Race (it’s actually called the “SUP Sprint” but I reckon 1.5 miles is way beyond sprint level, so we’re just going with “Downriver”). There were 40 contenders at the start of today but after 4x heats of 10 paddlers, that number was down to 20.
Those 20 guys (and 10 girls) will battle it out in tomorrow’s finals, where the $50k will get sliced up and the winners will walk away with $10,000.
This race is tough. You start way upstream, sprint like mad down the flat water and then try to catch your breath before going through the big rapid that is the main feature of Kelly’s Whitewater Park. It’s not easy.
Most of the big names made it, though there were a few shock exits that will certainly mix up tomorrow’s final standings.
Here’s the start list for tomorrow’s final, listed in order of how fast they qualified today. Yes, Kai is crushing it in the whitewater. Freak.
Downriver Race: MEN’S FINAL 20
Downriver Race: WOMEN’S FINAL 10
The other major event of the day was the SUP Cross. This is where much of the carnage happens as the course is short and the racing is tight.
After yesterday saw a few “easy” heats in the SUP Cross, the level of competition was on a whole different level today. That was particularly true in the men’s side of the competition, where even the losers’ rounds were cut-throat contests.
Quite a few big names got dropped including the likes of Chuck Glynn, Kody Kerbox and one of my hot favourites for this race, Masayuki Takahata (aka “Yacu”) from Japan.
The river guys continue to kill it though. Paddlers we’ve never heard of are schooling world champions and Battle of the Paddle winners. Dark horses are stepping up and the whole.
However there’s always one familiar name lurking out in front: Kai Lenny.
The Maui kid is showing just how freakish his talents are this week, with several flawless runs through the tricky, technical whitewater sections. Kai’s combination of speed over the flat water (good for the Downriver Race) and agility through the whitewater (good for both races, especially the SUP Cross) is proving very hard to match. We’ll see if the wunderkind can take the glory tomorrow, but right now he’s gotta start the red hot favourite.
Here are the heat draws for Sunday’s SUP Cross finals. The winners of each of these 5x heats will go into a race for places 1st through 5th, while the other 15 guys will battle it out for the minor placings.
SUP Cross: Sunday Finals Heat Draw
Heat #1: Kai Lenny, Ian Smith, Bradley Hilton, Spencer Lacy
Heat #2: Slater Trout, Luke Hopkins, Andrew Holcombe, Eric Giddens
Heat #3: Dan Gavere, Kellog, Mike Tavares, Dane Jackson
Heat #4: Eric Jackson, Fernando Stalla, Peter Bartl, Jamie Mitchell
Heat #5: Bernd Roediger, Travis Grant, Anthony Vela, Ben Sarrazin
You can watch it all unfold tomorrow with the Payette River Games live webcast (which of course we’ll be streaming here on SUPracer.com).
So anyway those were the two main stand up paddling events today, however they were almost upstaged by the sideshow events…
The great thing about the Payette River Games is just how many random sports you can register for. SUP racing is just one small part of what’s on offer, with this whole thing turning into a grand festival in the Idaho countryside. And it’s really, really hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere.
I’m staying at the Quickblade house this week – Jamie Mitchell, Travis Grant, Kelly Margetts, Fernando Stalla and Jim Terrell – and all of us have gotten caught up in the festivities of this whole crazy event. So we decided to enter ourselves into a few side competitions, just to give ourselves a break from the tiring SUP racing.
First up was the Raft Cross, a bizarre event that involves two-man teams charging through the rapids on inflatable rafts. Three teams to a heat in a knockout format.
Despite 15 teams starting in the event, somehow all three Team QB squads – Jamie + Jim, Travis + Kelly and Fernando + myself – made it right through to the final four. When it mattered most, the experience of a 10x World Champ and 4x Olympian was too much, with Jim and Jamie taking the win. Some local hotshots snuck through for second, while Fernando and I held off Travis and Kelly to claim third.
I’m digging up some footage of it now. It was the highlight of the day for us and I’m pretty sure it would have given the crowd (which was kinda massive today, especially considering we’re in the middle of nowhere) something to cheer on / laugh about.
Kinda sums up what the Payette River Games are all about: Fun. This event is definitely not your average SUP race…
But we weren’t satisfied with dominating the Raft Cross. We had eyes on an even bigger prize: The Lumberjack tournament.
Cascade, Idaho is pretty much a cliche vision of lumberjack-ness. It’s out in the mountains, surrounded by forests and is clearly home to a large population of axe-wielding, log-rolling lumberjacks.
The lumberjack tournament was split in two: The axe throw, which is kind of like darts but with a giant freakin axe. And the “burling” (aka log rolling), which was a head-to-head knockout competition.
Long story short: Jamie Mitchell is a goddamn freak. The 10x World Champ, BOP winner and big wave surfing extraordinaire added a new feather to his cap today, taking out the axe throw competition after displaying some impressive accuracy and control. And there were some serious lumberjacks in this competition too, it wasn’t just a bunch of tired paddlers having a laugh (though there were quite a few of us doing that…).
Here’s the champ with his spoils (yes, there was prize money on this event too. not kidding)
Fernando got third while Kelly was in a tie-breaker for 5th. Over in the log rolling, Chucky Glynn fought through a popped knee, a possible broken rib and some freezing cold water to make it right down to the final two. That guy is kinda hardcore.
Oh and here’s the aerial video recap of Day Two. Some cool footage of the SUP in there, bummer they didn’t capture the carnage section of the raft cross (especially the part where a couple of teams got their bigass boats stuck on the stationary wave…)
Remember: Live webcast. 10am Idaho time on Sunday. Finals time. $50k on the line…