Guest Blogger & Master Guide Brad on the Little White Salmon Race
It's a big year of races for NOC's Master Guide Brad McMillan, including the iconic Little White Salmon Race in Washington State. Brad finished 15th in the extreme slalom race and 26th in the downriver race. Brad has kindly agreed to share some stories and footage with us along the way. Check out what he has to say about the Little White Salmon Race, and stay posted for more amazing videos of his summer adventures.
The Little White Salmon Race was held on Saturday, May 30 and it went off without a hitch! A beautiful, sunny day, perfect water levels and a huge crew of outstanding paddlers set the stage for one of the most contested events in all of paddle sports.
The event started on Friday with the racers meeting for overviews on logistics, race format and safety This year the finish line was moved 20-30 yards downstream of Wishbone, a 20-foot drop, that previously served as the finish line. In doing so, organizers hoped to eliminate some of the ties that occurred in previous years. The new angle from the pool instead of the lip of the falls gave the judges a better vantage point of the races as the crossed the finish line. The safety crew was enormous this year, with safety being held at all the trouble spots. The energy was high at the close of the meeting as racers went home to mentally prepare.
Saturday morning arrived, racers poured into park and anxiously awaited a shuttle ride to the starting line. 60 boats were loaded and we headed to top the start to gear up and get in the water. At exactly noon, Evan Garcia, last years winner, started the race as the first race to an uproar of cheers. Every two minutes single racers left the starting line to tackle the hour-long course. Teams raced following the completion of the single-racers division.
The race course starts with a mile of very continuous, steep whitewater known as “Getting Busy.” This mile leads into “Bolder Sluice”, an 8-foot drop with a lurking boulder waiting to crash any off-line paddler. The rest of the course is filled with large, consequential rapids with crashing wave trains and technical boulder gardens mixed in. The race ends with the crashing 20-foot Wishbone falls.
After all racers finished the downriver section, we headed downstream to the second leg: an extreme slalom course at Spirit Falls, a 30-foot drop. Racers were allowed one practice run, most opted out due to nerves or not wanting to crash. The course was a short sprint to Spirit Falls, the most intimidating drop on the Little White at 30-feet. After running spirit, racers had to make difficult moves crossing the current to navigate between gates 1 and 2. After gate 2, paddlers were challenged with pulling over, “eddying-out”, on the left side of river while their momentum and water pushed them to the right. If they missed the eddy, paddlers would be forced down the next rapid, Chaos, backwards. This is less than ideal. After gate 3, paddlers crossed the river, paddled upstream to gate 4 and turned straight just in time to make it through Chaos with a clean line and paddle through the finish. After everyone finished, they paddled downstream with smiles and sunshine abounding!
Evan Garcia and Katrina Van Wijk defended their titles of King and Queen of the Little White, winning both the downstream race and Spirit slalom. Click here to check out the full race results.
June 6, 2014 | White Salmon, Washington
Photo By: Brad McMillan
Paddler: James Wilson