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NOC Guides

Guest Blogger & Master Guide Brad celebrates July 4th on the Potomac River

July 9, 2014

Saturday July 5th. The stage is set for the 26th annual Great Falls Race on the Potomac River in our nation’s capital. The perfect July 4th celebration.

Naturally, I loaded up my van, grabbed a friend (Chris Wing) and made the trip north. Our start was a bit stalled. Our intention was to wake up early to make the nine-hour drive north, but as most kayakers do, we overslept. After a leisurely morning we made the commute, making it to the Potomac at 7:00pm to a parking lot still filled with cars and boaters finishing their practice laps. We chatted anxiously before gearing up and taking advantage of the late sunset to get in a few practice laps ourselves.

The Potomac River is known for combining massive rapids with technical lines. Each line through the Great Falls is different depending on water levels making the river an exciting challenge that changes day-by-day, even hour-to-hour. This year the water level set the stage perfectly for the “Center Lines.” Many years ago, I watched a video of the Great Falls race and was entranced by the racers flying over a beautiful 12′ drop, “Grace Under Pressure.” I have dreamt about the day I could soar off this drop. And now I had the chance.

Grace is the first drop of the “Center Lines.” After Grace, there are 5 different routes a paddler can take ranging in difficulty. Some are extremely dangerous, others are clean 15′-20′ drops with the Center Line being the most chosen route. After a few practice laps I felt ready for Saturday. Tired from the drive and the laps, Chris and I set out just as the sun set behind us.

Saturday Morning. Race Day. This was it. The morning started early, racers met at 9:00am to discuss race lines, procedures and safety. With numerous talented racers, previous Great Falls Race winners and a couple of international extreme racers, the field was tough. I had my work cut-out for me.

The first racer set off from the starting eddy at 11:00am. The Long Boat division was first, followed by Short Boats. Everyone was on edge. You get one shot before the field was narrowed down to ten racers in Long Boat and Short Boat finals. Unfortunately, I missed the finals cut by a couple of seconds. I enjoyed the finals round from the spectator rocks, capturing some awesome footage. There were many fast lines and a few spinouts, but safe lines were had by all!

Long Boat: 1. Pat Keller  2. Geoff Calhoun  3. Scott Parsons  4. Pablo McCandless  5. Aaron Mann
Short Boat: 1. Mike Dawson  2. Geof Calhoun  3. Scott Parsons  4. Andrew McEwan  5. Wyatt Hyndman

-Brad McMillan
July 5, 2014| Potomac River, Washington D.C. 


Photo By: Brad McMillan
Paddler: Cole Moore

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