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2016 JACOBS LADDER SHORT VIDEO RECAP
SUNDAY, JUNE 19
The sun rose in a cloudless sky Saturday morning, with wisps of clouds and gusts of wind that rustled the tents and gear littering Weilmunster Park. Competitors met at the Dirty Shame where coffee, bacon, eggs, and tortillas waited before boarding a bus that would take them to the course. Cameras were rolling, asking for predictions on who would make it to the top of the podium.
Spectators vied for parking and lined the rocks alongside Jacob’s Ladder’s right bank, settling in for an afternoon of watching some of the world’s best whitewater paddlers battle it out for the crown, competing for the title “King of the North Fork.” The winner would take over from reigning Spaniard Gerd Serrasolses, writing their name on the iron circlet and into the history of the North Fork.
Spectators find the best viewing spots alongside the Idaho state Highway on the banks of the Payette. Massive thanks to the fire department and traffic control for keeping everyone on the roads safe.
Will Pruett Walks Jah for his pre-race warm up.
Safety set up while DJ Revolve played out of a Red Bull rig, hyping the crowd and setting the vibe to “epic.”
Abe Herrara setting safety. We couldn't do it without these guys!
Ryan Bailey and James McLeod stood atop the Tower of Power, microphones in hand, ready to announce, entertain and inform as 30 contenders lined up, waiting their turn to weave their way through a seven gate course on some of the most challenging and notorious whitewater in the lower forty-eight.
Starter Marty gets Will Pruett gets fired up atop the ramp
Long time river advocate and North Fork Legend Rob Lesser with Brendan Wells.
Jacob’s Ladder and Golf course are considered by many “North Forkers” to be the crux rapids on the river they call home. Almost a mile long, “Jake’s”, as locals know it, contains five of the Payette river’s largest and most distinctive features.
Rodeo Hole was the location for the first gate, which competitors needed to pass on the left, before boosting and catching a left eddy for Gate 2. An upstream directly above a rock siphon, Gate 2 was considered by many to be the hardest move on the course, proving divisive in determining which paddlers would make the top 10.
Frustration is evident on Todd Well's face as he is rejected from the eddy, incurring a 50 second penalty on his time.
Below Gate 2 another Upstream waited on river left below Rock Drop, a boof next to a jagged, triangular rock that drops into a swirling vortex of an eddy. Gate 3 was visible high in an eddy directly across the river, forcing athletes to fight surging waves and inconsistent boils.
Kalob Grady Sending. Despite a clean run, Kalob missed out on this years top ten.
Young Gun and North Fork Local Alec Voorhees peeling out of Gate 3.
Galen Volckahusen flying towards the gate.
Gate 5 was another upstream on the left below Taffy Puller, and Gate 6 dangled above Oceana wave, one of the largest and rowdiest of the course, capable of kicking paddlers left and right seemingly at random. The last gate marked the finish on the right at the Golf Course, named for the 18 holes in its midst.
All week competitors lap Jakes trying to get the top moves right, taking out below Taffy Puller and walking back up the hill- but few spend the time dialing in the fastest line through Golf Course to the finish line, and it is here that the tenths of seconds determining the placing can be made up or lost.
Nick Troutman Working his way across the river. It is chaotic, turbulent, and violent on the Jake's course, leaving paddlers no time to relax.
The anticipation was palpable as the first kayaker sat atop the Red Bull Ramp marking the start line. Each competitor would take two runs down the course, with their fastest time counting. Bibs differentiated the riders-red for the wild card winners, black for those voted in, last years number one gold bib visibly absent. This year, the bottom 20 were seeded accorded to the Kokatat Time Trial on Thursday, and the previous years top ten reverse seeded according to place, making Dane Jackson the last rider of the day.
Dane Jackson waiting his turn. He would be the last of the 28 riders to go, earning the advantage of watching how others fared on the course before him.
Ryan Bailey’s voice echoed in the air with a cry of “make some noise for Ben Kinsellaaaaaaaaaaa….” As the first rider launched of the ramp into the water with an audible smack, instantly paddling hard on his Werner blade.
Anna Bruno joining Ryan Bailey ontop of the Toyota Tower of Power
Joe Morely making his way into gate 3
With penalties of 5 seconds for a touch and 50 seconds for a missed gate, athletes took different strategies after the first five paddlers got rejected from Gate 2. Pyranha athlete Dave Fusilli was the first to make all the gates cleanly, eliciting roars from the crowd.
Dave Fusilli with Louis Geltman and Ben Kinsella.
The largest cheers of the day resonated off the walls as C-1 paddler and last minute alternate Tad Dennis crushed the course, looking smooth and fast. “Incredible” Tren Long breathed, shaking his head in admiration. Everyone watching had Dennis high on their list for the top three, with bets that he would take the crown.
Second Place Finisher Tad Dennis. Half the blade, twice the paddler?
Because times are recorded on RFID chips, neither athletes nor competitors knew where they would finish until the awards ceremony later that evening. Speculations and wagers were high, tensions building as each name in the top ten was announced. Wild Card Evan Moore was the first called to the stage, Rush Sturges and Will Griffith taking 8th and 9th. Competitors were apprehensive as they waited to see if their name would follow. The shock, excitement and uproar when Kyle “King Hesh” Hull was announced as third place was overwhelming. “I forgot about Kyle!” voices exclaimed over the sound of whistles and cheers. Even Hesh was surprised, thinking that his 5 second penalty on Oceana had taken him out of the top ten. The noise and suspense peaked as Ted Dennis placed second, and applause rippled through the crowd as Dane Jackson was crowned king. Smiling, one fist in the air, one hand holding his giant $5000 check aloft, Dane reveled in his moment as “King of the North Fork.”
Top Ten Celebrate On Stage.
Jackson, Hull and Dennis weren’t the only winners of the evening. Jah Bananah called out the names of those lucky enough to win incredible raffle prizes like a Yeti Cooler full of Payette Brewing Company Beer, Yakima Racks, Mountain Mind Collective DVDs and merchandise, NRS straps and swag, GOPROs, a Werner paddle, and a one of a kind NFC Dagger Mamba.
Todd Wells and Nate Garcia admire the NFC Dagger Mamba up for grabs in the raffle.
Payette Brewing, the offical beer of the NFC. Try their North Fork Lager. We did- it is delicious!
The stoke and party high continued across the road to the infamous bar The Dirty Shame where bartender Holy poured drink after drink and DJ revolved turned tables. Athletes and spectators mingled, twerked and celebrated until the early hours of the morning when the bar doors shut on another North Fork Championship.
A massive thanks to the incredible James and Regan Byrd, and the many volunteers and sponsors that come together to make this weekend a success.
Hand Welded NFC Fire Braziers warmed the evening, getting the crowd fired up.
- Dane Jackson 1.57.60
- Tad Dennis 1.58.28
- Kyle Hull 1.59.00
- Alec Voorhees 2.00.31
- Aniol Serrasolses 2.00.53
- Joe Morley 2.01.67
- Nick Troutman 2.08.90
- Will “Jam Boy” Griffith 2.10.35
- Rush Sturges 2.10.71
- Evan Moore 2.11.82
For Full Results Go To: http://northforkchampionship.com/races/results/
SATURDAY JUNE 18
2016 THE NORTH FACE BOATER X RECAP VIDEO
Top 3 finishers:
- Dane Jackson
- Matias Lopez
- Kyle Hull
THE NORTH FACE BOATER X PHOTO RECAP
SPECTATORS lined the banks of the North Fork Payette's S Turn rapid for what many consider to be the most entertaining of the three NFC races. The Boater X is eXtreme, it is eXciting, and it is anyones race to win.
The North Face Boater X official Bracket. 6 Heats of 6 competitors made up of the Elite Athletes and the 30 fastest paddlers from the time trial, only the top 2 finishers of each race continued on to race again.
This is a crowd favorite event, as the S-Turn rapid is nearly a quarter-mile long and the race offers chaos at every turn.
Competitors check heat lists with NFC organizer and mastermind James Byrd.
6 Heats of 6 paddlers make their way down the quarter mile long rapid, battling it out all the way to the finish line, as only the top two paddlers in each advance on in this burly, elimination style race. It truly isn't over until its over, and it isn't over until 2 people touch the North Face banner on river right.
Racing down the course.
Dane Jackson and Evan Moore fighting for the finishing touch.
Safety was on hand, making sure every one made it down uninjured. Taking a paddle or the bow of a boat the face is not uncommon in this event, and it is no wonder that several of the Elite competitors for the next day's Jacob's Ladder Giant Slalom opted out.
Safety Crew and Payette River Local Parker sharing some stoke and North Face Love.
Kalob Grady leading the charge through S-Turn with Matias Lopez and Kyle Hull behind him. Kalob may look like he is in for the win, but it was Matias and Kyle who snuck through to advance into finals.
Brendan Wells and Matias Lopez were two of the fastest paddlers, each coming through first in their heats to make it to finals alongside Kyle Hull, Dane Jackson, Alec Voorhees and Wild Card bib winner Evan Moore.
The six duked it out, with Dane Jackson taking the win in front of Matias and Kyle Hull.
For Full Results, check out http://northforkchampionship.com/races/results/
Dane Jackson showing off his winners trophy.
BEHIND THE NFC: Profile: “McLeod-Bursting” with James McLeod
In his recent literary achievement How to Shake a Stick at Anything, Regardless the Quantity, James McLeod counsels readers that “If Jamaica can have a bobsled team perhaps it’s time that I reconsider my own perceived limitations.” It is advice McLeod has certainly taken to heart. A man possessing a mysterious aura of hilarity, James is at once a talented kayaker, skateboarder extraordinaire, artist, stand-up comedian, friend, and legend in the Banks and Northern California paddling communities.
Skateboarding on Cali Classic Dinky Creek. Friend Todd Wells Paddled the Skateboard in for the First D.
Almost anyone who has paddled the North Fork Payette has a story about the hyper-talented James, ranging from the summer he kept his entire wardrobe in a bush near the Banks Café, or when claimed the first descent of the NFC 1 Ramp (it has since been “McLeod-Proofed”), or hitchhiked a ride to a friends house in California without any plans for a ride back, and decided instead to move in for a while.
The respect and appreciation are mutual, with James attributing a huge part of his inspiration to all the amazing he has found in Banks, Idaho. "It would take me a whole day to list the names of all the rad people I've met here in Banks" says McLeod. "It's a pretty amazing community."
Self described as a “wingless bird of flight”, attendees of the NFC may best recognize James for his creative Zines published every year with titles such as Fry Sauce and Banana Hammock or ask: “is that the guy in the banana suit?” What they may not realize is that James’ boundless, out to lunch, positive energy is a driving force behind the NFC and has been for the last five years.
The Man Behind the Banana
“What does James bring to the NFC? Dude- everything!” says founder James Byrd. “This year, I needed someone who could JB Weld something for me- and I mentioned it to McLeod, and he was like “oh, yeah, I did some of that in high school” – and he absolutely crushed it. The guy is a wizard.” Elliptical, plaid, interleaved- there is no box in which to place James McLeod.
Boater X Winner Dane Jackson shows of his JB Welded Trophy
Watch out for his subtle genius on Saturday at the NFC main event, where he will be announcing alongside Ryan Chainsaw Bailey. If you don’t his get humor, don’t stress it, and be sure to buy a copy of this years “MANKS BAG.”
FRIDAY, JUNE 17
THE MELT AWARDS kicked off at Boise’s Egyptian Theatre last night. Designed to showcase and highlight the multi-talented individuals in the world of whitewater, The Melt Awards brings an assortment of films and images to the public eye. An integral part of what makes the NFC what it is, The Melt Awards is a moment of appreciation for the progress made each year in whitewater and for those who capture and share it with the world.
Crowds filter into The Egyptian for the Evening
First up on the film reel for the evening was Chasing Niagara by Rush Sturges and River Roots, followed after a brief intermission by short edits from Evan Garcia, Kyle Smith and Seth Dahl, and a humbling highlight reel by the Serrasolses brothers.
Photo submissions from Tait Troutman, Evan Garcia, and Galen Volckhausen and others drew the audience in, with images incarnate of 1000 words telling the story of the captivating beauty that is whitewater wilderness.
Jah Bahnanah, and MC Ryan Bailey on the Microphone
Roughly 200 people made the rally to the big city to share in the festivities and crown a peoples choice favorite for film and print. Payette Brewing Company poured liberally, the libations contributing to the general buzz and atmosphere.
The spectators mingled as they voted, before regrouping to hear the final results. Erik Parker took the win in the photography class for his image of Aniol Serrasolses in Iceland to the shouts and cheers of the crowd.
Parker and Aniol Celebrate with MC Bailey to the Cheers of the Crowd
The Official TMA Results
Despite not being to compete in the Jacob’s Ladder Giant Slalom this Saturday, Evan Garcia came away a peoples choice favorite, winning the Reel category for his Cali Love edit.
Evan Garcia winning accolades from the other side of the lens
Jah Bananah made a surprise guest appearance, joining legendary MC Ryan Bailey in announcing the raffle, where winners of note were Joe Morley with a coozie, and the far luckier Talitha Fagen, who walked away with a Pyranha 9r.
MC Ryan Bailey on the microphone. He’s smooth, he’s creamy, the ladies love him.
Just before the evening closed, the crowd gathered and collectively hushed as the time trial results and wild card bib winners were announced. Chilean Pedro Astorga was the fastest man of the day, followed by young gun Alec Voorhees and Dane Jackson. The men of the evening were Pedro Astorga, Argentinian Matias Lopez, Evan Moore, Sam Ellis, and Phil Mitchell.
Pedro Astorga, Phil Mitchell, Mattias Lopez, Sam Ellis and Evan Moore celebrate earning their Wild Card Bib for the NFCV Giant Slalom on Jacob’s Ladder.
Celebrations abounded and the usual chaos ensued as the Melt awards closed and the crowd migrated to nearby Tom Grainey’s. A massive Thank You to The Egyptian Theatre, Loku Onu and the Red Lion, Payette Brewing and the many others who make this night possible.
White Slalom Love in Boise with Kyle "King Hesh" Hull and Jo Kemper one of many who made the rally to support friends and neighbors with films and images on display.
Rush Sturges and Sam P. Grafton celebrating before heading into the competition. Rush's film Chasing Niagra was this voted this years best adventure film at the BANFF, but lost out on the peoples choice of the Melt Awards to Evan Garcia's Cali Love.
BEHIND THE NORTH FORK: ATHLETE PROFILE: THE WELLS BROTHERS
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest’s paddling mecca of Trout Lake, Washington, Todd and Brendan Wells have grown up with the river as their playground. The two have recently taken their love of whitewater to the big screen with the creation of the production company Mountain Mind Collective. Their film For The Love was on tour in the United States this past spring, and their success is clear- athletes and spectators alike at the NFC are showing the love in the form of MMC hats, t-shirts and stickers.
The only brothers to compete in the fifth North Fork Championship, the Wells bring positive energy, some brotherly love and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry to the racecourse. Todd is a four time top-ten finisher, and Brendan snuck into last years Elite Race with the fifth wild card bib. With Brendan voted into the Elite division this year, both the Wells are strong contenders for the top 10. Check them out at northforkchampionship.com and mountainmindcollective.com
Brendan on Todd: There is definitely some sibling rivalry between Todd and I, but it only makes us faster knowing that stakes are even higher racing against each other. Todd has said many times that he’d retire if I ever beat him in a race. Although I finally crushed him in the GoPro Games, I have a feeling he’ll still be plunging off the ramp into Jake’s this weekend. I guess it just means I’ll have to beat him again so he knows his place!
Brendan Filming for Mountain Mind
Todd on Brendan: Brendan did beat me at GoPro Games, but I’m still here. Guess it just means I’ll have to show him his place this weekend! No, while there is definitely a little rivalry between us, and I always want to beat him more than anyone else, I was stoked for Brendan to do well at GoPro and am fired up to race him this weekend.
Brendan on Todd: Todd and I definitely have way different styles of boating, but when you see us on the race course we usually take the same lines which other racers don’t take. I think this is a product of growing up on the style of rivers we did in the PNW. I think our main difference would be that Todd usually takes a lot more strokes than me, when I concentrate more on staying perfectly on line. This works sometimes, but on a race like Jake’s it usually takes as many strokes as possible to win. So I might have to rethink my strategy a bit this year.
Brendan taking it to the face on Jake's
Todd on Brendan: Brendan has some more off the couch steeze than I do- I paddle more often, but Brendan has this out of the blue style: he can take risks, but he usually sticks it and manages to somehow make it work, and look good doing it.
On the North Fork Championship:
Brendan: The NFC is an amazing event because the energy that is shared between the racers on the water and at the start line is unlike anything I experience all year or at any other event. It’s definitely a family style event, and the same camaraderie that we all usually share on the water really comes through. This weekend is about paddling with your friends and there is nothing better.
Todd: This event is the sickest event in kayaking. Its super fun- we call it the family reunion because amazing people from all over the world rally in for the weekend. Whether it is for the sickest party, stoutest race, its about enjoying the river, the weekend and the friendship.
THURSDAY TIME TRIAL VIDEO RECAP
THURSDAY, JUNE 16th
Banks Cafe: A NFC staple for food, friends, and info
CLOUDY SKIES and intermittent rain made for a damp start to the first race of the North Fork Championship. Groans were audible as competitors rolled out of their tents in search of coffee before making the journey down Otter Slide road to the registration tent where warm bagels and cream cheese waited.
Kayakers Assemble at Otter Slide
Despite inclement weather, stoke was high as over 100 people queued to sign in or snag a last minute entry bib. Athletes discussed lines, angling to see who knew the fastest routes with lower water levels. Some were still waking up, having driven through the night from California. When the list of 99 competitors was finalized it included paddlers from the US, Chile, Canada, France, Slovenia, New Zealand, Mexico, Argentina, Ireland, the UK and Costa Rica. There was a strong ladies crew representing with fifteen women racing, a new NFC record, and a handful of under 18ers.
Brian "B-Real" Ward leading the Safety Charge
Six locals were on hand to set safety under the guidance of Brian Ward, reminding competitors that while the most friendly of the three North Fork Championship races, Juicer and Crunch were still to be taken seriously.
Registration Tent Chaos: I got 99 Bibs but yours ain't one
NFC Lady Love
For those already racing Saturday, today was designed to seed the Elite, giving the public their first taste of who to be on the watch for. The roughly eight minute time trial will also determine who joins Saturday’s race, with the top five fastest “Wild Card winners” announced tonight at the Melt Awards. Few who have won wildcard entries have gone on to place in the top 10, local legend Tren Long being a notable exception. This could be the result of different race formats- a longer distance race without gates perhaps highlighting a different skill set than what is needed to excel on Jake’s more defined maneuvers.
Brit Phil Mitchell finishing strong
Rush Sturges leading the Masters Class
Kayakers clustered together in the eddy below the highway bridge, waiting for their turn to pass under the Kokatat banners demarcating the start and finish lines. Microchips stuck to each individual’s helmet make this race a bit of a free-for-all, with competitors able to race at their leisure. The free flow format means that people can choose to paddle down with a crew for additional safety or for the push of paddling faster than your friends.
Team Racing.. More friends, more fun
3rd Alternate Tad Dennis showing that one blade is just as fast as two. Look out for him on Saturday
From the road, the river looks deceptively easy until you place the paddlers in perspective with the waves. It is hard to give the shift in gradient its due as the river careens around corners, flowing from headwaters in the Sawtooth and Salmon Mountains until it joins its sister, the South Fork Payette in Banks. Water rises and falls, dwarfing the kayakers, momentarily obscuring them from the view of the spectators watching on the banks. Heavy showers of rain precluded all but the staunchest of onlookers, though sunshine at the takeout had racers stripping down, enjoying cold beverages, and making plans to paddle before migrating to Boise for the Melt Awards and the evening’s festivities.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2016
THE HYPE IS REAL. As the fifth edition of the North Fork Championship approaches, boaters from all over the world are flooding into the town of Banks, Idaho (population 17) for what has become possibly the world of whitewater’s most notorious race.
Fred Bailey on the Megaphone
Every year for a week in June, all eyes turn to a select group of individuals chosen to compete on a Giant Slalom course down the North Fork Payette’s Jacob Ladder and Golf Course rapids, arguably the crux of a steep, continuous, 15 mile, big-water class five stretch of whitewater.
Nate Garcia launching the boof at Rodeo Hole. NFC 2015
The winner walks away with $5000 and the hard earned title “King of the North Fork.” Past winners include Ryan Casey, Louis Geltman, Jules Domine and Gerd Serrasolses. No athlete has ever claimed the rank of King more than once- and with last years reigning royal injured, this year’s crown is available for the taking.
The 30 athletes competing for imperial status this weekend are comprised of the top 10 finishers from the NFC IV, with another 15 voted in from a pool of online applicants, leaving 5 Wild Card spots yet to be filled.
This year’s NFC will consist of three races: Thursday’s Kokatat Time Trial down Juicer and Crunch, where the five fastest finishers will earn the right to compete among the Elite and fight for Saturday’s crown. The winners will be announced Thursday night at The Melt Awards, a film festival dedicated to celebrating those behind the lens, devoted to capturing and sharing the magic of whitewater.
On Friday, the top 35 racers from the time trial will continue on to compete alongside the 25 invited elite athletes in a Boater X through “S Turn”, an elimination style race where heats of six will battle their way downstream, with only the top 2 advancing to the next round.
Boatercross Race. North Fork Championship III 2014.
Saturday will bring the climax of the weekend: The Elite Division Giant Slalom on Jacob’s Ladder. 30 Athletes fighting for the fastest, cleanest line down seven gates on class five whitewater. The final awards will be held at the family friendly NFC Whitewater Festival Saturday night, at the Weilmunster Park in Crouch, Idaho.
For complete details on each event, or for more information on being a spectator at this year’s NFC, please visit the NFC website at http://northforkchampionship.com/races/events/
For more on THE MELT AWARDS, where attendees will have the chance to view and vote on some of the latest images and videos, crowning a peoples choice favorite, please visit http://northforkchampionship.com/melt-awards/about/.