Challenged on the Chattooga

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Overtaking in Jawbone / Photo: Noah Brame

The water was high. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d paddled Section IV at this level, if ever. Texts and calls to friends on the drive south confirmed line choices. Concerns now put aside, it was time to get together with some of the faster whitewater paddlers around to test ourselves against the iconic Section IV of the Chattooga River and one another.

Getting way right at Crack

Sneaking right at “Crack.”

The average age in the eddy below Woodall Shoals was barely into the mid twenties before we showed up. There are some incredible young paddlers in this area. Confident and armed with great skills to go with it, these young guns are tomorrows super stars of the sport. And they are blazingly fast too. After a predictably fast start, a young athlete sporting a Captain America helmet, was right up by my side pushing the pace and trying to be first into the initial rapid. I was somewhat shocked I couldn’t shake the guy as I was pushing the effort. I surged a few times and was finally able to get Jackson to drop in behind me.

Jawbone

Jawbone

I was now the rabbit my competitors would have to chase down over the next 25 minutes. My strategy was simple. If I had a good lead into the final few minutes thru the famous Five Falls, I would slow things down and run conservative lines as I wasn’t too familiar with the river at this high level (2.7ft). However, if I had someone on my stern, I’d run direct open lines and hope they  backed off. Thankfully plan “A” prevailed. A strong push to Five Falls coupled with some of my pursuers having some tussles in some of the larger rapids, had given me the gap I was looking for and I was able to cruise to a win in 22’ 54” ahead of Hunter, Holt, Paul, Scott and then Wade. Maria comfortably won the women’s event.

These young paddlers are super fast and it’s hugely motivating to chase them, or have them chasing me, down the river. Watch out for these young guns to challenge the status-quo. I am.12485815_815398038569796_7882428500059235863_o

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