"You've got to Love Thyself!!" Jason Hale, the ordained minister of the Green Race, screamed at the competitors. He didn't just scream, he cried, gestured, and pleaded with each and every racer to believe in themselves and the community that surrounds the Green River. He was asking them all to give everything that they had during the race yet be aware of their brothers and sisters in the eddy as well as all the spectators who might get themselves into trouble "down there". "We all have to watch out for one another" he begged until his voice was hoarse and cracking with emotion. It is this out pouring of care that makes this event not just a kayak race, or a party by the river, it makes this event, a happening, or the "Greatest Show in Sports” That is what Shane Benedict wrote to describe the atmosphere at the beginning of the 2010 Green Race.
The word competition comes from classical Latin, and its Latin meaning is to strive together. The ethos of the Green race truly embodies that ancient, deeper meaning of competition. Each person, racer and spectator alike, plays a vital part in the communal effort that makes the whole of the Green Race much greater than the sum of its parts. What are we striving for in that gorge? Legendary slalom coach Bill Endicott observed that the most dedicated athletes he knew were motivated to seek “ The Ultimate Run”, a perfect expression of flow and line in a given rapid. That, more than victory or any other tangible result is what motivated them to have what he called “the irrational commitment to the pursuit” that is necessary in order to excell in a sport that is so hard yet offers so few material rewards. I contend that the values and the energy expressed in Bill’s ideal of seeking the ultimate run are most alive in the community of people that put their hearts and souls into the Green Race.
Irrational commitment to a pursuit whose rewards are mostly experiential and possibly spiritual is a rare and beautiful thing. I’m good friends with Isaac Levinson and I’ve traveled with him enough to know that he’s used to a comfortable lifestyle. On our trip to Italy in June everyone else was camping but we were in a fancy hotel “eating like kings”. During the month leading up to the Green Race Isaac lived in an unheated plywood shack at Green river adventures and was doing dawn patrol training runs as often as possible. Isaac had a great race, placing 2nd in long boat and 1st in short, and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with every year as he seeks his ultimate run on the Green.
Devotion to the Green race extends far beyond stories like Isaac's, beyond the effort of each individual racer. Dagger designed and produced the Green Boat specifically for the Green Race and other extreme creek races. The financial risk that Dagger took in producing the Green Boat paid off , with the design being a great success both in the races and in the paddle sports market. Then Liquid Logic stepped up, first with the Hungee and now with the Stinger, which swept most of the top spots at the 2010 Green race. Thank you to everyone at Dagger and Liquid Logic for the gift to the sport of kayaking that those two boats are! The Green Boat and the Stinger are far more than pieces of sporting equipment, they are expressions of love and each paddler that has one should feel grateful every time they paddle them. By striving together to do this race, paddlers and the paddle sports industry have improved and expanded our sport for all that participate in it and THAT is the larger purpose of competition.
There was no ultimate run for me at the 2010 Green Race. I crashed and burned, momentarily pinned, and ultimately swam at “ go left and die” in my long boat run. I pulled my gear to shore, emptied, and then completely exhausted from my swim, got back in my Green Boat and finished my race--because that’s what Green racers do. I appreciate Kokatat gear every time I paddle, but a swim in a gnarly spot is the true test of what your wearing. I never used to race in a rescue pfd because I found them to be too restrictive. I now wear the kokatat Ronin Pro , which has all the safety features you want in a rescue PFD but allows great freedom of movement which is essential for racing. I was grateful to have if when I swam through the right slot at “go left” during the race and floated over the sieve that lurks there.
At the finish I was utterly exhausted but as I hiked back up to the top for my short boat race run I began to feel the energy of the crowd stoke my fire again. When I got to the start for the second time I was fired up and determined to give this run everything. It was a good run but not the ultimate, placing me third in the short boat class. The rest of the day everyone basked in the afterglow of the race, sharing their stories big smiles and beers on the paddle out to the big party at Woody Callaway’s house. Thanks again to every single person who is part of this great event! I’ll see you at the green at high noon on the first Saturdayin November of 2011!
Here’s a video clip of my crash and swim at Go Left: http://vimeo.com/16742710
And redemption in my short boat race run at Gorilla: http://vimeo.com/16743084