This is a good example of that time it is not necessary to listen to that inner voice because thats just fear. Don't worry about that.
The Wairoa is a solid class 4-5 big water creek run. Its a really fun river with lots of drops and must hit maneuvers. It only releases every other Sunday so there are always plenty of boaters on the river. The week before the Wairoa Extreme Race, I tagged along with a group of paddlers who showed me the lines. The Race is the second of a triple crown race series. The first one was down the Kaituna, and the third will be held at Citroen (below Nevis Bluff). I heard about the Race just the night before, so Cassie and I drove up and camped by the river. The next morning I learned more about what the race entailed. Hesitant to enter, because I have never competed in this kind of race, I offered my services as photographer and safety boater. Later as I watched the race I knew that I had made a poor choice because there were some really solid fast boaters, but the majority of paddlers I could have at least been very competitive with. Oh well, another feeling of superiority with little or no evidence to back up. But to be sure I would have won the race with little effort or difficulty. I am sure these other paddlers never work out... like me.
Extreme Races have only really started to spread widely in the last few years. Slalom is known to be the "legitimate race" because it's in the Olympics, but there are rivers too big and rocky to take a 3 meter fiberglass boat down. Thus the Extreme Race was born. Most of these races are won by the locals who know the best line and have little fear of the danger all around. Then Races added the boater cross, because having another paddler flail around next to you is a great equalizer. Recently New Zealand boaters have made headlines for winning some of the highest profile races in Europe.
The Wairoa is now a favorite river of mine, and I am confident I could get down it fast. But ultimately getting these shots for my portfolio is pretty sick too.
The boater cross came next. A head to head race down a narrow rapid with all manor of consequences and possible out comes. Some matches were close neck and neck battles to the finish while others were easy wins while the loser crashed and flailed their way down mostly underwater (not the fastest line). Every round eliminated the loser and narrowed the field. As more boaters were on the side of the river than at the top cheers and heckles started to accompany every racer down.
Since the organizers of the Race needed volunteers, we were able to get Cassie on a raft for free helping out with the finish and safety raft! People pay a hundred bucks to go down the Wairoa on a raft trip, so this was a real score. A hundred bucks! Free because Cassie and I have rafting, river safety, CPR, and first aid. Couldn't get us a job but heck it still got us down some rivers.
The Women's race was smoothly won by Toni, the previous years champion. She made her way down hitting the fastest line smoothly and made it look effortless.
The Men's race was hotly contested between last year's champion, Jaime Sutton (whose older brother had just recently won the Adidas race), and Kenny Mutten (who designed the Bliss-Stick Tuna). Kenny, the smoother more experience paddler started off gracefully taking out his competition while Jaime muscled his way through the rapids forcing the straightest line to be the fastest. They came head to head in the rapid called "Cauldron," where Jaime swept ahead and Kenny came into the "Roller Coaster" upside down.
Jaime plowed far river left which got him around the struggling Kenny, but it slowed his boat speed down. At the last second Kenny rolled up, immediately found the fast current and closed the gap between the two of them, and glided into the finish eddy just a few feet ahead. The race looked finished, until...
The nose of Kenny's boat hit the finish marker, and he reached his hands forward to touch the banner and win the race... but his arms just weren't long enough to reach to the front of his boat. The angle was all wrong. Even before he could spin his boat around Jaime punched through and touched the banner, crowned the Wairoa Men's Champ of 2012!
It was such a close final for the men that the judges actually had to watch a video replay shot from downstream. From certain spectator's angles it looked like Kenny had just enough of a lead to grasp victory, but the video footage showed Jaime muscling Kenny out of the way at the last moment and clenching victory. It was an exciting final.
Afterwards, the heard of kayakers all jumped back into their boats and paddled down the rest of the river before the water shut off. The event was fun and exciting for everyone who attended and competed. Because the only way to get to the race site was by water, there weren't any spectators who weren't paddlers or rafters. It will be interesting to see how as this sport becomes more refined and sponsored how things will be run. And what rapids are raced and who wins. Probably me.