One of the largest kayak races in North America is making major changes because of this year’s snowmelt.
The North Fork Championship, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River, draws competitors from all over the world. But some have decided to opt out of the competition this year due to the treacherous water.
“The river is very high, very dangerous, very technical, difficult. It packs a big punch,” Oregon kayaker Andrew Morrissey said.
This is the 6th year the North Fork of the Payette River has played host to the North Fork Championship. Race organizer James Byrd says this year’s motto is safety. They’ve made the race shorter, limited the number of gates, or obstacles, competitors must maneuver around, and won’t require any participants to paddle upstream against the current.
“We'll make the course as safe as we can versus in years past, when it’s lower we make it as challenging as we can,” Byrd said.
Most of the competitors elected not to take the nearly three-quarter-mile practice run Wednesday because of the risk involved.
Some kayakers like Morrissey, who competed last year, have decided not to participate at all in this year’s race due to safety concerns.
“In the race mentality you're going as fast as you can, as hard as you can for as long as you can. I just don't want to put myself in that kind of danger zone right now,” Morrissey said.
Fellow New Zealand kayaker Ryan O’Connor agreed.
“Huge water, like so much of it, and we decided maybe we'll leave it for the professionals this year,” O’Connor said.
Professionals like Gerd Serrasoles, who traveled to the Gem State from Spain to compete in this year’s championship.
“The North Fork is just white and it’s just raging. It's really powerful. It’s out of control, so yeah extreme precaution, and just pay the respect to the river and stay on your toes,” Serrasoles said.
This year it’s not so much about the race, but rather just finishing.
“This year is just a matter of making it down and try to be super smooth and just stay in the line and that will be a success,” Serrasoles said.
The North Fork Championship starts Thursday at 10:30 a.m. on the North Fork of the Payette River.