VALLEY COUNTY -- Expert kayakers from all around the world have descended on Idaho’s Payette River for the 2013 North Fork Championship.
The event is in its second year, and event organizer James Byrd spawned the idea.
While standing on the banks of the Payette River, Byrd told KTVB that hundreds of kayakers are at the event, but about 75 are competing this weekend.
“It’s a kayak event to kind of showcase the talent and energy that is in kayaking right now,”Byrd said.
The event is gaining momentum through social media, and attracting expert paddlers from the Northwest as well as around the globe.
“Amazing paddlers from France, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Canada, Spain and Chile,” said Byrd.
As dusk fell on the north fork of the Payette River Friday, spectators watched as six different heats of kayakers took on the whitewater waves.
“This river is amazing, and it’s the main thing that draws these athletes here,” said Byrd
It attracted athletes like Lane Jacobs, who is from Washington State, and has been kayaking since the age of 10.
“Idaho is known throughout the United States and the world for having some of the most spectacular white water in the world,” Jacobs said.
He is excited for the championship’s main event which takes place Saturday, but also said the raging waves of the mighty Payette River can make any paddler- a little nervous.
“You do not even want to wade in this river if you haven’t been paddling for a long long time and have the proper swift water rescue training,” Jacobs advised.
The main event will be timed, and competitors will take their kayaks down an expert course on a section of the river called "Jacob’s ladder." It’s about eight miles north of Banks and only the very confident kayakers will compete.
“It really kind of shows how powerful and awesome this river is,” said Byrd.
While safety is everything, the kayakers’ mission is to have the fastest time through the course.
“We time everyone down to the hundredth of a second to make sure we know exactly who the first place guy should be,” said Brett Craig who was hired in connection with sponsor, Red Bull, to time the competitors.
Starting at noon on Saturday, kayakers will go down "Jacob’s ladder," and Byrd said spectators are welcome to come and watch.
“The event is set up well, to show the non paddler the talents of the kayakers,” Byrd said.
Those who want to watch can park in Crouch and get picked up by shuttle buses. Highway 55 will be very busy, so the Idaho Transportation Department wants to remind motorists to slow down and watch for signs and pedestrians.
On Saturday, the kayaker with the best time will take home $4,500, while second place will get a prize of $2,000 and third place will receive $1,000.