North Fork Championship draws crowds, elite talent to Idaho river

Credit: Ryan Hilliard/KTVB

North Fork Championship draws crowds, elite talent to Idaho river

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 6:46 PM

BANKS, Idaho -- There was a lot of excitement off Highway 55 on the North Fork of the Payette River Saturday, as an international competition paddled through those waters: the North Fork Championship.

"There's a lot of people here who are really excited,"said Mike Leeds, a spectator and race photographer," said Mike Leeds, a spectator and race photographer. "It's going to be crazy."

The first-ever kayak race drew competitors from around the globe to the world-class rapids of the Payette River, specifically, the biggest rapid: 'Jacob's Ladder'.

"It's one of the best places on Earth, as far as we're concerned," said Leeds. "And to be able to share this place, I think is a dream of anybody that paddles this river."

Even though the race is in just its first year, it will serve as a qualifier for the 2012 Whitewater Grand Prix in Chile, and is one of only six events worldwide that make up the Whitewater World Series.

The North Fork has Class Five rapids. Class Six rapids are impassable. But despite the quality of whitewater here, organizers and competitors say this is the first world-class kayaking event to be held on these rapids.

"It's a great opportunity for Idaho," said kayaker Jesse Murphy. "We've had this in our backyard forever, and it's pretty much a world-renowned river. It's always talked about, but we've never had a race of this caliber come to it."

Murphy is a McCall native now living in Denver, who came back to Idaho to compete in the NFC.

"Yup, back home to the North Fork," said Murphy. "It's awesome to be a part of it, one. And it's really cool to see how many people are out here to watch, and cheer us on and spectate. I think a lot of the locals know that it's finally being put on display."

Murphy, along with the Idaho kayaking community, knows the value of this event extends beyond them into the surrounding towns that benefit from the extra tourism dollars.

"Hopefully, we keep getting more support from the community when they see what it's doing, and what Idaho has to offer," said Murphy.

And with the incredible turnout of competitors and fans, organizers are very hopeful this will become an annual event.

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