For the three-time reigning Green Race champion and under-the-radar best paddler ever contender, every day on the river is a good day.
Patrick David Keller is the product of paddling parents, proximity to world-class whitewater, and what can only be described as an inborn aptitude that graces only the world’s most elite athletes.
At age 12, the Asheville, North Carolina native placed seventh in whitewater slalom racing at the ­­1998 Junior Olympics. He paddled his first Green Race at 15 and, a year later, flew home from the Freestyle World Championships in Austria with a silver medal.
For most paddlers at his level, self-promotion is a serious part of the gig, but Keller’s name, face and schedule of events aren’t plastered across a series of social media accounts.
No, Keller would rather save the precious seconds it takes to compose a Facebook post or Tweet to actually go paddling.
“I can sit here and tell you I’m a really good kayaker but I don’t really feel comfortable doing that,” says Keller. “It’s never really been my style.”
“I’m here in Asheville and I kind of do my own thing,” he says—and his thing just happens to be pushing what can be done in whitewater to all new levels.

Take his Green Race style, for example. With what seems to be an egoless, fun-fueled drive to run whitewater faster and smoother, he’s spent hours watching motocross and mountain bike videos to improve his on-water performance.

Taking the line selection strategies of racers on a track and filtering them through a brain that’s wired for whitewater has helped Keller discover brand new ways to train.

“If somebody’s following somebody else, they’ll run a different line and run it full blast,” he says. “It got me thinking that there’s got to be other ways to run the Green Race. There’s got to be other lines. There’s got to be other things we can do in our kayaks to progress the sport.”

“Nobody can approach how Pat picks apart water,” says Chris Gragtmans, team manager at Dagger, who Keller paddled for from 1999 to 2014.

“He’s one of the most talented kayakers who has ever lived,” says Gragtmans.

By day, Keller is a glorified copy boy at an Asheville investment firm. He wants to save up for a stable future, and says the job is actually part of why he’s so passionate about paddling.

“I’ve got good balance,” Keller says. “If I were in it all the time I would see it differently, but I work in the day and when I get off I’m probably one of the most stoked guys in the eddy.”

It’s true.

When we sent Rapid photographer Tommy Penick to shoot photos of Keller, he couldn’t believe where the world-class kayaker suggested they meet.

“We went to his favorite little local spot which, surprisingly, is a tiny class II. He’ll go out and do attainments for hours in a slalom boat,” says Penick. “I’ve never seen anyone so stoked to be on what is more or less flat water.”

Whether he’s making a class V lap look easy or pulling a few ferries in rippling water, Keller is exploding with excitement to kayak.

“When I’m out there I’m not thinking about anything else,” he says. “I put all my efforts into each and every run.” EMMA DRUDGE

This article on introducing friends to whitewater was published in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Rapid magazine.This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Rapid Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.


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