Mariann Sæther was crowned Queen of the North Fork Championship in 2019. It was the first year the NFC offered a women’s category, and with it the competition offered equal prize money. | Photo: North Fork Championship // Liam Kelly

After 10 iterations, the North Fork Championship has been canceled. The organizers made the difficult announcement through social media on January 26, 2023.

Reign of the North Fork Championship

The North Fork Championship first took place in 2012 and from there skyrocketed as one of the most highly anticipated whitewater races each year. The prestige of the event was due in no small part to the fact that the course took place on Jacob’s Ladder, the most notorious rapid on the North Fork of the Payette River in Idaho.

The event pushed the progression of whitewater racing through multiple avenues, including equal prize money for women. The original organizers, James and Regan Byrd, stepped away from the event following NFC VIII. The Voorhees—a local Idaho paddling family, which includes two Jackson team paddlers, Alec and Hayden— took the reins in 2020. The family kept the NFC running through two iterations. The Voorhees built upon the event’s success by incorporating new elements including live streaming.

Circumstances lead to cancelation of 2023 NFC

Now it appears the North Fork Championship’s reign has come to an end.

“Over the past decade, NFC has pushed the progression of whitewater kayaking and brought legends from all generations together on the river each year. The North Fork of the Payette has had a special place in our family for decades. It has been an amazing experience participating in each year’s evolution of NFC and an honor taking on the event as organizers in its final few years. That is why with heavy hearts we are announcing the cancelation of North Fork Championship,” the Voorhees family shared in a statement through the race’s social media accounts.

The statement goes on to share a number of factors that led to the decision.

“The event has grown exponentially, but with that growth came a new set of logistical challenges: from parking/spectating safely on the river banks, to the record numbers of both paddlers and spectators reuniting in the town of Crouch. At the same time local businesses and our sponsors are having to navigate a very different economic climate in these post-pandemic times.”

The uncertain state of the economy is a far reaching factor that could be foreseen. But the Voorhees mention another obstacle they smashed into—one which will likely ripple across whitewater races around the country.

“The final blow to NFC was the change in paddler insurance coverage previously provided by the ACA,” the statement reads. “The loss of which may shut down many other class V races in the USA this year as well.”

If other class V races are unable to find an alternative liability coverage they may ultimately be pushed to a similar fate of the North Fork Championship.



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