The North Fork Championship: Expert Division Race

The third North Fork Championship started Thursday in Banks, Idaho, and the first event had over 80 paddlers racing the lower three miles of the North Fork of the Payette River. This class V section race was for Expert Division paddlers and served as a qualifier for Friday’s BoaterX race and Saturday’s Elite Division Giant Slalom event.

While some ran quick, smooth lines, others got banked onto sharp rocky shores—all participants were tested for endurance and fast technical abilities.

The overall vibe of Thursday’s registration and race was of excitement and anticipation—everyone was on the same page, ready to race, and above all, enjoying each other’s company on and off the river.

Paddlers discussed different lines and obstacles at the take out before packing up and heading to Boise, Idaho for The Melt Awards, an event presented by NRS and hosted by paddler Ryan Bailey. The Melt Awards showcased recent videos of paddling crews around the world and included a photo competition that displaying some of the best photographers in the business.

Bailey, dressed in a Rastafarian banana suit, announced the top five finishers in the Expert Division race:

1. Pangal Andrade

2. Tren Long

3. Momo Castillo

4. Alec Voorhees

5. Geoff Calhoun

These paddlers are the 2014 Wild Cards, meaning they’ve earned a spot in Saturday’s slalom event where they’ll compete against a pool of pre-selected elite paddlers, including Dane Jackson, Rush Sturges, Ben Marr and Nick Troutman.

The top 35 paddlers from yesterday’s event will compete again this evening in the BoaterX race at S-Turn rapid on the Upper section of the North Fork.

This race is on one of the less technical rapids of the infamous river section, but it still has significant challenges; a long rapid with a bottleneck beginning, means paddlers have to make tricky maneuvers right at the start.

Although tonight’s event is not a qualifier for the Giant Slalom race, nerves are still running high as paddlers prepare to race full throttle, six boaters at a time, down the class V rapid—it doesn’t help that it’s Friday the 13th.


See the section of river hosting these competitions in this video from the 2013 North Fork Championships.

Click for news from Saturday’s Elite Division race down Jacob’s Ladder. 



John Webster is a professional adventure photographer based in Boise, Idaho. He has a degree in Communication with an emphasis on video from Boise State University. Passionate about the outdoors, John shares his experiences through the medium of digital photography. You can check out his work at or at Webster Media House on Facebook. 

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