He’d never paddled this section of washed out class II-III whitewater, but that didn’t stop 13-year-old Hunter Vincent from suiting up and paddling all-out for just under 20 minutes against some of the world’s best paddlers.
Last Saturday, armed with some second-hand intell about the run, a river-running kayak and his trusty fiberglass paddle, the young kayaker was off like a shot from the put-in, chasing down the paddlers in front of him during the
Coors Light Down River Kayak Sprint.
One of the youngest to compete, Vincent said he was happy with his final placing – 26th out of 32 men.
With open categories, Vincent was racing the likes of Spaniard Gerd Serrasolses, Dane Jackson, Nicholas Troutman and Tad Dennis. One, an Olympian, and the rest all at the top of their game with some world champion titles.
“I paddled as hard as I could for the length of the course and tried to catch the paddlers in front of me while also trying not to be passed by others,” said Vincent in an email.
Yesterday, the family of three – mom, Lee, and dad, Tim – parked their R.V. at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Idaho, where they’re spending some time playing on the river and discovering new runs.
This was Vincent’s first time competing at the GoPro Mountain Games, a festival of sports that takes over the mountain villages for three days to celebrate outdoor sports, art and music.
While Vincent spent his last summer in Whitehorse at the playhole upstream of the Centennial Bridge almost every day, the teen opted to compete only in the downriver sprint race.
“The freestyle hole in Vail was really pushy and levels were changing throughout the day which made it hard to get consistent with tricks,” he said.
“Right now I am a stronger downriver paddler than freestyle competitor so we decided that I would compete in downriver this year and aim to do both categories next year when I am stronger.”
The downriver run on Gore Creek was swollen with new runoff from the hot weather. While many of the features were washed away, Vincent said that you had to watch out for sweepers hanging over the side of the river.
After four miles with 129 feet of elevation loss, Vincent stopped the clock at 19 minutes, 27.64 seconds.
He finished only 2:31 behind Serrasolses, the top racer.
“I was exhausted, but also happy,” said Vincent of his finish.
He misjudged the finish and had a little gas left in the tank so he is looking forward to another shot against the big guns next year.
Though it would be easy for a young paddler to get intimidated sharing eddies with world champions and national team members, Vincent has enjoyed the experience. The GoPro Mountain Games race was just his second open
In Buena Vista, Colo. he also competed against the best in the world.
“I’ve found them all to be so friendly and supportive when you say ‘hi,’ or ask for tips and suggestions,” said Vincent.
“That really helped me not be overwhelmed by competing against all these amazing top paddlers.”
Last weekend, the Vincents parked their home about 20 minutes outside of Vail.
Lee said it gave them the best of both worlds: “The busy, active games and the peaceful mountain valley.”
She said the festival was very family-oriented.
“There seemed to be kids and families competing in every sport and it’s definitely something that I would recommend for other families.”
After a marathon drive up to Idaho, the Vincents are now on tap for some play time at Kelly’s Whitewater Park and plan to run some new rivers in the area as well.
In early July, they will head back into Canada for a short while for Vincent to attend a slalom paddling camp with the Alberta team.
Beyond the camp, the family isn’t sure where they will go next, but with their home on wheels and a sense of adventure not easily dulled, they will certainly end up on a road not often travelled.