On Thursday, 46 kayakers from around the world raced, crashed and rolled down Homestake Creek for $7,000 in prize money to start the Teva Mountian Games.
This event, the Bud Light Lime Steep Creek Championships, attracted a continuous line of spectators along the shore of the quarter-mile course outside of Red Cliff riddled with Class V rapids.
The women’s race featured only nine competitors, and Martina Wegman, of the Netherlands, gained a solid victory against the women competitors in the field. The men’s competition concluded a tight race between Mike Dawson, of New Zealand; Dane Jackson, of Tennessee; and Sam Sutton, of New Zealand. Dawson, a New Zealand 2012 Olympic team member, took first place by 2 seconds.
“It’s a really fun course, but it was hard to piece all the lines together,” said Natalie Anderson, eighth-place finisher and the only Coloradan in the women’s field.
Dawson won the men’s competition with a combined time of 3 minutes, 58.06 seconds. This counts as Dawson’s third win at the Homestake. His first win came in 2009. Last year, he tied for first with Honza Lasko in 3:34.62.
Dane Jackson, the elder son of Jackson Kayak’s Eric Jackson, finished second. His podium finish Thursday marks an event that was a long time coming. He has competed in this event for eight years in a row and broke into the top 10 when he claimed 10th place last year. Also in the race was his father, better known as E.J., who placed fifth.
The top prizes were swept by international paddlers, but the field included local and national paddlers, also.
Jace Crane, of Minturn, has been competing in this event for the past four years and practicing down the creek once per week leading up to the competition. Nate Krehbiel, of Avon, got caught on the rock right above a waterfall called “Sunshine.” Getting unstuck cost him his paddle, splitting a hole through the fiberglass to the wood core. He will have an opportunity to redeem himself when he competes in the Bud Light Lime Down River Sprint at Gore Creek today — the first event in the GNC Ultimate Mountain Challenge.
“I was having a great line until then,” he said.
Stateside, paddlers as far as the East Coast came to compete. Dave Fuseli from Strattawurke, Penn., comes from the old river worn smooth from more years than the Rocky Mountain rivers. He had a split time of 2:11.61 run followed by a 2:06.32 run for 12th place overall.
“That was as good as I could have done,” he said.
Louise Jull, who won second place in the women’s competition, hails from New Zealand. She believed the bottom section of the course was the more difficult.
“If you mess up the bottom, you could really mess up the race ... I messed up the bottom,” she said.
Low-water levels this year revealed extra boulders and points of rocks lurking beneath the surface of the water that made the course especially technical to navigate. Lower water meant slower times, too.
“Lower is just scarier,” said JP Griffiths of Denver who placed 21th overall.
The next kayak competition will be the Bud Light Lime Kayak Freestyle, which is a judged competition where kayakers have 1 minute to impress both judges and spectators, at International Bridge/Vail Whitewater Park today and Saturday.