Great Falls

On our way to the Whitewater Grand Prix in Chile, Natalie and I made a quick stop on the east coast of the US for a family reunion of sorts. It was a very short trip, with only two or three days on the water. We ran the infamous Great Falls of the Potomac. I have been seeing photos and videos of Great Falls since the days of the late 90s film Dashboard Burrito, and it was very cool to experience the scene for myself.

Great Falls is a surprisingly short rapid. There are three general channels, with a variety of lines available in each channel. It seemed to me like a creekboating version of the Slave river. The river is wide and the rapid is short, meaning that most of the variety comes from running multiple laps. This leads to a cool sort of attitude, a little different from the Colorado vibe. In Colorado, I feel like paddlers aspire to reach remote destinations, and get through difficult rapids. At the Great Falls, the emphasis is more on running the line really well. You have multiple tries, and there is often a crowd of people hanging out on the island cheering and watching. In Colorado, if you flip over or mess up a line, it feels different. When you get to the bottom of the rapid after that bad line, you shrug it off, because now you're in the gorge, ready for the next rapid, moving on. Maybe you'll be back tomorrow to try again. The line is important, but it's sort of a means to an end. Even with a bad line, you still "made it". At Great Falls, if you mess up a line, that means that you didn't "make it". There is no next rapid. You get out and hike back up.

This certainly throws some new light on the different styles of paddlers from the two regions. I feel like Colorado paddlers are a lot more ballsy, and more hardcore, but GF paddlers might have more skill. This makes it no surprise that Geoff Calhoun, Jason Beakes, and others are trying out this new backwards paddling style that Pat Keller is pioneering, but there doesn't seem to be anyone in Colorado giving it too much of a go. It's food for thought.

Well, enough philosophy. Here are some of our photos.

A cool splash at Grace Under Pressure
I think this line was the Angel Hair line. Great Falls
Natalie practices her boof Great Falls
Russell runs Grace Great Falls
Celebrity sighting! I finally saw Steve Fisher in a Fluid boat. (He's been on the team for about a year now, I think.) Great Falls
It was like team Fluid day out there. This is Ocoee Chapelle, the youngest paddler on team Fluid, on his first time running this line. Great Falls
The Chapelle family was gracious enough to pick us up from the airport, give us a place to stay for a night, and even drive us out to Great Falls in the morning. They're a whole family of talented paddlers and cool people.
Jordan Poffenburger also gave us a place to stay. He's cool, even if he is a canoe-ist. Great Falls
Russell Kramer looking very serious. Great Falls


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