FIBARK (First in Boating on the Arkansas) Festival is in the 65 years old or so and is a staple for paddlers and spectators alike each Father’s Day Weekend. The events are Held in downtown Salida, CO, staging off of the “Boat Ramp” adjacent to the Park where the carnival is going on. Within a stone’s throw there is a slalom race, a freestyle competition, a “river dog” competition, a downriver race, a “hooligan race”, a mountain race, SUP Cross, and more. This year I saw paddlers here from Texas, Maine, California, Canada, Missouri, NC, TN, and more and those aren’t the Pros on tour, but paddlers just coming to hang out in Salida and check out the competitions and fun. The only event that was cancelled due to low water this year was the Boatercross held up at Pine Creek. Low water marked the Colorado Tour this year and the Arkansas was no different. Hand made rock dams to divert more water into the middle of the hole were made to improve the hole and it worked out quite well.
Friday had the Men’s Pro class kick it off with freestyle prelims and Stephen Wright took the honors in that round, with me second and Clay third, Greg Parker fourth and Dane 5th, and Dustin Urban was 6th and so on. The top individual scores for the prelims round was an 880 (Stephen and EJ) and it was tight with 860’s, 840’s, but nobody broke 1,000. hole was tough and the top boaters were missing their big moves, falling on their heads, and having to reset and try again, running out of time before getting a ton of points.
Saturday was the “Age Group Nationals” event, where you sign up for your age group to compete. I am in the 40+ category, but have committed to never doing that, but to only compete in the most competitive class (“open”) in any event. It was fun having my old racing competitor, Scott Shipley, there who was on the USA Slalom Team with me from 1990-1998. Scott lives in Lyons Colorado now and has a cool slalom course in his backyard, where we raced last weekend as well. On first runs I went first and had a pretty good run, I was thinking, but touched a gate. My time 94 seconds, plus 2 second penalty (96). I got to watch Scott do his run and he was flying and he came across just under 90 seconds. “OK, I am going to have to go faster!” On my second run, and old friend that I see every year here, David Curran (Team USA 1980) who is now a doctor in Denver, and is 54 years old but looks like early 40’s and is in great shape, busted out a 1970 (missile) kayak that has a “1978 ARK” stencil on it from the FIBARK race in 1978. Super cool. He found an old Jofa helmet and old 90 degree offset wood paddle and raced this antique. He was egging me on to go faster, so I decided to sprint from the start and try to hold on at the bottom instead of trying to pace myself. I had good tight lines, big pivot turns, sweet head ducks, and did about as good as I thought I could and came across at 92.7 seconds. Scott came across on his second run at a 92.3 and no matter how you sliced it, I got second place and he won in good form. Check out the full results here: Slalom Results
Semi-Finals for the Freestyle were next after the Slalom for the Men’s Kayak class to cut from 10 to 5. Mark Poindexter knocked part of the wing dam down to make it better for the slalom racers that morning, stressing some of the freestyle boaters out, but quickly jumped in the water after the race and not only rebuilt it, but with the crew it was better and bigger than before. (Good job Mark!) Semi-finals was hotly contested and in the first heat, Dustin Urban had the honors at 890 points, a new high score for the competition. Dane was had a good ride at 870, and so did Greg Parker. Stephen was at at 770 after his first ride, with me at an 880 again, like prelims. Stephen was coming into semifinals in first place but was sitting in 8th place after first runs. Clay came out and nailed his second ride to get a 950, the new high score in the competition and nobody beat him, putting him in the top spot after semi-finals. The order was Clay, Dustin, EJ, Greg, and then Dane for Semifinals.
Finals had all of the classes going. Cadet, juniors, C1, Oc1, Women etc.. They did the Women’s and Men’s Finals right after the Hooligan Race which was entertaining as always.
I was warming up so didn’t get to see the women compete but their results are attached below at “FIBARK FREESTYLE RESULTS”
In the Men’s Pro Class- Dane went first and had a fairly low scoring first ride (670). Greg Parker was next with a 930 point ride to set the bar high. I went next and got an 1160 point ride and it was a new competition high score. I missed a couple of passes and there was still room for improvement, however. Dustin went with a 600 point ride missing a bunch of passes and then Clay went and was in the 800’s and in third. On second rides, Dane lead off first and started to “go off” Dane style at the end of his ride, getting more points in the last 15 seconds than the entire first 45 seconds! His score took a minute to calculate, but came in at 1220! Now in the lead and another new high score mark. Greg was unable to improve, I had a terrible second ride, so busted out the “mystery move” for my exit move just for fun and show. Dustin went next and had a killer ride, and the scores came back… 1330! Now we have another new record score. Nobody over 1,000 up until this round, but everyone going all out in finals and the scores are showing it. Clay bumped up to 1060 on his second ride, but it was now a 4th place ride, where it would have been a 1st place ride in any other round. On third rounds, Dane was unable to improve, Greg unable to improve, I thought perhaps I had improved, but missed a move or two and got a 1040, Dustin couldn’t get it going again, and then Clay went and had another great ride and bumped his score up from 1060 to 1130, only 30 points behind my 1160, so just shy of the Podium. That was finals… Exciting, big crowd, good announcing, some good music, etc. Full results here for all classes: FIBARK RESULTS
One of the coolest things here was the cadet classes with kids under 14. There are more and more little kids competing these days and they are getting good! The Kellogg family produces some of the nicest and best kids around and are such a welcome part of any event. Several in Fun 1s, a couple of Shooting Stars… awesome to watch all of the kids compete.
Another awesome thing about FIBARK is the number of people we get out on the water for the first time in our demo boats. KC brought his Fun 1 up to the “Beach” eddy where we had a line-up of young kids who wanted to get a turn trying out kayaking with his boat and paddle. KC was very good about it and didn’t complain about not being able to use his own boat. Instead he pushed the kids around, making sure they got a good ride. Many of the kids could make the boat go, but plenty of them were unable to get where they wanted to go with the paddle. KC took care of that!
Let’s not forget the Traditional 26 Mile Downriver race! This one was won by Andy Corra in good form! It is a mass start race and here is Gary Lacy and Andy side by side with the big group following just behind…
Here is a short video clip I took while Warming up for the Finals in Freestyle with my GoPro… gives you a feel for what it is like on the water there… (and for a Phonix Monkey or Two)
Off to Missoula, Montana, and then Cascade, Idaho next! Going to be awesome! High Water in MT, and North Fork, Payette coming up!