2016 Ocoee River Race Report

wildwildwes wrote 512 days ago:

The 8th annual TVCC Ocoee Race sponsored by WORLDKAYAK.COM went down on Saturday, October 8, 2016.  The race was a great time for the competitors and volunteers as always!  Big thanks to Jen Maxwell and the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club (TVCC Kayaking) volunteers who organized and hosted another fantastic event!!  It is amazing to many of us racers that the TVCC crew can get over 150 race runs down one of the USA’s busiest rivers with such poise.

The race is a time trial event format with racers starting in one minute intervals between commercial raft groups.  The race starts at the Middle Ocoee put-in ramp above Grumpy Rapid and runs the entirety of the Middle Section to the finish line below Powerhouse Rapid (4.4 miles).  Due to the length of the race you really have to set a quick steady pace for yourself to finish well.  It is not a race that you hammer as hard as you can because you will wear out well before the finish. 

The finish line is a raft you have to tag tied to the river right bank directly below Powerhouse out of the main flow.  You really have to carve hard right coming out of Powerhouse rapid to tag the raft or else the main current sweeps you wide left around a pile rocks and you have to eddy out and paddle across flat water to tag the raft.  That mistake can easily cost you several seconds when you are trying to finish.

The Ocoee Race is also unique to itself, because it draws a very diverse crowd of men and women paddlers.  The kayak racing longboats has been the majority of the field in the past few years, but there are plenty of other crafts going fast also: rafts, open single & tandem canoes, tandem kayaks, shortboat kayaks, hand paddlers, SUP, C-1 and even a few play boats.  There are many classes and divisions to choose from during race registration to keep things fair to all who participate.  This gives ample opportunity for the top guns to duke it out with each other while the weekend warriors can have their own heated contest!

Unlike the Green Race and Lord of the Fork Race the Ocoee Race course is primarily on class III whitewater, making the race more accessible for many whitewater paddlers with an intermediate skillset.  However, it is a good step up from racing on the Nantahala Gorge, so the Ocoee Race makes a great bridge to step up the racing game!

One of the more fun aspects in racing for me is the friendly banter and trash talking that goes on in the weeks leading up to race day.  My best racing buddy and close rival, Brian Vermillion, and I had a go at it on social media to try and prove our supremacy this year.  Ryan Horn and Casey Jones also got in on the trash talking action with us this year making some high quality entertainment!  We had a blast racing with each other this year!! :-)

This was my third year racing in the event and I was pumped to put the hammer down with my Mitchell Paddle for some fast lap times!  This was my first year racing in both the Long Boat and Short Boat classes (Often referred to as the Iron Man League in our sport).  I raced my Jackson Kayak Karma Unlimited/UL in the Elite Men’s Longboat Class and I raced my Jackson Kayak Zen Lg in the Elite Men’s Shortboat Class.  I knew it was going to be an extremely difficult task to beat the time I posted last year, because we had some extra flow last year with rain and this year we were going to barley be at normal release flows with the dry weather we have been experiencing over the past couple of months.  So I set the goal to at least beat my original time I posted in 2014 as a benchmark.

My first race run was in my Karma/UL.  Iron Man Racing Tip – Typically you want to race your fastest boat first to be fresh to post the best time overall.  My longboat run was going very good and clean for me up until the second to last rapid in the course.  The right race line at Hell Hole is a fine line to ride through clean.  The line is only about 3 feet wide and since you are in a kayak that is a little over 2’ wide you don’t have much room for error.  If you enter the line with any angle to the left you end up taking a big chest full of water hitting the exploding wave of Hell Hole; which can result in an unintended extended surf session.  If you enter the line with any angle to the right you end up catching the eddy on the right.  I spun out in the river right eddy on accident and slammed into the rock bank losing all my forward momentum.  I tried to quickly spin my kayak back up stream to peel back out into the current to keep from losing too much time, but Casey Jones passed me at this exact moment and I knew that he was going to beat me by over a minute.  I peeled back out behind Casey and I used what energy I had left to charge hard to the finish line raft.  I was happy to find out later that I did complete my race goal of beating my 2014 longboat time even with the spin out at Hell Hole by almost 1 minute, but alas… Brian beat me for his 3rd time in a row in this race.  I guess there is always next year!

My second race run in my Zen started well, but I was already tired early into the race at Gonzo Shoals from the previous longboat race run.  I came into Broken Nose and was lining up for the greasy race line that cuts through the top of the traditional right line to the left through a channel that connects to the sneak line left of the island.  I came into the top drop a little too far to the left and my bow pointing too far right, so I tried to correct with an air plane boof sweep stroke on the right to get me turning left in the drop toward the channel I wanted to hit.  Midway through the stroke, with my head turning left looking the way I want to go, my paddle tripped over the strong eddy line and decided to go for a mystery move taking me with it underwater.  At this point I was in a bit of a state of shock.  I’ve never been upside down in Broken Nose in all my years on the Ocoee and I’ve heard all the horror stories of flipping in this rapid.  I was also sucking wind profusely right before the unexpected flip occurred, so I was not quite ready to be in an non-oxygen rich environment such as I found being underwater!  I tried to setup for a roll and right before I began to execute the maneuver my head impacted into a rock underwater.  Casey Jones started behind me on our shortboat lap again and he said he saw me bounce up out of the water upside down from several hundred feet upriver when I hit the rock!  His exact words were, “It looked heinous!”  

Thankfully my trusty Sweet Protection Strutter helmet took the brunt of the blow and kept me from experiencing any kind of concussion.  However the hit was still hard enough to really ring my bell and leave a nasty looking scratch on my helmet that ripped all the way into the substrate of the helmet (You can see light through the helmet now when you pull back the interior padding).  I’ll have to replace my Strutter now, but I’m glad it did its job well on this crash! 

After the hit, I tried to regain my composure and I tried to roll on two attempts that both resulted in carping, but was thankful to get a couple of breaths on the missed attempts.  I knew I was drifting down river in the rapid, because I could feel the flow around me.  I decided that I had to hit my third roll attempt, before I go over the bottom hole of Broken Nose upside down, so I composed myself to setup correctly and execute the fundamentals as best I could.  I rolled up backwards just in time to find myself cresting over the left side of the bottom hole of Broken Nose.  I quickly placed a couple of back strokes to gain some speed to try and punch the hole backwards and the hole sucked my stern to the right as I began to drop into it. I quickly engaged a big left back sweep stroke to freewheel my Zen around 180 degrees and using my now forward momentum to escape the hole to continue downstream into the run out rapids below the main drop.  In the run out rapids I had to coast for a while to shake off the hit and make sure I was OK.  Once I assured myself I was well, I kept my eyes toward the finish to complete the lap.  I knew I had wasted several seconds with the crash at Broken Nose and I had no chance of trying to beat my goal of finishing the short boat lap in under 35 minutes.  I was happy I was able to finish the lap though coming into the finish line extremely exhausted from paddling hard two full laps!  

Complete overall 2016 Ocoee Race results at WORLDKAYAK.COM:


No one likes to crash or not meet goals, but that is what going fast and taking chances is about sometimes.  I try to take these moments to develop myself into being a better paddler by embracing my failures and focusing on the recovery.  I find no use in making excuses and getting frustrated with myself; this makes me get scared and want to quit.  In this sport we are all in between swims and beatering due to the forces of nature we are dealing with in whitewater.  I have learned over the years that perseverance and shaking off a mistake is key to finishing a race or river run, if I’m within my skillset.  That way I get to come back another time to try again to be a winner! 

Overall I had a blast racing this year again in the Ocoee Race.  It was a great time with many good friends on the river.  Then Brian, Sam and I topped off the day with a delicious meal at the Ocoee Dam Deli!  Good times going fast for sure!!

Categorized as:Events  •  Photos  •  Trip ReportEvents  •  Photos  •  Trip ReportEvents  •  Photos  •  Trip ReportEvents  •  Photos  •  Trip Report

Tagged with:


Nolichucky High Motivation Day: Gorge Guiding & a Triathlon

wildwildwes wrote 543 days ago:

My wife, Jennifer, and I had a very active day on the Nolichucky Saturday, August 27, 2016.  Together with the help of 3 other rive guides we lead a total of 28 paddlers with 7 first timers down the mighty Nolichucky Gorge for the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts annual First Timer’s Trip in the morning.  Then we raced in a triathlon known as the Nolichucky Triple Threat in the afternoon.  Needless to say we were a bit tired after all of the day’s events, but we had a great time together and with many friends!

The day started out with Jen and me towing the Jackson Action Wagon to USA Raft to setup a demo for the Triathlon event.  Once I got all the boats set out for showcase Jen and I began organizing the large group to set shuttle for the gorge river trip using a USA Raft bus and some trailers to haul boats up to the put-in at Popular, NC.  The group worked together well to load up all the gear and boats to get moving efficiently.  On the way up the mountain in the bus I gave my river safety talk and explained how we would be breaking into smaller groups with our five river guides when we got on the river.

We were greeted with a warm summer day and sunny skies with temps in the high 80′s when we reached the put-in.  The river flow was on the low side of good at 515 CFS on the Embreeville Gauge, which made for a steeper more channelized run for our gorge first timers.  It turned out to be a fine level for all!

We all slide into the river in the large pool at the Popular put-in and split into our smaller groups.  Then we headed down river to enjoy a great late morning/early afternoon in the gorge.  All 7 of our first timers had a good time and were stoked to complete the run!  Big thanks to all the river guides and sweep/safety paddlers who supported the trip to make it another great success!!

We finished the 9 mile trip Noli Gorge trip around 2:00 P.M. back at USA Raft and that allowed us a couple of hours to rest up and refuel for the triathlon we would be racing at 4:00 P.M.  Jen and I were excited to be racing with our friends Amy Register, Brain Vermillion and Andrea Gass.  Brian & Andrea joined us on the gorge trip that morning also and we decided we needed some sort of Iron APE Award for trying both of these events in the same day!

The Nolichucky Triple Threat is a three part event that incorporates a 3 mile paddle trip down the Lower Nolichucky River, an obstacle course and a 5K Run.

Event website – http://nolitriplethreat.com/

YouTube Preview Image

The race started at USA Raft for the paddling portion (Class I-II) of the triathlon and headed down river to a spot known as Red Cliff below Radio Wave rapid.  I chose to use my Jackson Kayak Karma Unlimited racing boat to GO FAST and Jen used her Jackson Kayak Karma Sm.  Brain and I were there only racers there using racing long boats, so we were the first two finishers in the paddling portion of the race.

Brian and I had to wait for the girls for about 5 minutes to catch up with us once we were out of boats, b/c we all agreed that we would help each other in the 17 obstacles that awaited for us in the course ahead.  The race’s official timing did not start until you crossed a pad leading into the obstacle course.  Once the girls caught up to us we started the obstacle course.  The course proved to be a challenge for sure!  There was many different obstacles in the course that included: a barb wire crawl in water and sand, carrying heavy objects, throwing a large rock into the cockpit of a kayak, 6’, 8’, & 10’ vertical walls, flipping tractor tires, dragging kayaks filled with concrete bags, inverted wall, cargo net, monkey bars, balance beam, 15’ rope climb, and a slip wall.  If you did not complete any obstacle in the course you had to do 30 squat jumps for each failed obstacle.  I ended up doing about 120 squat jumps throughout the course!

After we completed the course Brian had pulled ahead of the rest of us and he took off on the 5K run back to USA Raft.  He is a good runner!  I tried to hang with the girls on the run back, but I was struggling and had to walk several times.  Thankfully the girls were pretty tired too, so I was able to hang with them for the most part.  The run back was mostly on the road, but the last 0.3 mile was on an old spur the Appalachian Trail coming into the Nolichucky Gorge Campground.  I really enjoyed running through the woods in this section of the race and came though the campground to cross the finish line back at USA Raft with the girls finishing in front of me.

Event Results: https://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-21004

After we crossed the finish line one last obstacle laid in front of us as a bonus and it was to jump across two rafts tied together like lily pads in a pond.  We all did this one at a time hoping from the bank of the pond into the first raft.  Then scurrying across the thorts to jump into the next raft.  Then came the tricky part of taking a big leap from the last raft to the other bank of the pond.  We all finished this final obstacle cheering for each other and we were happy to complete the race!  It was a good time for sure with each other!!

We headed to the river to jump in to clean up and cool down after the race.  It felt so good and a great way to end a high motivation day on the Nolichucky!

Categorized as:Events  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip ReportEvents  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip ReportEvents  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip ReportEvents  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip Report

Tagged with:


2016 J.A.W. End of Season SALE!

wildwildwes wrote 568 days ago:

The Jackson Action Wagon has had another great paddling season with free demos & spreading the fun of kayaking.  It is now time to sell the current demo boat fleet to make room for next year’s 2017 fleet!  The Nirvana and Antix models are coming soon!!

Check out the link below for current stock and prices:



All J.A.W. boat purchases include the original outfitting & swag that come with a new Jackson Kayak purchase.  The boats were primarily used in a pool for instruction and river trip demos.  The boats are in like new to very good condition.  I will be happy to send current photos of any boat if requested.

I will be at Gauley Fest & GAF to deliver boats to those locations.  I can also arrange shipping through Forward Air or FedEx if you desire to pay for that service.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in a boat purchase from the J.A.W. fleet.  All boats are sold on a first come, first served basis.

Wesley R. Bradley – 423-647-1321

Categorized as:Events  •  JAW  •  News  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Tri-Cities

Tagged with:


JAW Demo at the Dirty Bird Confidence Series

wildwildwes wrote 631 days ago:

When: July 9, 2016 @ 11:00 A.M.

Where: NOC Outpost on the Pigeon River

Who: Presented by Paddle in Pink for the ladies!


Ladies get out your playboats and your slicey boats, Paddle in Pink is putting on its 2nd annual Dirty Bird Confidence Series.  Come on out and join Crystal Gustin, Nikki Winkler Malatin and Katie Dean for this fun day on the Pigeon River Gorge!!  They will be guiding you down the river and showing you how to play your way down the river.

Don’t have a playboat or a slicey boat?  The Jackson Action Wagon is looking forward to supporting the ladies with free Jackson Kayak demos on-site!

At the end, we will have a fun “competition” at the NOC hole with music and free beer (given by SweetWater Brewing).  There will be give aways for anyone that enters the fun competition and at the end a Jackson Kayak ROCKSTAR will be given away!!

Sponsors: Jackson Kayak, Pyranha, Dagger, SweetWater Brewing Company

Categorized as:Events  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  News  •  PhotosEvents  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  News  •  PhotosEvents  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  News  •  PhotosEvents  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos

Tagged with:


APE’s Celebrate 15 Years of Cleaning Up the Nolichucky River

wildwildwes wrote 635 days ago:

Thanks again to all who came out this year to help cleanup the river!

The JAW had a great demo during the event!

Here is the link to the report with photos on all our successful efforts by Andrea Gass:

Categorized as:Events  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities

Tagged with:



wildwildwes wrote 638 days ago:

Big thanks to all who supported the Jackson Kayak Fun Raffle during the APE’s Nolichucky River Cleanup & Celebration! We raised $391.61 to support Camp Bays Mountain and Debbie Briscoe went home with the new boat!!

Categorized as:Events  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities

Tagged with:


2016 Nolichucky Hometown Throwdown Event #2 Coverage

wildwildwes wrote 656 days ago:

Check out the complete attainment race results, photos and report of our second event of the year at:


Categorized as:Events  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  hometown throwdownEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  hometown throwdownEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  hometown throwdownEvents  •  JAW  •  News  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  hometown throwdown

Tagged with:


2016 Nolichucky Hometown Throwdown #2

wildwildwes wrote 656 days ago:

The second event in the 2016 Nolichucky Hometown Throwdown series was a new event format for us by racing up river.  We had a good turn out with 12 competitors joining in for some friendly attainment race competition with the Nolichucky Beer League!  We had a few spectators who watched and cheered on the competitors from the river bank.  The event was held in the Nolichucky River Gorge, TN on a nice mild evening with mostly cloudy skies.

The river level was around 950 CFS and spirits were high with many of the racers eager to give this new race event style a go!  The course start was up at a spot in the bottom of the gorge known as Cherokee Dam above the USA Raft river access.  The finish line was the river right eddy at the bottom of Twin Eddies (The last Class III rapid in the gorge) 1 mile upstream.  The course has several class I-II rapids racers had to ascend to make it to the finish line.  We launched classes in a mass start format and good times were had by all!

2016 Nolichucky Hometown Throwdown Event #2 Results:

Men‘s K-1 Long Boat:

1. Curtis England (17:51)

2. Craig Wassinger (17:55)

3. Ryan Horn (19:44)

4. Matt Dalton (21:29)

5. Jeff Vannoy (23:02)

6. Wesley R. Bradley (29:53)

7. Josh Dalton (59:47)

8. Jamison Evans (1:05:52)

9. Ben Carr (*HE)

9. Andrew Price (*HE)

Men‘s K-1 Short Boat:

1. Andy Woods (1:07:15)

2. Kevin Masters (*HE)

*Honorable Effort!

(Click here for a PDF copy of Event #2 Results)

Thank you to all the competitors for their participation and congrats to our class winners of Event #2!

Event Highlights:

*It came down to virtual tie at the finish for 1st with some rubbing is racing between Curtis and Craig!

*After the event many of the racers portaged around Twin Eddies to try the very challenging Gatekeeper attainment move above the rapid and venture deeper up into the gorge.

*The Jackson Action Wagon was on-site with FREE long boat demos for racers to try out.

*All competitors & volunteers who participated went home with a nice prize!

A big thank you goes out to our great volunteers for their help in event #2:

Ryan Horn – Registration & Race Course

Mike Potter – Photographer

Curtis England – Starter & Finish Line Judge

A huge thank you goes out to our World Kayak Partners & the local sponsors below for all the great prizes & support of the events!

Our World Kayak Program Partners

Our local sponsor for this event:


A special thank you to USA Raft for hosting the event with the Nolichucky Beer League!

Stay tuned for details about HTTD event #3 coming soon to the Tri-Cities!  Hope to see you on the Noli to throwdown!!

Categorized as:Events  •  Feature Story  •  Featured  •  Featured Post  •  Headline  •  Photos  •  Rivers  •  Throwdown Results  •  WK Hometown Throwdowns  •  competing  •  coverage  •  final-results  •  kayaking  •  long boats  •  race  •  racing  •  river-running  •  whitewater  •  whitewater kayakingEvents  •  Feature Story  •  Featured  •  Featured Post  •  Headline  •  Photos  •  Rivers  •  Throwdown Results  •  WK Hometown Throwdowns  •  competing  •  coverage  •  final-results  •  kayaking  •  long boats  •  race  •  racing  •  river-running  •  whitewater  •  whitewater kayakingEvents  •  Feature Story  •  Featured  •  Featured Post  •  Headline  •  Photos  •  Rivers  •  Throwdown Results  •  WK Hometown Throwdowns  •  competing  •  coverage  •  final-results  •  kayaking  •  long boats  •  race  •  racing  •  river-running  •  whitewater  •  whitewater kayakingEvents  •  Feature Story  •  Featured  •  Featured Post  •  Headline  •  Photos  •  Rivers  •  Throwdown Results  •  WK Hometown Throwdowns  •  competing  •  coverage  •  final-results  •  kayaking  •  long boats  •  race  •  racing  •  river-running  •  whitewater  •  whitewater kayaking

Tagged with:


Win a Jackson Kayak Fun

wildwildwes wrote 665 days ago:

Win a brand new 2016 Jackson Kayak Fun while supporting Camp Bays Mountain! http://www.campbaysmountain.com/

Big thanks to the supporting stores: Overmountain Outdoors, Mahoney’s Outfitters, Mountain Sports Ltd., USA Raft, & Uncle Johnny’s Hostel

Purchase tickets online prior to the event for $15 at


Categorized as:Events  •  News  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  News  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  News  •  Tri-CitiesEvents  •  News  •  Tri-Cities

Tagged with:


NoliFest 2016

wildwildwes wrote 690 days ago:

The 2nd annual NoliFest was organized and hosted by USA RAFT this year on April 1-3.  The festival was billed “For all who paddle” and the event was true to its roots.  There was something for every paddler to enjoy.  Plus we were blessed with rain the day before the festival started and it bumped up the river level to a near perfect 1,600-1,700 CFS flow.  The festival activities included: whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, Bellyak, Stand Up Paddleboarding, river races, SUP yoga, bonfire, live music, great food, vendor fair with sales/demos, used gear sale & swap.  This festival truly brought the local paddling community together in every way!

All these activities were staged from the USA Raft Outpost on the river bank of the mighty Nolichucky River.  Paddling trips on both the Lower Nolichucky River (Class I-II) and Nolichucky Gorge (Class III-IV) were of course the main highlight of the festival.  USA Raft provided shuttles on Saturday as part of the festival and probable carried out one of the largest shuttles to the Gorge put-in ever in history using multiple buses and SUV/vans with trailers to haul paddlers and boats up to Poplar, NC.

There were a huge number of vendors on-site this year for folks to check out: Hala, Bellyak, Pyranha, Southern Raft Supply, Shaboomee, Star Inflatables, Rocky Mountain Rafts, Boardworks, LiquidLogic, Uncle Johnny’s, Overmountain Outdoors, Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, French Broad Outfitters, Eryn Chair Massage and Thrifty Adventures

The Jackson Action Wagon was on site during the day on Saturday with free Jackson Kayak demos, giving away JK swag and showcase foe folks to check out some of the latest whitewater models in the JK line-up.

Our local Johnson City Chapter of Team River Runneralso participated in the festival by taking serval of their veterans on rafting trips in the Gorge.

There were a couple of Special Features during the festival that were big booming fun:

WORLDKAYAK Hometown Throwdown Downriver Boatercross

Check out complete results, photos and report of the event at http://worldkayakblogs.com/throwdown/2016/04/08/2016-nolichucky-hometown-throwdown-1/  

APE’s Downriver Freestyle Jam Session with Pat Keller

We had 17 participants join us in this paddling session with Pat on the Noli Gorge.  Needless to say, but we all learned many great freestyle tips & tricks and had a blast shredding with Pat all afternoon long!

Check out this video edit by Clay Landrum of the freestyle fun we had with Pat.

YouTube Preview Image

Categorized as:Events  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip Report  •  Video  •  hometown throwdownEvents  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip Report  •  Video  •  hometown throwdownEvents  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip Report  •  Video  •  hometown throwdownEvents  •  Instruction  •  JAW  •  Photos  •  Tri-Cities  •  Trip Report  •  Video  •  hometown throwdown

Tagged with: