The past 3 years my wife, Jen, and I have participated in a fun event series at the NOC called the Canoe Club Challenge with Team APE’s. The events are novice slalom gate races down class I-II whitewater adjacent to the NOC Outfitter Store. The slalom events are really a great time of fun and fellowship with many other paddlers from various other regional paddling clubs!
Slalom racing is a great way to refine good paddling techniques and work on all the basic river moves, such as ferrying, catching eddies & peeling out. I try to encourage many of the newbies in our APE’s clubs to give it a try and those that do really find it to be great practice! Even our expert level paddlers in the club find it very fun in trying to paddle the course as fast as they can to beat each other!
This year as part of the event series the NOC is also offering an 8 mile downriver race on the Nantahala (Class II-III), before each slalom event for even more fun! It is a physically demanding day to do both races, but a great sense of accomplishment! I have to give my wife a shout out and congrats for placing 2nd in the Women’s K-1 class in both the downriver race and slalom race with a Zen 65 this past Saturday! I’m very proud of her for making the podium twice in one day!!
Last week I spent some time trying to decide on what boat I wanted to use for the slalom event. I have had a great time river running with the Fun Runner 70 on the Nolichucky Gorge, Watauga Gorge & Cheoah River this spring! The boat is by far not the fastest in a straight line compared to a Zen 75 or Villain, but it is very zippy in the turns and you do a lot of turning in slalom racing! I decided to give my Fun Runner 70 a try in the slalom race and boy was that the right decision!
I made a total of 5 runs in the 9 gate slalom race, which was the maximum # of runs allowed in the race. Only your best time counted in the final results and you had to go through each gate as directed for your run to count. I was happy to place in the top 10! Here are all my times:
Run #1 – 1:30.9 (Fun Runner & getting to know the course)
Run #2 – 1:25.3 (Fun Runner & my fastest time!)
Run #3 – 1:26.3 (Fun Runner)
Run #4 – 1:29.3 (Zen 75)
Run #5 – 1:28.7 (long boat)
The slicey stern of the Fun Runner gave me an advantage to make quicker turns at the gates! I was amazed that I beat both of my times in the longer boats with the Fun Runner! The Fun Runner’s edges were also very predictable and stable during the race down the slalom course. At the moment when I came to a gate I knew I could engage them to make a turn right around the inside pole and zip to the next gate!
To reinforce my theory of the Fun Runner being the faster slalom boat for the race, I let 2 other racers run the course in my boat. Both of the racers had never paddled a Fun Runner till now. The first thing they both noticed was how light the boat was to carry compared to other river runners, which made carrying the boat back to the top of the race course much easier for them!
The racer “gent” had already made 4 runs in a Zen 75 and his final run of the course in the Fun Runner 70 turned out to be his fastest lap also! He was thrilled with the performance of the Fun Runner!
The racer “lady” was also on her final race run of the course in the Fun Runner, after making 2 K-2 runs in the Dynamic Duo with a partner and 4 K-1 runs in a Zen 65 and a Burn M. The results also show that her Fun Runner race run was the fastest!!
The Fun Runner has proved to be a light boat that makes zippy turns! It may not be the fastest boat in a straight line, but it sure makes all the basic river moves with ease and speed! We also know now that is the choice boat for amateur slalom racing! I also keep finding that the Fun Runner makes any river run spiceier! The zippy nature of the boat and the great surfing stability truly makes this boat a Fun river Runner!