The Green Race
A JOURNALISM SERIES
The Green Race
The Green River Narrows, North Carolina
"Between the 170+ racers battling it out and 2,000 spectators hiking into the gorge-The Green River Narrows Race is the largest extreme kayak race in the world. This iconic kayak race has drawn spectators and racers from around the world, humbled Olympic medalists, and been featured on major networks such as CNN. From innovating new boat designs to bringing together one of the largest kayaking communities-this is the super bowl of kayaking."
(from the Green Race website: https://greenrace.us/)
Behind the scenes
Hours before the race begins, rescuers and first responders set up on site. Swiftwater rescuers scrub the rocks and hook carabiners into bolts, preparing to dive into the rapids at a moments notice. The over 150 racers are released from most experienced to least, meaning that as the day wears on, rescuers have to be more and more vigilant as less experienced racers brave Gorilla, the series of rapids in the most challenging section of the Green River.
We hiked out to the Green River that morning. Waking up at 6:30a, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Sunrise Cafe in Brevard, then drove out to Pulliam Trailhead near Hendersonville. It took a little over an hour to do the 2 mile hike; an easy route for a little over a mile followed by a right turn downhill. While the damp, chilly weather was pleasant for a strenuous hike, on-and-off rain meant that the steep hike was slick and dangerous, even with handlines attached between trees.
It took over an hour to get out to the river, but once there, we found a spot right on the edge of the rock, near the last rapid of the route. I bounced between that photography spot and another section where local paddlers were taking turns launching from the shore to a steep drop into the rapid before the start of the race. My rain jacket provided some comfort, but I was sitting so close to the rapids that water splashed on me when paddlers shot by. It was amazing!