Posing with her first-place prize tomahawk some 30 minutes after dragging her boat out of the Greys River on Saturday, Greta Durbin looked stoked.
Stoked on the water conditions, her weapon of a trophy and most of all the turnout for the 20th Wyoming Whitewater Championships.
“This is my first year competing here, but this is the most women we’ve ever had,” she said. “This is such a good turnout. We cheered each other on, and it was just so good.”
Across the board, said Rainer Kenney, executive director of the Jackson Hole Kayak Club, the event has continued to flourish in the four years he has been at the helm. The boatercross Saturday saw 25 competitors, whereas last year’s race had just 11.
Part of what made Saturday’s race so big was the water conditions. Kenney said that when the Greys River is at 5 feet it’s Class V whitewater — large, scary rapids rife with opportunity for disaster in a race that sends a group of boaters over the rapids at once.
On Saturday, Kenney said, it was more a Class IV race, which is still technical and difficult without so much of the terror.
“Most people don’t want to boatercross this at [Class V] because it makes it scary enough just to paddle,” he said. “So racing on it with four other people is kind of intense.”
“This is my favorite water level,” she said. “A little bit lower and it wouldn’t have been as fun. A little bit higher would have been scary, so this is the perfect level to still get really speedy and fast and take perfect lines.”
Saturday capped the first WyDaho Whitewater Series, which included last month’s Bear River boatercross near Grace, Idaho; Friday’s Hoback time trial; and Saturday’s Greys River boatercross finale.
Paddlers who competed in all three events won points for their finishes, with the person accumulating the most points across the series being named the champion and receiving a prize of cash and a tomahawk. On the men’s side Driscoll Larrow took the series title after winning Friday’s time trial and finishing second to Owen Doyle in Saturday’s boatercross.
“We’re trying to build up the whitewater community in Idaho, eastern Idaho and the Utah scene,” Kenney said. “We figured if we’re putting on these races we might as well make it a point series.”
Where the Bear and Greys River races are expert waters, the time trials from Friday were open to kayaks, paddleboards and rafts, drawing in the neighborhood of 80 competitors across the classifications.
“What’s nice about the Hoback is that it’s really a Class II-III race,” Kenney said. “That can incorporate kids, people on rafts, and that’s kind of for everybody.”
Durbin, who is spending her second summer in Jackson working for Rendezvous River Sports, said it’s the boating community here that has drawn her back. As for whether she’ll be back next year to defend her title and tomahawk, she is undecided. As much as she loves Jackson, committing to life in a ski town isn’t on her docket.
“I can see myself coming back in the summers, but as soon as it starts snowing I just don’t know what to do,” Durbin said. “I like melted water.”