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Saturday, April 24, 1999 - Sunday, April 25, 1999 -- Webster Springs, Elk River
Webster Wildwater River Race
Story by Brad Yurish with photos by Julie Bertsch and Jason Black.

[Coverage/Recap w/Pics] [Picture Set 1] [Picture Set 2] [Results]

No problem punching the hole
The first annual Webster Springs Wildwater Race was a huge success. Graced with beautiful sunny skies and good whitewater on the River, the day could not have been any better. The 5-mile race was held on the Elk River, with solid class 3 whitewater and maybe a class 4 thrown in for fun. I am sure a few of the racers can attest to the class 3-4 nature of this river as a handful of boaters got surfed and swam at 2 or 3 different rapids on the river. The finish line for the race was at Blake Island right in downtown Webster Springs and included additional festivities. The river winds its way right along Route 15 where there were dozens of spectators to cheer the racers on and hopefully to catch somebody putting on a show. Many of the racers, tired after paddling 4 miles with a constant upstream breeze, commented on how great it was to see all the people along the side of the river cheering for them. In fact, if it had not been for some spectators, paddler Brad Yurish would have paddled down the wrong fork around Blake Island, and missed the finish line.

inflatable danger
Ben & Nellie Herrick get a wild ride on the Elk River in Webster Springs
At the start of the race, organizers started 2 people every minute. They intentionally started the inflatables and open boat canoes first and the kayaks last. They said they wanted the kayakers to have to battle and pass the rafts and canoes! Many of the racers had not even seen this river before, and were going to 'boat scout' most every rapid. However, organizers did make all paddlers aware of any dangerous spots on the river. Safety boaters were at every rapid where there could be a problem. Parcoal Rapid caused the most anxiety among the organizers, but most all people had great lines and no surfs and "unintendo's". The organizers could not have planned this any better with cold soda and beer awaiting the racers at the takeout. Live music filled the air as the paddlers finished the race and made their way back to join the festivities.

Big Bad Brad
Brad Yurish makes Team WVOutside proud by taking 1st place overall
Racer Brad Yurish (Team WVOutside) started ~12th, finished 1st and won with a time of 37:13. Coming in right behind was Rodney Sirk with a time of 37:52. Jerry High came in 3rd at 38:20. C-1 paddler and Ace Mountain Sports Director Sam Rogers came in 4th at 46:51. Tandem canoeist Doug Swimmer and John Dauber finish in 48:20 and solo canoe 1st place went to David Lohr with a time of 63:48. Winning the kayak 55 and over category was Barney Lilly and Phil Smith with times of 52.32 and 52.47, respectively. Handsome hand carved trophies were given out to first place winners in each category.

The festivities continued on into the night at Camp Ceasar where more live music and entertainment was planned. There was even talk of a keg of beer! I'm sure everyone enjoyed themselves not only at the race but also during the entire festival. With such a successful event, organizers were already planning next year's activities.

Additional notes provided by Geary Weir

Special thanks to Ace Mountain Sports, Oak Hill, WV for donating prizes. Other prizes including savings bonds and gift certificates were donated by First Community Bank, Cowen, WV; United National Bank, Webster Springs, WV; Addies Boutique, Cowen, WV; John's Exxon, Webster Springs, WV: Gauley River Trading Post, Webster Springs, WV; Camp Caesar, Cowen, WV.

Thanks also to Charleston Canoe Club, Webster Springs Fire Dept & Webster County Office of Emergency Service for safety services.

There were 25 paddlers from 5 states including WV, VA, NC, OH and MD.

Saturday night party included 4 hours of live music from Dwayne McCourt & Friends, food & beverages, race videos & digital pictures of racers, and awards for oldest paddler, longest distance traveled, most crashes, best crash & ugliest boat.

A special award for "Best Show" was given to Randy Danger. He stopped at the PX hole, got out his flippers & surf board and went wave surfing (under the watchful eyes of the safety boaters, of course.)