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Monday, September 24, 2001 -- Summersville, WV
ANIMAL Gauley River Race (iPO Event Id#: 4392)
Story by Donnie Hudspeth

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Results by Class] [Pic Set 1] [Pic Set 2]
[2000 Event Coverage]

2001 Gauley is a whole new Animal

Gauley Race
Andrew McEwan glides through Pillow Rock Rapid
The Gauley has long been considered the "proving grounds" for the expert paddler, and was ranked in the world's Top 10 whitewater rivers. The ANIMAL Upper Gauley Race has become one of the premier Extreme Events in the country; a downriver sprint on a legendary section of river. Now in it's proud 9th year, this race has grown in notoriety and participation.

It was a rainy morning again this year for the 9th annual Upper Gauley Race. Despite that, a record crowd turned out for this race, which was dubbed "the greatest race in the world" by Patrick Westerfeld. This year over 180 people competed in the Animal, including 23 raft teams. The event was held in concert with the World Rafting Championships taking place in West Virginia, the first time held in the United States. Several of the international teams competed in the Animal, including Costa Rica, Italy, Russia and Slovokia. Also on hand were several members of the U.S. Wildwater team including the reigning champ Andrew McEwan.

Racers paddle 9 miles, running the 'Big Five' on the Upper Gauley. The Big Five include: Insignificant(Class V), Pillow Rock(Class IV+), Lost Paddle(Class V), Iron Ring(Class IV+), and Sweets Falls(Class IV).

The racers finished at the squirly base of a Class V, 8-10 foot drop known as Sweet's Falls. The locals say it's a one-move pony where you find the tongue and stay upright through the curler, (easier said than done my friends.) There's always plenty of carnage, and lots of raft gawkers on the rocks around the drop, just waiting for some excitement.

Gauley Race
The raft teams challenge Pillow Rock Rapid
Once again Andrew McEwan would not be denied the title "Fastest Man" and he took home a fat chunk of money for his effort. Fastest woman went to Chara O'Brien and she too took hom a big fat check. There were several new twists to the race this year, and cash prizes was one of them. Over $8,500 in cash prizes were awarded this year to 1st-3rd overall and 1st in each catagory. Also new was the post-race dinner award party being held at Class VI River Runners and Smokey's on the Gorge. The food was fantastic and the crowd was lively as Alex Nicks announced the winners and then started throwing prizes out to the crowd. The word "incredible" was heard more than once. There was a video showing highlights from the days events as well as the previous two days of competition for the WRC. The footage was incredible! (there is that word again...)

The nightly video was just a part of what the film company Horizon Line Productions is producing- the major news is the one-hour show that will be aired on Outdoor Life Network starting in November. That is big news for the Gauley Race and all the fine folks that come out to support it. Hats off to Donnie Hudspeth for once again keeping this race safe, fun and growing. Celebrate the Gauley!

Kudos go out to Donnie Hudspeth and crew for working hard to create a great event, and special thanks to thw WV Division of Tourism and all the other great sponsors who made the event possible. Check out more on this and other events at