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Monday, September 26, 2005 -- Summersville, WV
The ANIMAL Upper Gauley Race (iPO Event Id#: 7132)
Story and photos by Julie Black

Editor's Note: These race photos are also available at high resolution (good for print, magazines, brochures, etc.) For more information, please send an e-mail to

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7]

ANIMAL Race Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2004]

Photo by Julie Black
Navigating Pillow Rock Rapid
With 70 competitors in 1998, the now 11 year old ANIMAL Upper Gauley Race ( has since grown in popularity and in numbers. Competitors range from World Champion Rodeo Boaters to U.S. Wildwater Team members, professional videographers, river professionals on raft teams, as well as recreational boaters. In 2004 more than 150 paddlers competed, coming from all over the continental United States with several raft teams from the Europe.

The race has also enjoyed considerable media coverage on the local, regional, and national level through television, newspaper, radio, American Whitewater magazine, Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, an "Adventure Update" on Outdoor Life Network, and Outside magazine online. The event has also been included in the hour-long Outdoor Life Network production for the World Rafting Championships, which was distributed around the world.

Photo by Julie Black
What every paddler saw of Calhoun on Monday
So where does one hold such a high caliber event of this stature? West, by God, Virginia of course. The event is held on the Gauley River in Summersville, WV. The rapids on the Gauley are legendary and the race boasts of the 9 plus miles of pounding class V's that racers endure. Their named as such: Insignificant (which is anything but), Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle (a fitting name), Iron Ring, and Sweet's Falls are world famous and deserve the notoriety. They are big, steep, demanding, and can have a serious bite for the paddler in the wrong place. With a 2800 cfs release provided by The Army Corps of Engineers at Summersville Dam, this river turns from classic creek style to frothy, classic whitewater.

In the press wherever you turn is the current Wildwater National Champion, Geoff Calhoun. Unchallenged at the ANIMAL, Calhoun took the 1st place overall honors in 48:28. Recently solidifying his reputation in the Flat-water Sprint world by winning the K-1 500 meters event on Green Lake, Seattle, Washington, he has become the first dual national champion in about a decade. Calhoun has been selected to join the USA Pan-American Championships team.

Photo by Julie Black
The K1 Wavehopper class
K1 Wavehopper 1st place finisher, Jason Sullivan, adds another class win to his trophy room. Sullivan placed 3rd in his class at the 2005 American Whitewater Ohiopyle Over the Falls Festival. The top K1 Slalom spot again, went to Mike Moore (54:04), who had a sweet line at Pillow. K1-W Slalom champ went to Kate Stepan (1:05:07), and K1 Playboat top finisher Brad Atkins (1:00:12).

C1 Playboat/Slalom top honors went to Dr. Jack "Jay" Ditty (Morgantown, ER Doctor), with a time of 59:21. Ditty's 2nd time racing the Gauley has been a charm. Ditty has organized the Russell Fork race on the Virginia-Kentucky border. This year's race is set for next weekend. "We usually have 25 to 30 people show up," he said. "The course is probably 2 1/2 miles. It's a shorter course than the Gauley, but the river is more intense. It's a pretty dangerous Class V river." Read more about Ditty in The Register-Herald.

Photo by Julie Black
The girls get wet at Pillow
First in the OC-1 class was Eil Helbert (1:02:48), and R-2 champs Chris Metz and Lee Granger swept in with a time of 1:11:08. The top raft team was "Smooth Like Budda" (1:05:41) who beat "Six Inch Softies" by more than a minute. With an amazing third place finish, the all female raft team "Robert's Wet Dream" recovered extremely well after dumping their lunch at Pillow Rock. Let it be known, they were not the only ones to dump there, but their flip was the most impressive of the bunch by far.

Top shredder of the day was "Skirts" (1:12:54), lone-ducky man Nori Onishi (1:08:00) took a top finish by default, and of the five (yes I said FIVE) Creature Crafts, the "Love Boat" finished first in 1:16:00.

Thanks to all who participated and made the event possible. Especially Donnie Hudspeth and Mountain Air Productions LLC (MAP).

About Mountain Air Productions... Mountain Air Productions LLC (MAP) is an Event Development, Promotion and Management Company based in Southern West Virginia. MAP specializes in world-class events and competitions in a variety of outdoor venues; including whitewater competition, mountain bike competition and trail running. With over 12 years of experience in event development and management, specifically on the New & Gauley Rivers and the surrounding areas, MAP has developed partnerships with the controlling agencies including: National Park Service, Department of Natural Resources and Corps of Engineers and the Division of Tourism. MAP's founder and director Donnie Hudspeth, has 18 years experience working directly in the outdoor recreation and tourism industry in West Virginia.

To contact them call (304)658-5016 or e-mail