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The Day Before Trials

A field report from Chris Hipgrave on the 2002 USACK Wildwater Team Selections

by Chris Hipgrave
USAWildwater K-1

April 19, 2002 -- Ohiopyle, PA

A steady procession of Wildwater paddlers has been converging on the Youghiogheny this week for the 2002 USA Wildwater Team Trials.

While many racers and potential team members live close to the venue, participants from as far away as California, Washington and Switzerland have geared up for training week runs.

The weather and water have been cooperative during the week. Temperatures have consistantly been in the 80s with a few brief afternoon thunderstorms to cool us off. And the water levels are perfect, producing a site worthy of a world class race.

Guage levels here in Ohiopyle have fluctuated between 3.5 and 4.5ft, or roughly 2500 to 3500 cubic feet per second or more. The Team Trials Classic distance event will run through what is known as "the Loop", consisting of six excellent rapids, and followed by an equal distance through class I and II shoals to the finish. This mix will test both whitewater skills and fitness equally well.

At the water levels we have found here, the rapids are powerful and pushy. The biggest waves and stoppers are found in the first two rapids where a string of four-foot or larger waves lead into a technical rocky exit. These first rapids called "Entrance" and "Cucumber" will be the site of Sunday's sprint race. The rapids are extrememly entertaining and everyone training has been enjoying their time on the water.

The whitewater on the Loop is equally as good as anything found in a World Cup, albeit much too short. Unfortunately, water levels are predicted to drop approximately 1000cfs on Saturday morning as the dam upstream cuts back to weekend recreational levels, so additional practice runs are essential for all out-of-towners prior to the Saturday afternoon classic start.

The competition
The K-1 class is shaping up to be the most hotly contested. Reigning champion Andrew McEwan is fresh from a winter training in California with the USA Sprint team and looks very fit. Other competitors vying for team positions are too close to call and include Chris Hipgrave back from a training jaunt to France, Middy Tilgman, Steve Kauffman, Simon Beardmore who took off this semester to focus on trials, and local dark horse Dave Hammond with a win here on the same course just a few weeks ago. With the unfortunate shoulder dislocation of Michael Beavers, the C-1 class looks all but wrapped up by National Champion Tom Wier. And there will be at least one C-2 racing here which was a pleasant surprise. The K-1W class includes many unknowns and some locals, making results from this class too close to call.

Later today we have boat inspection and meetings as the 2002 USA Wildwater Team Trials slips into high gear along with the anticipation of racing and earning a team spot.

Stay tuned for updates on Saturday's Classic distance event.

Chris Hipgrave is a K-1 Wildwater racer living near Bryson City, NC. Reach him at