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FiBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas)

Oldest, Most Prestigious and Toughest Wildwater Race...on Earth(?)

by John Pinyerd
USA Canoe/Kayak
Wildwater Committee Chair

July 10, 2004 -- Atlanta, GA

Without a doubt, FiBArk is the "longest, oldest, most prestigious and toughest Downriver Race" in North America. The only question is if this badge of honor should extend to the whole planet. The 26 mile long downriver race through some of the Arkansas River's most exciting waters is a race against time that challenges the competitor's skill, endurance and grit. The first race began in 1949 over a bet. In 1951 the course was set at its existing length of 26 miles from Salida to Cotopaxi, CO. This year's race had nearly 50 competitors in spite of the most of the US Wildwater Team being in Europe.

Following tradition, the expert boaters still begin the 26 mile race in a mass start at the Salida Slalom course. This year's race had a few additional challenges to the will of the competitors. The lower water level (of approximately 1150 CFS at Salida) caused competitors to have to push across more shallow water and the slower currents added. At times, strong headwinds truly tested the metal of the competitors.

For me, racing at FIBArk was like going home. My wife and I love Chaffee County Colorado (home of the Arkansas River, Salida, and Buena Vista). It was a true honor and pleasure for me to get to participate and to discuss tying in 2005 USA Wildwater Nationals to next year's race.

In the duel for K-1 supremacy and the fastest time down the river, Nic Borst battled it out with Olympian and many time World Slalom Champion Scott Shipley. We are honored that Scott would make his debut wildwater race at FIBArk. In the end, Nick Borst's efficiency won out as he bested Shipley by a couple minutes with a time of 2:34. It was truly a great week of racing for Nic as he won the Western Junior Wildwater Team Trials just two days earlier. Perennial winner Gary Lacy was third with a time of 2:37.

Perhaps the real winners of this year's Expert Downriver Race were John Pinyerd, Tom Gray and Michael Thurman. Due to faster hulls, wildwater kayakers should beat C-1's by 15% and beat wavehoppers by 10-12%. Had the race been handicapped accordingly, the top C-1s who battled being on their knees for 3 hours, John Pinyerd (7.8% back, 4th boat overall), and the second place C-1 Tom Gray (11% back, 7th boat overall), would have won first and second. The top wavehopper, Michael Thurman (10.5% back, 5th boat overall) also did extremely well and could arguably claim a share to the medals. Michael will be in glass next year!

I am also extremely proud of the women's K-1 finishers. Junior, Lisa Adams turned out a very respectable time for such a grueling race. She was followed closely by Perin Pring (also a junior).

For more information about FIBARK and complete race results, please see

For FiBArk - Expert Downriver Race Finishers (June 20, 2004) click to open MS Excel web document here.

John Pinyerd
USACK - Wildwater Committee Chairman

John Pinyerd is Chair of the U.S. Wildwater Committee and a C-1 Wildwater racer living in Atlanta. Reach him at