June 25, 2010 -- Harpers Ferry, WV
There are a few facts that are held to be true. Never get involved in a land war in Asia, never go up against a
Sicilian when death is on the line, and never race a shiny new boat down the Shenandoah Staircase when its low.
The latter was proved once again on June 19th during the annual Tim Gavin Race, in its 10th year and going strong
(43 entries) as part of the Harpers Ferry Outdoor festival that raises money for river and other environmental causes.
The race itself commemorates the life of Tim Gavin, who died in a kayaking accident on the Upper Blackwater in 1988.
The wildwater scene has been "quiet" in the Mid-Atlantic this year, but there was a good turnout for the race, despite
low water conditions. The fabled "3-inch release" that organizer Mike Moore had talked up may have been present,
but no-one was really sure. What was clear was that local knowledge from Bobby "could paddle this in my sleep" Miller
was gonna be vital. He was up against stiff opposition though, with Geoff Calhoun racing for the first time since
shoulder surgery, Chris Norbury finding a way out of a working hell for a few hours, and Gigantor Kurt Smithgall who
made the drive all the way down from Williamsport with his new Bala. The first part of the race was pretty flat and
Kurt took off like a bat out of hell, prompting the quote from Geoff - "I was wondering if this kid was for real,
because he was going quite a bit faster than I wanted to...". Kurt was going great guns until the river widened,
he decided that discretion was the better part of valor and ran the Staircase slowly and with great care to avoid
the most annoying shallow drops. In contrast, Norbury in his old beater Savage tried to take a shortcut down the
Staircase to make up time on Calhoun and, well, he won't be doing that again. Bobby Miller flew past on the super
secret local lines while Chris was broached facing upstream. The two came back together after the confluence with
the Potomac, setting up a showdown for a sprint finish, if Norbury had had any idea where the finish was.
He took the approach of following Calhoun (seriously??) who appeared to be trying to paddle all the way to DC,
and the Zone Dogg Miller sneaked through another super secrete local line to take what eventually ended up being
second. An honorable mention should be made for Stacy Gricks, who won her first race in her wavehopper in the
After about an hour off, and plenty of ice cold water consumed on a hot day, a few brave souls set out for the
attaining race up the Potomac from the finish of the downriver race to above the Needles. Again local knowledge
would be key to avoid shallow spots. Norbury and Calhoun were head to head for a while and were clearly the faster
attainers, but poor choices of line by them left Miller in the hunt. The swathes of tubers floating down the river
made for very entertaining line selection decisions (do I wipe out this crowd of tubers or take the shallow line?),
all adding to a very fun race. Fortunately this time Geoff stopped at the finish line (just as well as he had the
watch!), allowing everyone to see well ahead of time where they were heading. Special mentions in the attaining
race must be made for Seth Chappelle, who paddled a sea kayak that took 2 people to lift up the river, his little
brother Ocoee who finished with a broad grin on his face, and Ann Rocha, the first EVER woman to finish the
Harpers Ferry attainment race.
Many thanks to Mike Moore, Bobby Miller, all the race staff and timers, and competitors too.
Click here to view the complete results.