July 5, 2010 -- Boulder, CO
Only days after returning to Boulder from World Championships in Sort, Spain, I found myself sitting at Denver
International airport yet again waiting for my flight to the Yukon Territory Canada busily checking flow gauges
and gathering last minute information on the wilderness that waits.
Just when one thinks you have been dealt an average hand, all variables go in your favor and the impossible happens
as the human spirit triumphs against all odds. Not 24 hours after I sent an email out to family and friends on my blog
acknowledging the lack of adequate flows for a world record attempt on the 24 distance record, American wildwater
paddler Andy Corra, from Durango, Colorado, overtook the current world record of 261 miles by paddling 273.5 miles
(awaiting certification by Guinness World Records) in 24 hours. The current official record is held by Aussie
American adventure racing legend Ian Adamson. While flows were average at best compared to previous record attempts
by others, Andy’s paddling and river reading skills, as well as tolerance of sitting in a kayak for 24 hours, were
matched with eerily calm skies and the sheer hunger for what was one man’s first chance to attempt this life long goal.
Andy’s attempt was supported by me in a second surf ski and 2 local guides in a flat skiff motor boat. His attempt
started with a simple touch of the reset button on the 2 GPS tracking devices at 12 noon as he pushed away from the
flat bottomed guide boat and pointed the bow of his Epic V12 surf ski downriver. Needless to say, he chose against a
long warm-up. What ensued in the next 24 hours was simply poetry in motion. Andy kept his signature form throughout
the entire 24 hours and his cadence only slowed in the final 2 hours as fatigue and the intolerance of sitting took
its toll on his back and shoulders. The river was swift and approximately 5-16 feet deep. The endless braids were
challenging to find primary channels and we as a support crew were busy looking ahead with various means, then relying
on Andy’s on the fly water reading skills. With moderate flows this year, Andy simply overcame moderate flows with both
his paddling skill combined with excellent weather minus several heavy gale force squalls. The difference in Andy’s
attempt and previous attempts by other paddlers seemed to be Andy’s dissection of each channels flow to gain maximum
current speed advantage obtained from his years of wildwater racing.
We began below Lake Labarge around noon on Saturday and descended Five Fingers and Rink Rapids earlier than expected.
In the wee hours of the night around 2am, Andy negotiated the cross currents and exploding waves between the immersed
rock towers of Five Fingers Rapids with the cautious focus you’d expect from a 6 time wildwater national champion
paddling a 21 foot surf ski through short but worthy class 2-3 rapids. Andy had little to say the entire attempt but
did muster the defining phrase, “that was anti climactic”, as he passed through the final rapid.
The rest of the night he remained on task only stopping long enough to urinate and exchange food and hydration systems.
He did ultimately hit an expected low in the early hours of the next morning, hours 18-21, with only a slight change in
cadence but no change in average speed even with dropping current speed. By hour 21, following a quick layer change,
he regained his color and signature cadence for the final leg of this enormous human feat.
The entire US paddling community is excited about Andy’s accomplishment. Andy can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org to offer him congratulations.