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This Chaconian adventure is brought to you by Holden Bradford, age 10, and Chaco Ambassador Chris Baer.

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For the last few years I have been "organizing" a race on the Pine Creek section of the Arkansas River. My goal with the race is to have as much fun as possible and create an amazing spectator event. Chaos is always fun and the crowd seems to love it... so mass start is the way I try to start the race. Over a dozen kayaks, seven rafts including the current National Champions, a couple duckies and shredders, toss in a pair of tubers, and a Topo Duo to round out the junk show.

Holden Bradford is a fired up 10 year old with a ton of charisma. Race day he woke up early and hiked to the top of a peak just outside of Buena Vista to go paragliding. Right now he is probable tearing up Breckenridge ski resort, day dreaming of the spring when he gets to go kayaking again. Holden started rafting when he was only 18 months old, and has been kayaking for 5 years. He can truly read white water.

When I first approached Holden's father about the idea of Holden and I racing together I could see a little apprehension, but what came out of Josh's mouth was YES! The Plan was for Holden and I to race a two person kayak through the class 5 section of the Arkansas River. 

Race day I chatted with Holden at the put in. I asked him if he had ever paddled Pine Creek before, or been in a two-person kayak, or seal launched? Holden responded a little hesitantly with "well no, but I have looked at pine creek a bunch, and I know we can do it!" Holden and I were about to experience a bunch of firsts together.  

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Holden and I charging through Pine Creek

The pine creek mass start has never been clean, and this year was no different. The field took off in two slightly different waves, and at that point neither Holden nor I was in our kayak. It took a couple seconds to hop in the kayak and slap the spray skirts on. We pushed off the embankment and skidded into the water instantly cranking out strokes trying to make up for our delayed start.

Holden paddled like a man on a mission. I couldn't help smiling as our boat flew over waves and crushed into others, plowing Holden deep into the water. 

Pine Creek went supper well and both of us were glowing from the cheers of the crowd. Coming through triple drop the stern hung up in a hydraulic and I looked up to see Holden a solid 4-5 feet out of the water. As I set the boat back down level Holden let out a laugh and we started to link strokes and pass one white water vessel after the next. 

Twenty minutes into the race we had passed every one but the two fastest raft teams, and three kayakers. With Holden's father in the raft directly in front of us, we paused for a strategic pass. "GO HOLDEN GO!" I hollered as we came screaming past his fathers raft. The last few minutes of the race were grueling and Holden let out a couple groans as we inched closer and closer to the National raft team.

As we came across the finish line Holden reminded me that he came in 5th and that I was definitely 6th. Post race we were bombarded with questions. " I felt a little proud watching Holden go from tentative to confident while explaining that there would be no reason for us to roll, and to watch out for next year when hopefully Chris can get a proper start to happen. When asked how we did, Holden smiled and let it be known that "We slayed it!"

So how old is old enough to paddle class 5? In the proper craft, with the proper guidance, Holden Bradford, and I would agree, you can definitely fire up Pine Creek when your 10.

Thank you Holden for letting me paddle along with you in such a fun event.


 

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