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Green Race Legacy

By Chris Gragtmans

The Green River has been a powerful influence in my life.  That river played a large role in my decision to pursue post-secondary education in Asheville, NC in 2004.  I made Asheville my home at that time, and this town and river have been a part of my existence ever since.  The Green is an important foundation for me.  I paddle its waters weekly and it has accompanied me through all of the high and low points of life.  I know every rock in the river, and every paddle stroke needed to run its myriad lines.  It is a place of memories about good friends, pushing myself as an athlete, sharing my sport with family, and the development of kayak design.   

My years in Asheville can be referenced by our most intense annual event- the Green Race.

The Green Race, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is truly a force of nature.  There is no financial incentive on the line for this race, yet it remains one of the most prestigious titles in paddlesports.  Winning the Green Race is truly an elite accomplishment for any paddler, and is revered the same way as a World Championships title.  Every year, 150+ competitors and 1000+ spectators line the Green River Gorge to experience “the greatest show in sports.”


The Green Race is an exceptionally challenging course because it has so many lines to remember, and the most difficult rapids are at the end.  Through that ¾ mile section, the Green descends over 300 vertical feet!  Breaking the five minute mark is a benchmark accomplishment, but the record times are in the low four minute zone.  

This race has also been a vehicle for design change in the paddlesports industry.  Dagger Kayaks’ Snowy Robertson and Pat Keller led the way in 2006 with the design of the Green Boat, a customized Green Race design that swept the podium at the race for four years straight after its inception.  LiquidLogic and Jackson have since responded with their respective long boat designs, and the energy surrounding boat design and paddler skill is exciting to be a part of.  

“The author dropping into the Green Race’s marquee rapid, Gorilla.”

 

In terms of my personal relationship with the Race, I refer to it as “my unicorn.”  I have gotten 2nd twice, 3rd once, 4th five times, won the Ironman division twice, etc.  But I’ve never taken the title.  I love the race, but when I look at my paddling resume, the Green Race is the only piece of unfinished business!  I keep telling myself that adage the nothing worth having in life comes easily…

The race occurs every Saturday of November at high noon- “like death and taxes.”  I will be at the starting line again this year, and my fellow paddlers and I will once again push our own limits and the limits of our sport as we charge down that steep course with our hair on fire!  

It will be another one for the ages, and I hope to see you there.

Chris Gragtmans


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