How To Pick The Best Paddlers For A Raft Race

If you want to win this year’s first-ever Whitewater Rumble guest rafting race, it’s going to take some strong paddlers.

In my last post, I described how ACE is organizing a whitewater rafting race for guests on the Lower Gauley this October, pitting you speed demons versus each other AND some of the world’s best whitewater. (You can also get more information here on the ACE website.)So you might ask, what qualifies a good crew of paddlers?

Remember weight is a real issue; the more weight, the more work. If I had the choice between a crew of muscle-bound football players and nuns, I would probably choose the nuns. The boat will be light and they listen well, and after all, a little help from upstairs can never hurt!

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Put your lightest paddlers in the front so the raft will ride up and over the waves instead of burying the nose, filling the raft up with water with every hit (they are self-bailing rafts, so the water will drain out on its own, in time). The heavier paddlers go in the middle.
  • A 4-man crew compared to a 6-man crew is a little trickier. A light, 4-man crew could win the race if they are strong paddlers with plenty of endurance; a 6-man team can rotate paddlers and keep up a strong pace. It’s a coin toss.
  • Experience: Important, but not really necessary with these guides.
  • Athlete vs. couch potato? Definitely athlete; couch potatoes go rafting everyday, but in a race you need to be in relatively good shape.
  • Men vs women: I already think a crew of ladies will win this race! I’ll be giving my girls a call. Oh yeah, did I tell you, not one of them is younger than 40! But you guys can try to prove me wrong.
  • Mixed crews: Races can become very competitive. I’ve seen a lot of women hit their husbands over the head with a paddle because they can’t keep up. So choose wisely. We can have marriage councelors on hand if necessary. Next year we have plans to have different categories. But a mix crew isn’t a bad way to go — weight vs. muscle and brains.

Remember that this is the Lower Gauley, this isn’t flat water where you race in a straight line. You are challenging some of the best whitewater on the East Coast! You have to be able to maneuver and listening to commands.

It’s teamwork in the extreme. An extra stroke here and there or a slow or missed one could get you off line and cost you valuable time.

Now, a 10-mile race is all about pace. A smart guide isn’t going to try to paddle you non-stop; you’ll wear out too early and finish near the end of the pack. They will use the current and the rapids to gain as much speed as possible, reserving your strength for the slower currents between the rapids.

Thank goodness it’s an ACE race! Our private Sugar Creek access eliminates the last 3 miles of flat water at the end of the run that all the other companies have to endure!

Of course you have to come up with a really cool team name. The Gauley Girls (read one of our other posts) is already taken. So if you have an idea for a cool name, send us a comment or save it for the race.

Lunch at the finish line is included, and everyone will receive a Tommy Hood “signature” racing t-shirt! Plus we will be taking photos of the winning teams to be posted on the blog and they will be permanently mounted on a wall, for all to see, at our 1,500-acre resort for a little fame and immortality (reason #2 for a cool name!).

We are very excited about this race, we have been talking about it for years. It’s going to be a BLAST! And I wish everyone good luck with second and third place!

Stay posted. We will be supplying even more tips and a few guide profiles to help you out.

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