With an incredible live band, a prime venue for various styles of paddling races, and a pristine campsite, the Sandy River Showdown is a secret too good to keep.

Headquarters were located at the former Marmot Dam site, one of the Pacific Northwest’s first great success stories in the dam removal movement. The area has recovered dramatically in the five years since the Dam’s demolition, lending the event an atmosphere of wilderness rarely experienced in an organized setting. Many racers met at the Sandy Ridge Trailhead to register, while eNRG Kayaking provided a shuttle for the stragglers still at the Dam Site.

All told there were 33 competitors, in seven categories. Mass starts in the kayaking and rafting categories were released 5 minutes apart with the expectation that kayakers would overtake the rafts about midway through.  Seven miles of class II-III whitewater and 47 minutes and 44 seconds later, Chris Emmerick confirmed that expectation as he crossed the finish line in his Wavesport Excel. Harrison Rea (representing Lewis and Clark College) brought home the win for the collegiate class, and the Oregon Rafting Team took first in the rafting class with a time of 55 minutes and 10 seconds.

Racers were greeted at the Dam Site by a final barrage of whitewater, camera lenses, and cheers from the spectators lining the banks and bridge. A full studio set up at the takeout made all the participants feel like celebrities, regardless of their place in the race.

Results and awards were announced over a catered lunch provided by DAV Chapter #1 PDX.  Racers and spectators alike held their breath as the raffle tickets were chosen, determining who would receive great prizes like a fresh pair of Smith Optics or the grand prize: a GoPro Hero HD2.

After meals were digested, an exhibition SUP race was announced. Despite the challenging course, enough competitors rallied to require multiple heats. Organizer Sam Drevo took first place in the first heat, while Chris Emerick took a come from behind lead in the final round.

Harrison Rea and JD battling it out on the first day's SUP Challenge

Harrison Rea and JD battling it out on the first day's SUP Challenge

As twilight settled and dinner was prepared, groups of all ages slipped away to the open fields and riverbank to pursue individual interests, but never out of earshot of the makeshift stage where Tol would be playing that night. As the performers stepped up, everyone quickly circled the glow of the fire and settled into the sometimes funny, sometimes soulful rhythm of the alternative folk rock band.

Members of Tol warming up in front of their audience

Members of Tol warming up in front of their audience

Sunday dawned bright and clear as competitors shook the sleep from their eyes and hummed scraps of tunes from the night before. The long drive out of the valley provided ample opportunity to psych themselves up for the seven-mile paddle and two and a half mile trail run they would soon be entering.

Two relay teams and three ironman competitors set out from Dodge Park in a Le Mans start, sprinting through the first few rapids before settling into a steady pace and focusing on choosing quick lines. Will Day and Ruffus Knapp held an early lead, but University of Vermont representative Eric Adsit overtook them near the 5 mile mark. The top three finished the paddling portion within 24 seconds of each other, but the ironmen were quickly outpaced on the trail by Day’s partner Jennifer Sirrine.

Charging downriver!

Charging downriver!

The Day/Sirrine duo took first with a time of 1:06:42, while Adsit took second overall and first in the Ironman category with a time of 1:10:33. As in the night before, awards were held while spectators and competitors memorized their raffle tickets for a chance to win a pair of shades, tshirts, and yet another GoPro Hero HD2.

A SUP sprint followed, this time with Adsit holding an early lead, bringing in the final points necessary to win the ACA Pacific Northwest Collegiate Whitewater Championship trophy for the University of Vermont with 20 overall points. Lewis and Clark College finished a close second with 16 overall points, Reed College took third with 4 points, and Clackamas County Community College earned 2 points overall for their participation in the Dam Derby.

With beautiful weather, perfect flows, and friendly competition; the second annual Sandy River Showdown was a huge step up from the first year, with a bright future in 2013.  We want to thank all the sponsors / orgs who really stepped up to support the event including GoPro, NRS, Smith Optics, Clif Bar, AMR River Rescue, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Royal Robbins, Mt Hood Community College, Erik Urdahl Photo, Tol/Natural High, & eNRG Kayaking.