We just finished the third annual Esopus Whitewater Funfest. For those of you who did not make it this year- you missed a great time on the river. We had the most popular activities carried over from last year and some new ones to spice up the weekend with even more fun.
Here are some of the highlights from my perspective- and we would love to hear yours also. The pictures are all by Linda McLuckie. Thanks Lin for these! [slideshow]
The boater cross competition was especially exciting this year. The river under the Woodland Valley bridge has changed dramatically since Hurricane Irene and now flows on river right instead of left, and over a few hidden rocks. The mens group of 5 boaters hit the crossing under the bridge together, one flipped and swam, and three went after him to help. Once Vincent saw that he was ok, he powered down the course in front. Scott did his best to catch him, and it was a photo finish with Vincent ahead by a nose! Vincent was competing in the men’s class even though he is 12 years old. He loves the competition and is certainly not intimidated by anyone and he held his own in all events.
We had a freestyle competition for the first time even though the Esopus is not known for it’s play features. Again, the changes in the river caused us to move the event from the DEC drop to the race course and we ran it as a “run of the river” style competition, with competitors using every available feature to make play moves. Scott Sailor and I scored it somewhat generously (after all, it was for fun) and gave every surf and stern squirt points. We saw quite a variety of moves, including some cartwheels, and bow stalls from James, who ran away with the competition with his difficult moves. However, everyone gave it their best and really worked the river for all it was worth.  We gave extra style points for exceptional performance: Vincent for the most stern squirts, Andy for the most vertical stern squirts and the longest single surf, James for hand-paddling his second run, Adelene for attempting to surf a Wavesport Diesel and Kaja for her big smile all the way down the river.
We had another new and very popular event on Sunday- team slalom. Groups of three boaters of any gender and boat type teamed up. Each team had to run the slalom course together and make one upstream gate and the finish line within 15 seconds of each other. So it’s like boater cross, but you are all on the same team. It’s quite challenging to make all the gates and keep up with your team. The Coraor team in their slalom boats, the Slimy Wombats, took first place. I gave it my best effort and was happy to get down the course without missing any gates. I thought our team did a great job of staying together and making the moves. Not bad for me who had only run the course once before the team race. Overall, it was the best attended event of the weekend.
The down-river sprint had a competitive finish in the Men’s division. James took first place in a slalom boat, but his dad Scott was only 6 seconds behind in a REC division boat. Way to go Scott and James! We should give Bill a special award for the most self-rescues on the course. We will be kind and not say exactly how many.
We gave out many “Rivermiester” Awards this year for participants who entered two or more races on Saturday and the Slalom on Sunday. Congratulations to all who endured multiple races over two days. For some this required sharing boats and many trips back up the hill carrying a boat at the end of a race in time to enter the next one, or to give the boat to a fellow competitor.
The river-running group had a challenging time as the debris from hurricane Irene is still in the river in many places, and carrying over it and portaging were required. Everyone made it in good spirits. The DEC drop was really fun at this river level, although it did it’s share of turning the boats over. You have to watch the cross-currents as they jump up and bite you. Special congratulations to all who made it down the Esopus for the first time. Special congratulations to Loretta for braving the river for her first time in our only OC1 this year. She made it through to railroad with no swims and no incidents. Her biggest challenge was avoiding all those kayaks in her way.
As usual, we battled the rain and thunderstorms periodically throughout the weekend. I think that everyone enjoyed the camaraderie with their fellow boats, made some new friends, and caught up with some old ones. We gave out a great selection of raffle prizes at the end of the day on Sunday. The AW/Keen Backpack and the 2-day lesson at Zoar Outdoor were greatly appreciated by the winners, as well as lots of hats, t-shirts, booties, fleece etc.
I would like to thank all our volunteers who worked hard to make this Funfest a success and to our sponsors for the donations of the prizes and the support for our Funfest.
Our only regret is that more of you did not show up. Attendance was very light this year. We would love to know from those of you who didn’t make this year why you didn’t come. What can we do to improve this for the future?