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Cheat Canyon Race Will Kick Off Intense Wildwater Weekend

by Chris Norbury
USAWildwater K-1,
U.S. Wildwater Committee Vice Chair

April 24, 2002 -- Albright, WV

Come to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia for what is arguably the most intense weekend of Wildwater racing in the U.S. The first weekend of May (3-5th) sees four races on three consecutive days, all part of the popular Mid-Atlantic downriver series. All are open to any racers, in any kind of boat, so come on down and enjoy the fun.

The first race of Cheat Racing Weekend is the long-standing mass-start race through the infamous Cheat Canyon. Starting just downstream from Albright the course runs 12 miles through Class III, IV and V rapids to the takeout. Racers have to contend with rapids such as "Big Nasty", "Maze", the rocky drops of High Falls and the huge holes and boily, unpredictable water of

The inherent excitement in a sixty-racer mass start just above "Entrance" rapid adds great spectator value to this event. This year sees the inclusion of the Cheat Canyon race in the newly inaugurated Mid Atlantic Big Water Series, which also includes races on the Upper Yough and Upper Gauley.

There is also a chance to race as part of a team, with Club, Corporate or Pro competitions. The fastest cumulative time for 3 racers in the team wins. Last year US Team wildwater racer Steve Kauffman took first place, but National Champion Andrew McEwan will be looking to make up for his late arrival at the start line last he is in good form. Other racers to watch out for include current MADS leader Dave Hammond, new U.S. Team member Simon Beardmore and long time Cheat paddler Jess Whittemore. In the women's race MADS leader Heather Rau will be challenged strongly by Team Trials winner and last years Cheat Canyon champ Chara O'Brien.

In addition, stick around after the race with free beer at the takeout and a huge post race party with prizes, more free beer and food. For more details contact organizer Rick Gusic ( or check out the race details at Start time is 5:15pm on the evening of Friday May 3rd.

The next morning sees a classic format Wildwater race on the Cheat Narrows section above the Canyon. Racers will time trial through the shallow technical rapids of the Narrows, treading carefully through the potential dangers of "Calamity", to a finish approximately nineteen minutes downstream. The start is early, at 10:00 a.m., so that racers can then head to either the Upper Yough, which releases for the first time this year on this weekend, or to the Cheat Festival.

The Cheat Festival will continue on all evening, with many stalls selling cut price paddling gear, as well as a supply of bands playing long into the night. All proceeds go to restoring the Cheat watershed through the actions of the Friends of the Cheat (, an excellent cause. Contact race organizer Greg Akins ( for more details.

The final races of the weekend start in Barnum, West Virginia, run down the North Branch of the Potomac to finish in Western Maryland at Bloomington. The Class II-III run is a popular race site, and the race format includes both a three-mile Classic run taking in rapids like the dual ledge at Bear Falls, the big waves at "Top of the World" and the highly technical shallows at "Screaming Left Turn". From the finish of the Classic race there will be a two-minute sprint, before the run-in to the takeout. Contact race organizer Chris Norbury ( for more details. Both the Cheat Narrows and North Branch of the Potomac races count as part of the Mid Atlantic Downriver Series (MADS). Come check out Wildwater, West Virginia style!

Chris Norbury is Vice Chair of the U.S. Wildwater Committee and an active race and training camp organizer living in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Reach him at