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FiBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas)

John Pinyerd
USAWildwater Committee Chair

June 19, 2005 -- Salida, CO

Without a doubt, FiBArk probably deserves the designation as the "longest, oldest, most prestigious and toughest Downriver Race" in North America. The only question is if this badge of honor should extend to the whole planet? The 26-mile long downriver race through some of the Arkansas River's most exciting waters is a race against time that challenges the competitor's whitewater skills, flat-water speed, endurance and grit. The first race began in 1949 over a bet. In 1951 the course was set at its existing length of 26 miles from Salida to Cotopaxi, CO.

Following tradition, the expert boaters begin the 26-mile race in a mass start at the Salida Slalom course. This year's race had nearly perfect conditions as the water rose to around 2200 CFS on race day. As a result the 11 named rapids on the course deserved their class III (or higher) ranking, not to mention the mile after mile of western style class II rapids.

This year the Expert 26-mile race had nearly 40 competitors including many of the top racers from the US Wildwater Team that just returned from Europe and where in town for USA Nationals. Amazingly, a dozen of the Expert racers were Juniors. In addition, there were about 15 racers in the shorter intermediate and beginning races, bringing the total participation in the downriver/wildwater events to more than 50 racers.

In the duel for K-1 supremacy and the fastest time down the river, Geoff Calhoun battled it out with Wildwater Team Member Chris Hipgrave, Olympian Scott Shipley, zillion-time FIBArk winner Gary Lacy, and distance racer Elmore Holmes. Geoff set the pace with the veteran racers of the pack following figuring the young man would eventually crack. But Calhoun proved that he is not only one of the best Wildwater Sprinters in the World, he can also make even the best trained distance athletes suffer for trying to stay with him. Chris Hipgrave proved why he is one of the best distance paddlers in the US by finishing second, and Scott Shipley placed third.

Tom Weir clearly dominating the C-1 class for the top position. Weir finished a mere 5.6% (or 7 minutes) off of the top K-1 (Geoff Calhoun). The real battle in C-1 was for 2nd place. Veteran racer John Pinyerd kept pace a minute or two behind Tom Gray who cracked after about 90 minutes in last years FIBArk. But as the race wore on, Gray kept pace up and Pinyerd’s efforts to catch him below Valle Bridge yielded only modest gains. However, the Class IV Cottonwood rapid nearly spoiled the day for Gray when he eddied out, as Pinyerd gained 30 seconds or more with a picture perfect down the right hand side. With Gray now in sight, Pinyerd poured it on hoping to catch Gray before Cotopaxi. Gray had other plans and held on to his lead by 19 seconds.

Nic Borst/Tom Wiegand and a very solid run in C-2. It was very exciting to see that Borst/Wiegand has the level of skill and dedication that it takes too paddle a C-2 well, especially in a race like FIBArk.

Boo Turner had told everyone that getting the chance to race FIBArk was like “a dream come true” for her. Apparently the dream also included winning the K-1W class and beating most of the men.

Emily Stein was the top Junior Woman and Adam Contant was the top Junior Man in the Expert race. In the Intermediate 10 mile race, Laura Adams (K-1 W Jr.) won her class and beat all the men enroot to becoming the overall winner. Aaron Karnuta won the 2-mile Beginner Race leaving several folks to speculate that he might be following in his dad’s foot steps (and become a future Wildwater Team Member).

USA Wildwater deeply appreciates the efforts that Dr. Ed Loeffel, Chad Dixon and the FIBArk Organization put into this event to insure it was successful. For more information about FIBARK, please see

Click here to see the results.