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US National Whitewater Center
Wildwater Sprint Race

The results are in

by Chris Hipgrave
USA Canoe/Kayak
Olympic High Performance Director Email:

December 2nd and 3rd, 2006 -- Charlotte, NC

10 minutes from downtown Charlotte sites the US National Whitewater Center, providing over 300 acres of woodlands along the scenic Catawba River. Olympic-caliber athletes, weekend warriors and casual observers share this world-class sports and training center. The U.S. National Whitewater Center is the world's premier outdoor recreation and environmental education center. Alongside mountain biking and running trails, a climbing center and challenge course, the park's unique feature is a multiple-channel, customized whitewater river for rafting and canoe/kayak enthusiasts of all abilities. Inspired by the successful Penrith Whitewater Stadium built for the 2000 Olympics and the stadium built for the 2004 Athens Games, the USNWC is the world's only multi-channel recirculating whitewater river channel. The US Olympic Committee has designated the USNWC an official Olympic Training Site. USA Canoe and Kayak (USACK) have also designated the Center, as it's new home. The USNWC will host World Cup competitions and Olympic Trials, and serves as the home of international Olympic athletes. It will also be the venue of the sprint portion of the 2007 Junior Wildwater World Championships. The longer, "Wilderness" channel will be used featuring 2 minutes of fun class III whitewater.

On the first weekend of December 2006, USA Wildwater was privileged to be able to hold the first wildwater sprit race on this exciting venue. The race allowed juniors to spend the weekend training and racing along side veterans, while it also allowed organizers from the 2007 Junior Worlds to see how their race might work next year.

The "Wilderness Channel" basically comes at you in two halves. The first half is pool drop with defined ledges and holes and confused water on the run out. After the two split channels rejoin, the water picks up energy producing large waves and a single substantial drop before plummeting thru "M Wave", the largest and most technically challenging drop. M Wave and its wave train run out take you to the finish line.

It's no mystery why the USA Slalom Team has centralized here. The water moves very differently than on a natural river. The features tend to be large in size but soft in strength, while the eddy lines are ferocious. The entire channel seems to build and surge. These are common features to all artificial whitewater courses. The main lesson for any competitive paddler hoping to do well on this or any man made course, is to practice at the venue wherever possible to learn the rhythm. Learn from the results of this race. The top three paddlers are also the three paddlers with the most experience on this course. The fastest time of the day was by Pablo McCandless in 113 seconds. Pablo is an employee of USNWC and trains daily at the venue in a wildwater boat. If you plan to do well at the 2007 Junior World Championships, get to Charlotte.

Here's the results:

97Chris HipgraveWW K1 M118100.00%116102.65%234100.00%
105Pablo McCandlessWW K1 M122103.39%113100.00%235100.43%
86Chan JonesWW K1 M121102.54%131115.93%252107.69%
114John PinyerdWW C1 M138116.95%137121.24%275117.52%
82David HeppSL C1 M140118.64%138122.12%278118.80%
104Daniel StuartSL K1 M146123.73%141124.78%287122.65%
103Sarah HarperSL K1 W150127.12%162143.36%312133.33%
107Kate LewkowiczSL K1 W JR166140.68%148130.97%314134.19%
87Will FarmerSL K1 M JR158133.90%164145.13%322137.61%
89Tierney O'SullivanWW K1 W165139.83%163144.25%328140.17%
106Lincoln WilliamsWW K1 M153129.66%179158.41%332141.88%
95Lauren LedfordWW K1 W180152.54%154136.28%334142.74%
92Mason FarmerSL K1 M JR168142.37%169149.56%337144.02%
85Trish HipgraveWW K1 W171144.92%422373.45%593253.42%
119Casey JonesWW K1 M JR196166.10%DNS DNF 

Want to see what it's like to paddle a wildwater boat on the course? Go to the following link (beware, the file is almost 7mb):

More photos can be seen at:

Look for more training and racing opportunities at USNWC in the future. In the meantime, USNWC is open 12 months of the year to anyone. If you want to train there, check out their web site for available times.

Additional information about the USNWC and Charlotte can be found at the following web sites:

  US National Whitewater
  Charlotte Chamber of
  Charlotte Sports