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Southeastern's Are 39 Years Young

and Still Going Strong

by John Pinyerd
USA Canoe/Kayak
Wildwater Committee Chairman

October 6-7, 2007 -- Bryson City, NC

The Southeastern USA Whitewater Championships are 39 years old and they are still going strong. And as the writer of this article, I must admit that I am a little bit biased. Not only are the Southeastern's the event that got me racing whitewater more than a quarter of a century ago, they are the cradle of whitewater racing in the Southeast.

We were blessed to have Kennedy attend this years race, not unlike he did 39 years ago at the first Southeasterns. Payson is now 76, and looks 46 due to his fitness, and turned out a very good time on the downriver course (from the Powerhouse to the "Finish Line Rock"). And Bern Collins, now 67, has been racing at the Southeasterns for all but a few of its years. It is my goal to follow in their footsteps.

While the Southeasterns are a celebration of the past, and of racing virtually any kind of boat, the Southeasterns also represent a passing of the torch to the newcomers. I must say that this is not unlike the fire that was ignited in me back when I was an "up and comer."

The Wildwater (Downriver) K-1 race was held Saturday afternoon with a very exciting mass start venue from just below the Power House. Chan Jones nipped at the heels of Chris Hipgrave who has owned the Southeasterns for the past decade. After 47 minutes of dueling, Chris finished literally just a second in front of Chan who was our top K-1 Junior this year. Next years race will be decided by who trains the smartest and wants to win the most.

In Wildwater K-1W, Tierney O'Sullivan, who just turned 17, improved her time by 5 minutes from last year and beat all 3 of the men. Tierney also earned the "Julie Wilson Award" for being the fastest woman down the river. Yours truly turned out a respectable time in C-1 for low water and earned my dozenth "Charlie Patton" award. Kief Osment and Chris Osment were awarded the "Ramone Eaton Award" for OC-2.

The slalom race was on Sunday. And I love the slalom course that is below the center because it is below river traffic and the rapid has been enhanced. In fact, the rapid is now challenging enough that we had the open boats skip one of the gates.

Allen Hedden and Gabriela Schildt brought home a slew of medals in open canoe slalom followed closely by the usual suspects - Wildwater paddlers including yours truly (who set the fastest time on the course in a C-1) , Chris Hipgrave (K-1), and Tierney O'Sullivan (K-1W) took the top honors in decked boat slalom.

But the Southeasterns are not about elite racers. They about paddlers of all levels and boats coming together for a weekend. I was especially proud of Susie Hartsog who raced the Wildwater event at age 15 and did well. Chuck and Dianne McHenry came all the way from MO for the race and to spend a little time in the mountains.

The spirit of the Southeasterns is about having fun racing. At the competitors meeting Tom Blue offered to share his canoe in between his runs, so Chris Hipgrave nabbed it and announced to the crowd that he and "Tierney O'Sullivan" were going to race tandem OC-2. When he asked Tierney, "by the way what side do you paddle on in canoe"? Tierney answered, "I don't know, I've never paddled one in a slalom race" to which Hipgrave responded, "Perfect!"

Click here to view the complete results

Thank you to the Georgia Canoeing Association, Roger Nottt, Beth Nott, Allen Hedden, Susan Jones, and all those folks who volunteered for putting this years race toghether!

Do NOT miss this event next year!

Photos from Jay Manalo