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NFC X: The Next Generation of Paddlers Brings the Heat

The top ten men and top five women from this year's North Fork Championship. Izzy Lidsky photo.

Year in and year out, one of the smallest communities in action sports gathers for one of the best events of all time: North Fork Championships. For one weekend every June, the tiny town of Banks, Idaho becomes home to some of the world’s best and most passionate kayakers. This year marked the event’s 10th anniversary so it was only fitting for flows on the North Fork of the Payette to be a juicy level for the race, making it even rowdier.

World Class Kayak Academy's head coach Cole Moore bracing through one of the North Fork's big holes. Izzy Lidsky photo.

For those unfamiliar, the North Fork of the Payette is one of the world’s most challenging, consequential stretches of whitewater. Each year, hundreds of class V paddlers sign up to race in the Kokatat Qualifier race on S-turn rapid. The top ten athletes from the previous year’s race are automatically pre-qualified for the main event: a sprint down Jacob’s Ladder with several slalom style gates placed throughout the rapid. The ten prequalified racers then vote in ten more racers to compete alongside and then ten fastest times from the qualifier race also receive the chance to prove themselves on the Payette. With a record number of racers this year in the qualifier, the competition was stacked.

Nouria Newman dropping in backwards after taking a bit of a beatdown in Rock Drop. Izzy Lidsky photo.

Race day arrived with perfect temperatures in Banks for the hundreds of spectators to scramble down the rocks next to Jacob’s ladder to watch the action. It was clear quickly that the higher flows proved challenging for the athletes. But with an influx of young, hungry talent racing, no one knew what to expect. For the first time since before the pandemic, French slalom boater Nouria Newman graced the ramp again alongside three-time King of the North Fork Dane Jackson. But a Red Bull helmet wasn’t enough to win the race this year and the crowd watched as several racers, including Newman, took beatdowns in one or two of the rapid’s massive holes.

Jackson Hole local Wyatt "Skinny" Doyle lining up the Quaker Boof. Izzy Lidsky photo.

When all was said and done, the next generation of paddlers in the sport proved that they were a force to be reckoned with despite it being many of their first times racing. 19-year-old Kaelin Freidenson took third place in the men’s category while the younger of the Voorhees brothers, Hayden, took first place and beat Jackson for the first time in three years. Jackson Hole locals Wyatt and Owen Doyle both placed in the top ten after Owen was voted in and Wyatt qualified. As usual, Dagger paddler Isaac Hull also helped to represent the younger generation placing seventh.

Kaelin Friedenson has proved himself again and again this year and NFC X was no exception. Izzy Lidsky photo.

Smooth lines around the gate from Isaac Hull. Izzy Lidsky photo.

In the women’s category, Jennifer Chrimes placed first in the qualifier and received a wild-card spot in the Jacob’s Ladder race. After taking a beat down below the Rock-Drop gate, Chrimes front-flipped her creekboat to get out of the hole and swooped in for first place. Darby McAdams took second place after qualifying last year and placing in the top ten which guaranteed her a spot for this year, and last year’s Queen of the North Fork, Sage Donnelly took third.

Sage Donnelly avoiding a five-second time deduction. Izzy Lidsky photo.

An award in honor of Jim Grossman, an Idaho legend who recently passed on the South Fork of the Salmon, was also created and given to John Webster who has organized all of the race’s media efforts. 

Carson Lindsay shows how important the media team is at NFC. Izzy Lidsky photo.

You can find full results  here

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