The North Fork of the Payette River received a lot of international interest June 8-9 when Boise-based paddler James Byrd held the inaugural North Fork Championship—a kayaking race down some of the most challenging rapids on the river. More than 100 athletes from all over the world came to compete.
The energy in the mountains surrounding Banks was high, with hundreds of colorful kayaks strapped to Jeeps, SUVs and every shape and size of Subaru parked along the river and Highway 55.
The two-day event kicked off with a festival in Weilmunster Park. The first race down the lower three miles of the Payette’s North Fork acted as a qualifier, and of the 80 competitors in that race, the top five advanced to the next statge. One of the five came from Idaho.
The race on June 9 down Jacob’s Ladder—a Class V rapid—brought spectators from to the steep banks of the river. The race ran smoothly, with no injuries, although an ambulance stood by just in case. One of the paramedics laughed and said, “We may get some unintentional blood donors.” But the athletes stayed safe and successful.
After the race, the rain cleared and the party continued back in the park. Ryan Casey, a 35-year-old from Hailey, was named the first North Fork champion after he completed the three-quarter-mile-long race in two minutes and 17 seconds.
Byrd said he was excited about how well the event ran.
“When you surround yourself with awesome people, things get done,” Byrd said.