The water was low but spirits were high on the rocky beach at the Alexander Valley Bridge, where about 100 Great Russian River Race competitors prepared to begin the day’s competition.
“It’s really a Class I river, Class II if you’re pushing the definition,” said for the G3 and co-founder of the three year old race to the assembled racers. “It’s basically 15 miles of current.”
The GR3 race organizers had sent out an e-mail message to competitors the night before warning of lower-than expected water levels, which practically guaranteed at least scraping bottom on the gravel river bed in certain sections, if not getting stuck altogether. Portages – some required by race rules, some necessitated by low water – were guaranteed.
The racers launched in three waves – stand-on-top river boarders, recreational boaters and pro boaters. Both rec and pro competitors were either in single or double watercraft, but the boats themselves varied from molded plastic one person kayaks to sleek, handmade competitive boats that looked like greyhounds.
Carter Johnson, a world-class C1 boater (single canoe), shared a double canoe with a friend, as he was still in recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery six weeks ago. (He and paddling partner Frank Peronetto did win in their category.)
Last year’s women's double rec winners Karen Holt and Stacey Powell were confident of repeating, but not taking any bets.
One kayaker, Heidi Scoble, had only been boating for six months, but she was fully rigged with river booties, lifejacket and butterfly wings. (She ended up the winner in the women's solo recreation boaters category.)
While fewer than 100 launched from Alexander Valley Bridge for the full 15-mile run down to Memorial Beach, at least three times that many were starting from Rio Lindo Beach for a shorter “fun run” of just 5 miles.
At the end of the race there is a party for all participants – and friends, family and even passers-by – at Sonoma County's Regional Veterans Memorial Beach Park, with awards to be presented at 3 p.m.
Patch had photographers at both the Alexander Valley Beach launch point (Christian Kallen) and the Rio Lindo Beach (Rick Tang), and we’ll both be at the beach party.
If you have photos of your own to add to our photo galleries, please do!