I have been paddling for quite some time now, but have only recently found myself totally immersed in the whitewater world. I resisted the sport from a young age until I was about 14. Last year, my dad told me about this place near Lexington, Virginia, called Goshen Pass. There are two different runs on Goshen, both pretty short, the upper and the lower. Goshen is on the Maury River and the upper section hosts class III-IV whitewater. I took one look, said “No thanks.” and proceeded to run laps on the lower section.
In March, I heard tales of a race that was going to happen at the Pass, and I was interested in taking pictures. I hiked into the gorge from the side of the road with my camera and tripod and my dad threw our boats on top of the car, just in case we wanted to paddle a little after the race was over (yeah, right). Except that’s exactly what happened.
I was peer pressured into running the upper section of Goshen post-race by one of my good friends who said something along the lines of “What can go wrong? You can totally do this, no problem!”. Of course, that meant I swam my first lap, but it also meant I was determined to return for more. Since last March, Goshen has been a key destination for me whenever it has been running, and I was stoked to race it this year.
The annual Goshen Pass Race has been going on for the past eight years, beginning in 2007 when a group of local boaters were trash-talking each other about who could paddle the lap the fastest.
“It was just a bunch of friends who decided we would get together on a certain day and see who could paddle to Indian Pool the fastest,” said Gordon Dalton, a Pyranha Kayaks team member and organizer of the race this year, “Since then it has grown. We have had between 30-50 racers over the past few years, depending on the level, the weather, and whatever else is going on that day.”
I raced for the first time this year, with 30 boaters, including the class of three women. We put in at the swinging bridge, floating down all together to the start point. I heard the countdown from 10 seconds being shouted across the river and then we all took off, paddling down the Pass. All of my nerves vanished as I concentrated on staying on my lines – my goal did not lie in placing highly, but instead I was simply focused on maintaining speed and good lines. The previous day I had been out to Goshen and had completed two practice laps, my second lap had involved lots of banging on rocks through a rapid named Devil’s Kitchen as I flipped three times in the duration of the relatively short, but technical, rock garden. However, during the race I had the smoothest lines through both Devil’s Kitchen and the boof at Corner Rapid I had ever experienced.
I finished 21st overall, second in women’s, 1st as a junior woman. Paddling up to the finish line, I was all smiles, happy with my lines and excited for another lap. The rest of the racers and crew cheered as people finished and the sense of community was prominent.
“This race is special as a real down-home, grassroots gathering of the Virginia whitewater community,” Dalton said, “There is no racer fee, no snazzy T-shirts, and no ego or drama. Just folks getting together to celebrate Spring and this beautiful place we get to play within.”
There are a few sponsors, including Pyranha Kayaks, Appomattox River Company, and Werner Paddles who donate prizes for the racers, and there are homemade trophies for First Place, Second Place, and the Carnage Award. But the coolest part of the race is how low-key the entire thing is. The whole community is really supportive and everyone is cheering on each other, making the day one I was happy to be a part of. I am excited for the rest of this season on Goshen and am already looking forward to next year’s annual race.