BOISE, Idaho — The North Fork Championship brings the best kayakers in the world to our own backyard in Idaho to run the toughest rapid on the North Fork of the Payette River.
This year the best paddler was Meridian's own Hayden Voorhees who bested a field of 30 of the top kayakers to earn the crown as king of the North Fork.
Hayden Voorhees wins the North Fork Championship! The best kayakers in the world compete in this event and this year the king resides in Idaho. pic.twitter.com/OllnMlgfdQ— Steve Dent (@idahodent) June 19, 2022
"There is a challenge for organizing the event and competing in that same event," said Hayden. "I can’t even put into words what this means to me."
The Voorhees family took over organizing this extreme kayak race down Jacob's Ladder and the Golf Course from James and Regan Byrd, who created the North Fork Championship ten years ago.
"It’s hard to believe it has been ten years and this all started as a dream to bring the best kayakers in the world to Banks, Idaho," said Ryan Bailey who is the master of ceremonies for multiple events during festivities. "This year was no exception."
Dane Jackson was the favorite coming in he had won three of the last four races, but when Bailey announced his reign was over, the kayakers realized that Hayden had won as this event withholds the results until hours after the race at the the party in Crouch.
After hearing the announcement, Alec Voorhees, Hayden's older brother ran out to Hayden and carried the new king to the stage.
"It’s the first time either of us have won this event, this has been our goal since we started kayaking," said Hayden. "We wanted to win this championship and I finally did it."
Hayden finished first with Dane Jackson coming in second and Kaelan Friedenson in third place, the winner gets $5,000, $2,500 for second place and $1,000 for third.
In the North Fork Championship the women earn the same prize money as the men and the queen of the North Fork was Jen Chrimes of Great Britain with Darby McAdams finishing second and Sage Donnelly rounding out the podium.
This year featured the most women paddlers as these ladies continue to push the limits with impressive results down a section of whitewater I have never tried to go down because it is so hard.
The North Fork Championship is unique because anybody can qualify by being one of the fastest kayakers to race down S-Turn Rapid on Thursday, there are ten slots up for grabs for the men and two for the women, overall the women had seven competitors.
This year 200 kayakers attempted to qualify and watching the top professionals inspires young paddlers here in Idaho.
"Having this in our backyard comes down to one word and that word is opportunity," said Reyn Gary a local teenage kayaker. "It sets my dream up, I aspire to be one of these athletes in the future and I think it is super sick like you watch them and each stroke is so meaningful so powerful it’s crazy they are able to do what they do."
Kayaking is a dangerous sport and our community gets reminded of that all too often, a few weeks ago we lost Jim Grossman a very experienced paddler who drowned kayaking down the South Fork of the Salmon River at really high flows.
Jim is known in the NFC circle as a legend, he paddled the North Fork top to bottom with just hand paddles, he kayaked the North Fork in his 50s when the river was at 9,000 cubic feet per second and he touched a lot of people in the paddling community.
"My family and I are so appreciative of this community for your love of Jim, remembrance of him and torch bearers of these qualities that made him so great," said his brother John Grossman. "We had a moment of silence for him let's go out with a moment of Jimmy noise."
The crowd cheered and the Voorhees family presented the first ever Legacy Award named for Jim to John Webster, a talented photographer who has created media for the North Fork Championship for a number of years, John was presented with $500 and a belt buckle he has to hold on to until next year.
"I met Jimmy a couple of times his passion was pretty rad," said Webster. "It's an honor."
If you missed the North Fork Championship you can still purchase the live stream of the event at the Hammer Factor.