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The North Fork Championship returns bringing the best kayakers back to Idaho

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 19:43:37-04

BANKS, Idaho — The best kayakers are back in Idaho to test their abilities in the North Fork Championship presented by Toyota, this extreme kayaking race has become the world championships of kayaking.

On Saturday at high noon, 20 men and five women will race down Jacob's Ladder and the Golf Course on the North Fork of the Payette River to see who has the fastest blades in the water.

"It’s a pretty scary rapid," said professional kayaker Sage Donnelly who has a background in slalom racing. "This is my first year racing so adding the gates definitely makes it a lot different and more challenging, it’s a really special rapid and I think the first time I ran it I was 13 or 14-years-old."

For the first time ever NFC IX will be live-streamed on the Hammer Factor, for $30 people all over the world will be able to watch this event that will have two professional kayakers as broadcasters.

But it was no easy feat to pull this off because there is no cellular service around Banks, but they will bring in a satellite truck and five dollars will go locally to Idaho Rivers United who works to protect the rivers we have in Idaho.

"The North Fork Championship has just become the biggest kayaking race in the world, not just North America," said Alec Voorhees. "It was time to broadcast and get it out to the international people that follow the event so closely."

The event was canceled last year because of COVID 19 and the pandemic is still playing a role as the European paddlers were not able to make the trip so the live stream will likely have a large following across the pond.

However, the best paddlers in North America and South America will be here to see who can become the king and queen of the North Fork.

“It’s a really good event to show how good kayakers are, how fun it is to watch and also show who is the best," said Hayden Voorhees.

James and Regan Byrd created the North Fork Championship, but they have now turned it over to the Voorhees family and both Hayden and Alec will compete.

"I’ve actually competed in every North Fork Championship, I started when I was 15-years-old when the event first started going," said Alec. "I'm still going to compete and I'm going to try and win it this year."

Both Voorhees brothers will be in the finals along with returning champion Dane Jackson and several other professional kayakers, but anybody with class five whitewater skills can try to qualify for the main event as the format went back to the way it used to be.

The qualifiers start on Thursday and that will be followed by the NFC Film Fest at Payette Brewery at 6:00 p.m. Friday there will be a boater cross on S-Turn Rapid and the main event will happen on Saturday.

Safety is also a key component to the North Fork Championship and Spot Insurance has stepped up to provide up to $25,000 worth of medical bill for any kayaker that gets injured this week.

The event also takes place right next to Highway 55 which can be a busy and dangerous road during weekends in the summer, the Voorhees brothers wanted to let people who come out for the event parking will be on the riverside of the highway.

But for the whitewater community, NFC IX represents a return to normalcy and a chance for this unique community to come together for a wild event.

“It’s just a really cool gathering of all your friends and you get to go out and share this amazing experience on an amazing river," said Donnelly.