The Growing Sport of Raft Racing

by eva-lambert
Friday, September 16, 2016
Friday, September 16, 2016
We paddle for the fun of it. For the team camaraderie. For those few seconds when we are all exhausted but on point, paddling together through a technical rapid with a kick ass line. Really, we paddle for the fun of it all.
Eva Lambert
by Eva Lambert

Eva paddles on the R6 USA Women’s Rafting Team and will be competing in Japan at the 2017 World Rafting Championships.

I’ve been submerged into raft racing for a few years. Learning a lot about a growing sport and team camaraderie in the paddlesports community. It’s not a sport that is that well known. We, the Colorado Women’s Raft Race Team, start our winter training by tying off to a diving board in a pool and paddling against bungee resistant bands. We always get a lot of questions because it’s not a sport you grow up with in school. Practice on the lake or river (if it’s running) is always preferable, even if it’s a little cold outside.

So, what does raft racing consist of?

Raft Racing consists of four events; Time Trial (aka Sprint), Head to Head, Slalom and Downriver. There are four different age groups for all four events; Under 19, Under 23, Open (24 -39 yrs) and Masters (40 yrs and up). Each year the number of paddlers on a team changes from an R4 (4 person team) to an R6 (6 person team). Click here to learn more about raft racing.

Racing for the National Title

There are always fun raft races at most river festivals, with the rules varying from race to race. When it comes to racing for the National title, there are two governing bodies; the International Rafting Federation and the United States Rafting Association.

The United States Rafting Association (USRA) puts on the national competitions for teams to compete for the USA National title. There are no pre-qualifying races. Any team that meets the qualifications for the World Championship races (governed by the International Raft Races) are welcome to sign up to compete in the US National races. This year the USRA held two national events this summer. In the past, the USRA held each national event the same year as the world event. Now national events will be held a year prior to the world competition. This change will give teams a full year to prepare for the world championships.

The R4 USA National Championships are held on the Rogue River and Upper Klamath River. The 2016 R4 World Championships will be held at Wadi Adventures in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from October 31st – November 5th 2016.

The R6 USA National Championships are held in June during FIBark on the Arkansas River. The 2016 R6 World Championships will be held on the Yoshino River (Koboke section), Miyoshi city, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan from October 7-10th 2016.

Forming a team

The Colorado Women’s Raft Race team came together in 2014. Some of us have competed at world championships before, some of us have worked as raft guides. All of us love being on the water with our fellow gal pals.

“Water has always been an amazing force to me and one of the blessings in my life.” Jennifer Hodgkiss - sits front and middle right.

“I love working as a team with other women to achieve a goal, it’s empowering. Also I owe it to my teammates to be in shape. It isn’t always easy to train and maintain positivity but I owe it to them.” Tana Deklevar - sits back right.

For the most part, raft racing is more than just a competitive sport, it becomes a lifestyle. Teammates, fellow team competitors, sponsors, spectators, friends, family, all become a part of the experience. That’s one of my favorite things about racing in the paddling community. We put in a lot of hard work leading up to our race, we race fiercely, and in the end we celebrate with our river family.

The Colorado Women’s Raft Team won the R6 USA Women’s Rafting title and will be competing at the 2017 World Rafting Championships. The Colorado Women’s Raft Team members include: Anna Schroeder, Avery Potter, Cariann Brown, Eva Lambert, Heather Byrne-Toledo, Jennifer Cook, Jennifer Hodgkiss, Kelli Carpenter Gunderson and Tana Deklevar.

Visit www.usaraftassociation.com for more information on raft racing national events.

We put a lot of hard work leading up to our race, we race fiercely and in the end, we celebrate with our river family.

Colorado Women's Raft Team - Photo Chris Lambert / Pool Training / R6 USA Team, Upper Gauley River - photo Scott Martin