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MailTribune.com
  • OREGON FOCUS

    Second annual King of the Rogue races Saturday

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  • Some of whitewater's least inhibited competitors will search among themselves for this year's King of the Rogue in a competition that makes last year's inaugural event on the Rogue River look like a float on the pond.
    Competitors will kayak, raft and ride stand-up paddleboards through one Class III and two Class IV rapids in succession to see who can master the Ti'lomikh Falls area near Gold Hill in an event that's extreme even for these guys.
    It will include perhaps the first attempt to stand-up paddle through Muggers Alley, a feat that could get your life insurance cancelled.
    "It could be pretty exciting," says race organizer Steve Kiesling. "The potential for carnage suddenly is a lot higher."
    The event is focused around Kiesling's Gold Hill Whitewater Center and begins at noon Saturday with a mandatory safety meeting. Races start at 1 p.m. and will be staggered so competitors can take part in more than one discipline. The King of the Rogue crowning ceremony is set for 6 p.m.
    The action kicks off at 6 p.m. today with a freestyle demonstration at the falls just upstream of Gold Hill.
    Billed as the ultimate whitewater challenge, the event pits kayakers, four-person raft teams and stand-up paddlers against each other in a race more daring than last year's run, which traversed two courses.
    This year, competitors will launch from the new parking lot at the Gold Hill Sports Park and ferry across the river to run Grandma's Alley. Then they will ferry their crafts to the top of Class IV Powerhouse Falls. Those who make it successfully through the falls will haul their boats to the top of Muggers Alley for the piece d' resistance.
    Participants will be timed during trials to set up a final competition in each discipline. Special edition King of the Rogue oars from Sawyer Paddles and Oars of Talent will go to the winners.
    Loaner rafts will be available, and those without a full team can sign up to join one, Kiesling says.
    Last year's event drew about 50 competitors, many of them registering at the last minute.
    It costs a one-time $15 insurance fee and $10 per event. Register at the whitewater center at Upper River Road or call Kiesling at 541-941-4663.
    Ti'lomikh Falls is the former Powerhouse Rapids, which were renamed in 2008 for a Native American village that once stood there.
    The event is the brainchild of Kiesling and stand-up boarder Pete Newport, of Sawyer Paddles and Oars, as a way to highlight the area's challenging water and introduce the extreme sport of stand-up boarding through whitewater — a level of insanity that's still in its infancy.
    Paddleboarding traces its genesis to Hawaii, where natives have stood on surfboards and paddled around for years, and the watersports public took notice in the mid-2000s.
    Last year's SUP competitors all attempted to run the 7-foot drop at Grandma's Alley without success, Kiesling says. Whether anyone makes a successful SUP trip down Muggers Alley remains to be seen, Kiesling says.
    "This year's race course will be dependent upon who's willing to try what," Kiesling says. "I'm hoping we have some trial runs, just to see what happens.
    "This is still in the exploratory stage," he says. "It's for whitewater pioneers."
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
     
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