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Local rafters to paddle for the U.S.

Local rafters to paddle for the U.S.

With their whitewater paddles in hand and rapids raging around their 14-foot boat, Ashland's Ryan Allred and John Tribble of Talent find themselves in their ultimate element: the outdoors.

You can't beat the excitement you feel out there on a wild river with the beauty of nature all around you, says Allred. There is a peaceful feeling about it, but yet it's a rush.

And the outdoors are expansive.

One of the many things I like about whitewater rafting, says Tribble, a former Cascade Christian High athlete, is that we get to go all over the world and see different kinds of people and new cultures.

The competition can be grueling, but in time, you get over it. Then it's awesome.

Allred, 21, a former Ashland High athlete who now is a student at Pepperdine University, will join Tribble -- a recent graduate of Seattle Pacific University -- on a six-man team representing the United States. They'll compete Wednesday through Friday in the Camel Whitewater Challenge World Championships on the Orange River in South Africa.

It will be the team's third trip to the world finals. They finished second in 1997 and sixth in '98.

Three team races and an individual slalom event determine the world championship. The team events are a one-mile slalom, a one-mile sprint and a 10-mile downriver event.

The finals will feature 26 whitewater rafts. The 14-foot crafts are made of heavy nylon.

I think we have a good chance to win, says Allred, among the youngest competitors. It depends on the river conditions. And it depends on the day.

If we have three good days and get some breaks, we can win it.

Allred and Tribble are competing for the Lawrence Alvarez boat in the world finals. They helped the Alvarez team win national championships in 1997 and 1998.

Alvarez, from Truckee, Calif., is the boat captain.

The team, dubbed Team California, also includes Scott Eastman of Yreka, Calif., Greg Smith of San Francisco and Todd Brownell of Truckee, Calif.

Based on its recent success, the team was seeded into the world finals without having to qualify.

Allred says the lure of competition, and the unmatched beauty of rafting wild rivers, is what keeps him competing.

It's the thrill of seeing some amazingly beautiful terrain that you could never see without doing this, says Allred. And it's the feeling you get running through huge rapids.

Rapids on rivers are rated from — to 6, depending on their severity, Allred says.

Level 6 is a river that can't be run, he says. Level 5, which is what we run on, has potential for very large rapids and some dangerous conditions.

There's some danger involved, but they have rescue boats to pick you up out of the water if your boat flips or if you fall in.

A river guide for Adventure Whitewater on the Scott River in Northern California, Allred has been guiding boats and running the family business for his father, Gene Allred, for several years.

I've been a river guide around here for seven years, and it's a sport I can't get enough of, says Allred. What I'd like to emphasize is that whitewater runs around here have virtually no danger, with experienced guides like John (Tribble) and I. It's not like it is when you are racing. It's a fun thing that allows you to get away into the peaceful scenery around the river and relax.

Tribble will attend medical school next year. But for now, he's zeroing in on whitewater rafting.

Allred says he hopes to become a high school or college teacher and be able to continue on with running the family whitewater business during his summers.

I don't want to stop doing this, he says. I like it too much.

Allred says his team will be challenged by several European boats, including the German entrant.

It gets real competitive out there, he says. Those guys take it seriously.

He admits some bumping and trash talking goes on between competitors.

The Germans have been known to swear at us, says Allred, but we don't know what they're saying. It's serious for them because they're professionals and that's their job.

Although all crew members are considered professionals, Allred says there is no prize money for the world champions.

You get your expenses paid and you get put up in real nice lodges, says Allred. We have a few sponsors, but that's it. If you want to get rich doing this, it's not going to happen.

But they do get to be in the great outdoors.

Ryan Allred, third from left, and teammates negotiate turbulent water during a competition. - Photo fromAllred family