Churning whitewater. Stomach dropping falls. Deep gullies. Over one hundred seventy competitors. More than two thousand spectators and the pure, unbridled, raw power of nature.
These are just a few of the things that await the brave kayakers who enter the annual Green River Narrows Race here in Western North Carolina. The race is the largest extreme kayaking race in the world, and each fall, it draws the best whitewater paddlers in the country to come and compete.
Over the last few years, a number of Timberlake alumni have competed in the race, making it something of an unofficial camp reunion each year for our best paddlers. This year was no exception. In 2022, we had four Timberlake alumni paddling in the race and our very own Ben Atherton was crowned champion of the junior division with a blistering time of four minutes and twenty seconds. He was joined by former Timberlakers Shawn Feagin and Dakota Rogers, as well as our current kayaking head, Henry Broshar, who competed in the race for the first time this year.
Our mission at Timberlake is growth through friends and adventure. And while adventure is not going to look like class V whitewater kayaking for every camper, we feel strongly that in order to deliver on our mission, we have to provide the quality of instruction that would allow a camper to eventually progress to the very highest level of competition in their adventure activity. Watching the baton of a great kayaking tradition continue to be handed down year after year at Timberlake is an exciting reminder of why we are so serious about adventure.
When former staff members like Harris Cannon and Hank Boyd stood patiently coaching Ben Atherton and Henry Broshar on the very basics of paddling in the camp lake six or eight years ago, they never could have known that those guys would eventually follow in their footsteps and one day be competing in the Green River Narrows Race themselves. But they did believe that it was possible. When Shawn Feagin led some of our junior kayakers down section 9 of the French Broad for the first time and coached them through their combat rolls, he saw the potential in them to be the next great Timberlake kayakers. Now who knows if those junior paddlers will grow up to be instructors like Henry or podium standers like Ben one day, but they all have that potential and deserve to have somebody with real skills coaching them, and just as importantly, believing in them.
Young crushers working on their chops
Here at Timberlake we believe each and every one of our campers is capable of finding and rising to the challenge of great adventures. Those adventures will look different for each boy: different activities, different skill levels, different settings. Some boys will find it on the rocks and rivers. Other boys will find it on the courts or in the rocketry room. Still others will find it in the woods or on the stage in front of their peers. But we believe that adventure is out there for every camper and it’s our job to provide encouragement and the environment where boys have the confidence to step out of their comfort zone and into an adventure. We got to see the capstone of some of that adventure this fall at the Green River Narrows Race, and it makes me so excited to get back to work this summer and to watch our boys take that next step at Timberlake. We’ll see you next summer!
Director, Camp Timberlake