Outdoors: Running the Green

From the top of Gorilla Falls, white water crashes over massive granite rocks, tumbling 18 feet to the river below. It’s the Green River’s most intimidating waterfall, reachable only on foot or by boat. The roaring water evokes a sense of reverence in both spectators and the kayakers competing in the Green River Narrows Race.

Held each year on the first Saturday in November, the event draws adventure seekers from around the globe, who trek into the shady Green River Gorge near Hendersonville for the chance to experience one of the world’s most extreme white-water-kayaking competitions. This year, 101 contestants assembled on Nov. 1 for the 13th edition of the race. The grueling one-mile course features class V rapids and three daunting falls: “Frankenstein,” “Go Left or Die” and “Gorilla.”

But no one, it seems, knows the river like the locals. Pat Keller of Asheville completed the race in 4 minutes and 31 seconds, making him a two-time Narrows champ. Another local, Chris Gragtmans, cruised in a mere four seconds behind him. And in the women’s category, Adriene Levknecht, an Asheville native competing in her third Narrows race, tied with Laura Farrell of Bryson City, finishing at 5:40.

“I’ve learned to let go of my demons and push myself beyond my limits,” exclaimed a still-breathless Levknecht shortly after her run. “There’s nothing like it!”

To give readers a taste of this hair-raising contest, Xpress presents the following photo essay.

Text by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt, photos by Jonathan Welch

Man vs. river: Asheville native Pat Keller, winner of this year’s race, battles through the rapids of the Green River Narrows.

Scenes from the race: Spectators watch as a racer runs “the Gorilla.”

Last year’s winner, Andrew Holcombe, braves “Scream Machine” backward.

A racer navigates roaring white water.

Pat Keller (left), winner of the open division, with John Grace.

For more information on this year’s Green River Narrows Race, go to www.boatingbeta.com/races.

About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

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