Local rafters looking toward national championships in West Virginia after Pine Creek race | VailDaily.com

Local rafters looking toward national championships in West Virginia after Pine Creek race

Daily staff report
newsroom@vaildaily.com

The local Sage rafting team won the recent Pine Creek race, a friendly competition of competitive rafters. The national rafting championships in West Virginia later this year will determine which team will represent the USA in the 2019 World Championships in Australia.

The annual Pine Creek race is a gathering of whitewater enthusiasts that just like to paddle. It's unofficial, no rules, no entry fees and no logistics — just plain fun with a bunch of whitewater friends. Everyone is in kayaks and rafts in a big eddy and someone yells: "Is everyone ready-ish? OK cool, then go-ish."

Mass start means lots of bumping, pushing, laughing and struggling.

The race is from the AVA rafting base near Granite and goes through Pine Creek rapid and the Numbers section on the Arkansas River.

The local Sage rafting team competed with a six-man team in the recent event for its fourth year in a row, and finally locked in a victory.

“Everyone is passionate about rivers and boats and being strong and it’s easy to have the time of your life at every event.”Cole BangertSage team member

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Although it's a very laid back environment, once the racing starts, there are a few raft teams that always go for it pretty hard, mainly because they are all really competitive people, and if you're going to show up to a race, then you might as well give it a full effort and see what happens.

The local 9 Ball raft team was in attendance with a four-man team. They are always the ones to beat, as they have been the leaders in the raft racing world in the U.S. for many years.

Sage is a much newer team to the scene and has been training hard this summer in preparation for the rafting national championships in West Virginia, on the Gauley and New rivers, in early September.

Whoever wins in West Virginia will be the new national team that will represent the USA in the 2019 World Championships in Australia.

The next race is Gore Canyon coming up later in August, which will be the final tune up for the West Virginia Nationals. Sage, 9 Ball and many other six-man teams will be going for the title with all they have.

'Time of Your Life'

Sage team member Cole Bangert is looking forward to a chance to compete in Australia as team USA. The Tully River is where the world champs will be in May of 2019, and Bangert spent many Colorado winters right near the Tully training on his mountain bike.

The work he did there in the tropical heat and rugged tracks is what drastically helped lead to a Downhill National Championship title for him and his team in 2007.

Bangert never thought he'd ever be racing anything but bikes in his life, but racing rafts has been a very enjoyable challenge, he said.

Something he loved about racing bikes was the community of racers from all over the globe that will forever be his family — and he's finding the same is happening with racing rafts.

"Everyone is passionate about rivers and boats and being strong," he said, "and it's easy to have the time of your life at every event.

For more information about the Sage Outdoor Adventures, visit http://www.sageout dooradventures.com.