By Marcus Hill (www.themountainmail.com )
Andy Corra made sure he reached the goal in 2016 that he’d hoped for since the end of last year’s race. Corra, 55, of Durango, earned his 11th FIBArk Downriver Race title Sunday after besting rival Freeburn, also of Durango.
In similar fashion to 2015, Corra nearly wiped out in Cottonwood Rapid and almost lost his lead.
“I think I was a little fatigued, and I leaned on my paddle a little too hard and I flipped over,” Corra said. “I was able to brace back up on that same side. I was still online so I didn’t lose much. But it did cool me off. That was nice.”
While Corra managed to maintain his course, it was not the same story for Freeburn.
“I hit my stern on a rock out there,” Freeburn said. “I was pointed a little too much to the left and I hooked that eddy. I had to fight to get out of it and not get eddied out.”
Corra managed to navigate the rest of Cottonwood with no issues and
made his way to the Cotopaxi bridge alone.
While preparing for the Downriver Race, Corra said he knew Freeburn would be on his tail.
Gaining and keeping a lead over Freeburn as well as earning that coveted 11th title weren’t easy, but despite the brief head dip in the river, Corra never lost his composure or confidence.
“When your head is under water, it’s an ‘uh-oh’ moment,’” Corra said. “But I always felt like I had (the race). Even when my head was underwater, I just said, ‘I’m going to brace up here. Just keep going.’”
Both Corra and Freeburn are closer to the end of their kayaking careers than they are to the beginning. If this race marks the end of either competitor’s downriver career, Freeburn said he is happy with what he and Corra have provided to the race over the years.
“It’s something pretty special,” Freeburn said. “I think we started kayaking together in the early ’80s. When we’re old guys sitting around talking about our lives, this will be a major part of it.”
Corra said handing this event off to the younger guys is what he hopes will happen in the near future.
He may not have to wait too long for that future.
Durango teen closes gap, takes fourth place overall
Nate Foster, Durango, finished the race fourth overall and expects to do better next year. And he’s only 14.
“I think it went pretty well for me,” Foster said. “I swam in Bear Creek not too long before this, but it went well for me.”
Foster’s youth showed with the duration of his training for the race. Corra said he started preparing for the event about 2 months ago.
Foster needed just 3 weeks.
“I try to get out and paddle every day during that time,” Foster said. “I got out of school and then I just started paddling.”
Staying humble and learning from those before him also helped Foster with his success in kayaking.
He said learning different techniques from the older downriver racers and listening to their knowledge helped him become a better competitor.
“They taught me how to do my stroke and how to paddle,” Foster said. “The idea in wild water is since you’re going for such a long time to use more of your core. I can’t wait to use it next year.”
Marcus Hill, Mail Staff