Over the Falls Festival: Thousands of People, and Twenty Feet
Thousands of spectators.
Hundreds of boaters.
Twenty feet of falling whitewater.
August 22nd, American Whitewater held the 2015 Over the Falls Festival over Ohiopyle Falls.
The park estimated around 10,000 spectators cheered on the brave boating souls. Over 200 paddlers from around the country competed.
With Mother Nature’s cooperation, the falls that sunny day were a runnable 1.65.
The event was run by coordinator Barry Adams, American Whitewater (AW), and local sponsors.
There was a race and a freestyle competition. Proving that he’s a pretty legit boater, Team Liquidlogic member, Pat Keller, took both titles.
But for a lot of those going over the falls, the event wasn’t so much about competition between boaters as much as the personal competition between oneself and the waterfall.
Sailing with Water Droplets
“You look downstream and see a “V” on the horizon.
Over to your left there’s a cacophony of people just talking and cheering as boat after boat goes off the falls.
People setting safety for you and people watching…it makes you feel a little more comfortable about running the falls.
You’re sitting in the eddy and you look out the horizon line and you see just off the right shore there is a stop and go sign that is being turned by a proverbial river road worker.
Then, all of the sudden, it’s your turn.
You quickly try to put yourself in that downstream “V.” You see a hydraulic hole on your left. Some breaking waves moving right down the center.
You try to get a little more momentum than the speed of the water and look for the lip. The way the lip is shaped is this protruding round kind of mushroom. You look for the center of that protruding mushroom and you lean forward and try to get that last good boof stroke. You bring your hips right toward your paddle and bring your feet up.
The next thing you know you’re sailing with the water droplets.
It’s in that amount of time that a boater and waterfall come together. There is no crowd. You don’t see anybody, you don’t feel anybody. You feel excitement, a quiet calm. You’re dropping, and you feel a big hit when you land and everything’s white. It’s like a white room.
You paddle like your hair’s on fire and your butt’s catching.
Next thing you’re in the pool and everyone’s cheering.
You look back up at the fall and feel the spray, feel the electricity, and you’re a part of it. And you’ve had a good run.”
When the Over the Falls Festival is Over
They wound down the day by breaking it down to The Mavens’ tunes. The state park even shined some party lights on Ohiopyle Falls.
It was a day of community excitement in an oftentimes isolated sport. Despite the people around though, it remained a day of an acutely personal struggle, triumph, and experience.
Learn more about the Over the Falls Festival!