2017 Great Falls Race: Classic Race Winning Run / by Todd Henson

Geoff Calhoun won the Classic race and was the overall race winner in the 2017 Great Falls Race, part of the annual Potomac River Festival. This is a whitewater event where kayakers and canoeists from all over congregate in the Washington, D.C. area to run some of the amazing Class V rapids along the Potomac River. The Classic race is a race for speed that in 2017 was run along the Virginia lines, which included the features: U-Hole, S-Turn, and the Spout.

Great Falls on the Potomac River showing major features. The 2017 race ran the Virginia lines.

Below are a sequence of photographs I captured showing Geoff Calhoun during his downriver final. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.

U-Hole

The race began just above U-Hole. Watch as his kayak dips down after going over that first rapid. You can see one of the suspended poles that was used during the slalom event, but it has now been raised up out of the way of the racers. Also notice all the crew and fellow racers along the rocks, most tethered to the rocks.

S-Turn

With U-Hole behind him, Geoff maneuvers his way into S-Turn, taking it from the top for a fast run straight through. He runs a line very close to the rocks on the left side before almost completely disappearing in the center of the turn. After emerging from S-Turn he straightens himself out quickly to continue moving downriver. In a couple of the latter photos you can see another of the slalom poles suspected high over the river.

The Spout

The Spout is the last major feature of the race and is the tallest individual drop at around 20 feet. Geoff angles himself right into the heavy flow of water and flies over the waterfall. The heavy spray of water at the base of the fall almost completely obscures him and his kayak, with just his helmet and paddle visible. That’s when I lost sight of him. It was a short sprint from there to the finish line.

Geoff Calhoun won the race with a downriver final time of 53.89 seconds, bettering his qualifier run of 56.88 seconds.