ULI ZETTIAN SWEEPS THE FIRST AND SECOND PLACE POSITIONS IN ALL THREE SUP DISCIPLINES FOR MEN’S AND FIRST PLACE FOR WOMEN’S
The ULI Boards Zettian MultiSport continued its whitewater racing dominance at the Kern River Festival this weekend. In all three events including; downriver, slalom, and boarder cross, ULI riders swept the first and second place positions in Men’s Elite and first place in Women’s Elite divisions. Defending champion and former Olympian, Eric Giddens, faced off against fellow ULI Team Rider, Ian Smith, in a cutthroat battle in the downriver event. After several dramatic lead changes through rapids such as Big Daddy, Giddens edged ahead to take the win in the final stretch of the 3-mile race.
Smith went first in the slalom competition, making it through the crux at gates 6, 7, and 8 for a clean run. Eric’s Olympic experience and slalom acumen proved too good, however, and he narrowly took the win by 6/10s of a second.
In the final event of the weekend though, Smith saw his chance for revenge. The no-holds-barred discipline of SUP Boarder Cross presented a chaotic, crowd-pleasing, battle through two up-stream gates where competitors stampeded for open water. Ian’s sprint off the line gave him an early lead and he was able to stay ahead of Eric and the pack for his first taste of Kern River Gold.
Rebecca Giddens, the third ULI Team Rider in the competition, rounded out the podium to take third overall (1rst place women’s) in both the downriver and slalom SUP events. Rebecca was riding the same 11’ Zettian MultiSport that she used to win the 2015 Payette River Games. Eric was also riding the board he used to place 5th at PRG.
Top 5 Kern River Festival Impressions
Since it was Ian’s first time on the Kern, we asked him for his top-5 impressions of the Kern River Valley….
5. SUP Slalom Perfection – the course was set by former Olympic paddlers Eric and Rebecca Giddens. While class 2, the crux gates 6,7, and 8 made for serious tension with only 2 chances to clean the course. Going up against the Eric and Rebecca, missing a gate wasn’t an option.
4. Atmosphere – Nestled in the southern Sierras, Kernville is a quintessential whitewater town with everything you need and nothing you don’t. The shops, restaurants, and whitewater outfits are locally owned and operated with love.
3. Pizza Barn – amazing pizza. Pretty simple.
2. Kern River Brewing Company – See for yourself if the Giddens are as good at brewing beer as they are at paddling. Pro tip – they are!
1. Vibe – the community of paddlers this event draws is exactly what I look for in an event. Everyone in town is helpful, accommodating, and genuine. The Kern River Festival is an authentic whitewater event that dates back more than half a century. Events don’t last that long unless you’re doing something special.
Enjoy this slide show from the event!