One man in a kayak beat the two-man canoes to win the 2018 edition of the Soc & Sam Little Sandy River Race held yesterday.
Kent Bentley of Smiths Branch, paddling a cedar wood kayak he built himself, captured first place by covering the six miles in about one hour.
“She’s pretty sleek,” said Bentley, a son of Bud and Dorothy Bentley of South Portsmouth. “I didn’t expect to win. But about halfway down I knew my chances looked good.”
“He went down that river like a hot knife slicing through hot butter,” said Rancie Hannah.
Hannah and his fellow paddler, Joe Coldiron, both of South Shore, manned the first canoe to hit the finish line, about five minutes behind Bentley.
The race kicked off shortly after 9 a.m. from the Jeremy R. Gullett Memorial Bridge and ended at the boat ramp parking lot at Greenup.
The bridge crossing Little Sandy is still recognized locally as Racoon Bridge. It was renamed several years ago in honor of Gullet, a Greenup County native who was killed in the Middle East while fighting as a specialist with the U.S. Army.
Race organizers Tom Clay and Paul Verespy recognized the winners in front of the Main Street stage. The town was packed with a crowd coming in for the annual three-day Old Fashion Days celebration.
The big parade was scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m., led by Grand Marshall Kathie Shaffer, editor of the Greenup County News-Times.
I’m reminded of a trip I took down West Virginia’s Greenbrier River with the Blazing Paddles Canoe Club of Boyd County.
There have been five events in my life where I could have – probably should have—died. I don’t include the Greenbrier escapade as one of them, although there was a good chance I could have drowned, or perhaps succumbed to hypothermia. The temperature of the water that early April day was 45 degrees.
There were 12 of us in six canoes. My late son, Kelly, and I were in one. I manned the front, guiding, paddle, with Kelly on the rear power paddle.
Our take-out point was just below Hinton, where the Greenbrier meets the New River. We drove far enough up along the river to the put-in point that the trip was an over-nighter.
I hadn’t had that much experience with a canoe. As Kelly and I climbed into the canoe from the dock I remember thinking of how it was something like climbing onto the back of a bucking bronco in the chute.
“Ho boy! Steady now, steady boy.”
The trip down was uneventful, although there was one scary moment as we shot down Bacon Falls.
To make a long story short, it started raining as we pitched our two-man tents. Soon the sky opened and the rain came down in torrents – so strong that it drowned the campfire out and we had to take refuge in the tents.
It rained all night, and the next morning the water was in the trees. That river had risen four feet! The brown water was roaring, carrying logs and tree limbs along.
And the only way out of there was down that river – the river of no return.
We loaded our gear and pushed off. Places where there had been gentle riffles were now roaring rapids. We abandoned our seats and paddled while on our knees in the bottom of the canoe.
“Dad, while you’re on your knees, pray! Pray hard!” Kelly said.
Well, as you can see, I made it.
And, as news commentator Paul Harvey was fond of saying, I will tell you later of “…the rest of the story.”
Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.