Around 1 a.m. Sunday, ACE Kayaking’s Joe Gudger will attempt to break a record that was set back in 1983.
Gudger, along with friends David Levitt and Chris Townsend, have made the cross country trek to Arizona to tackle the Colorado River as it winds through the Grand Canyon.
The trio is also on this trip to honor the memory of legendary kayaker and founder of ACE Kayaking, Jeff West. The whitewater business is on the Ocoee River.
Gaining access to the Colorado River for noncommercial purposes is no easy feat, as permits are granted through a lottery system.
“We ended up getting the permits about two or three months ago in the lottery, and it was something that Jeff had always talked about doing,” Gudger explained.
The human powered speed record sits at 36:37.38, and was set by Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek and Steve “Wren” Reynolds in a rowboat, which is detailed in the book “The Emerald Mile.”
In 18-foot racing sea kayaks from Epic Kayaks, Gudger’s team will traverse those same 280 miles, beginning at Lee’s Ferry (Mile 0) and ending at Pearce’s Ferry (Mile 280).
“I think it’s going to be pretty hard. It’s a total of 280 miles and the last record was made in 1983 and it was around 36 and a half hours. We want to come in around 32-36 hours,” Gudger said. “We don’t plan to stop much, and hope to keep our breaks between two to five minutes, so that we don’t go lactic and have our muscles cramp up.”
In total, the trio has almost 43 years of kayaking experience between them and are prepared for the challenging 30-something hours that lie in front of them.
“We’ve got to keep ourselves alert — it will take a lot of teamwork. We have to make sure that we’re drinking the right amount of water and eating food,” Gudger stated. “I’ve been working everyday and cutting out caffeine. That way I can really use it on the last day and it should work well.”
The Colorado River has claimed some 79 lives, and the Grand Canyon section boasts a number of significant rapids.
Instead of using the widely known Class I-VI classification system, the Colorado River uses a scale of 1-10 for its rapids.
While a large number of the rapids fall in the mid 3-5 range, there are challenges like Hance Rapid (Mile 76.6) with its large rocks and powerful hydraulics earning it a rating of 7-8.
At the Horn Creek Rapid (Mile 90.2) a rating of 7-9 is earned by potentially large waves and more hydraulics.
Shortly after Horn Creek, Granite Rapid (93.4) and Hermit Rapid (94.9) are back-to-back 7-8’s.
One of the most difficult areas is the Lava Falls Rapid (Mile 179.2) which earns a rating from 8-10.
“We’re doing this for the love of (kayaking) as always,” Gudger declared.
If things go smoothly and according to plan, the group hopes to conclude the trip by no later than 1 p.m. on Monday.
The trio’s progress can be followed online through their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/westfestgrandcanyon.