World-Renowned Kayaking Championship In Idaho Opens Women's Division

Jun 14, 2019

Nearly 200 of the world’s best kayakers will compete this weekend on the North Fork of the Payette River for the annual North Fork Championship. This year, the event is the host of the world championship, which means one athlete will take home a world title by the end of the day Saturday.


Actually, there will be two world champs.


For the first time since the kayaking world championships moved to the U.S. a few years ago, women will compete in their own category and be eligible for the same prize winnings as the men’s race.


Kayaker Anna Wagner navigates the rowdy boulder garden.
Credit Shannon Mast

Natalie Anderson raced the North Fork years ago before it was the official world championship, but didn't return because competing directly against the men made for a different kind of race.

“I haven't really had a reason to come and try to race again,” Anderson says. “There wasn't really a women's division, so I didn't really make a point to come.” The lack of a women’s division discouraged her and other talented kayakers from competing.


To one of the race’s organizers James Byrd, opening up an intentional space for women is an important move for the kayaking community.


“There are women out there that can do it and do it well and we want to showcase that,” Byrd says. “So this is the first year that we are having a women's division only.”

For a sport dominated by men, it is meaningful to the women competing this weekend to be recognized in this way. Anna Wagner is racing in this year’s championship, and sees the greater importance of this decision.


“For this to be a priority, hopefully speaks wonders to everyone else out there. If this is our priority and we’re able to make it happen, everybody else should too,” says Wagner.


The race is open to the public, and those interested can watch from Highway 55 which runs along the Payette. Saturday’s championship race is at milepost 86 at 1 p.m. The full schedule is available here.

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