Two West Virginian Women Compete in an International Whitewater Rafting Race

The Soca river, Triglav national park, Slovenia, EuropeTwo West Virginian women paddled their way to a place on the U.S. Whitewater Raft Team. A remarkable run on the Upper Gauley River was enough to earn them a coveted place on the team roster.

In September, Jo-Beth Stamm and Koreen Padjen took on some of the most challenging whitewater rapids in America to win a nine mile race down the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia. Their first place finished secured their spot on the women’s U.S. Whitewater Raft Team.

Their impressive win caught the eye of the U.S. Team’s captain, who also had a boat on the river at the time. They were invited to compete in the World Whitewater Rafting Championship on the Citarik River in Indonesia.

The race took place in December 2015.

Stamm, 33, has been a guide on the New and Gauley rivers for the past 10 years, where she honed her skills as a rafter. In an article from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, she states that she was “absolutely thrilled to be invited” and that the invite was a “fantastic opportunity to learn more about the sport and see how big it has become around the rest of the world.”

Stamm and Padjen both live in Fayetteville, WV, and have trained with whitewater rafting Olympians. It has been an Olympic sport since 1992.

The pair flew to Jakarta in late November to train for the big race. Contestants from 22 countries gathered to the Indonesian capital for their chance to claim world renown in the sport of whitewater rafting.

“We had seven people on the team and used the six best suited for a particular event to be the crew,” said Stamm, who competed in the head-to-head downriver race. She went on to explain, “Head-to-head racing is very exciting. The Citarik is a shallow river, with very technical whitewater.”

Stamm excitedly explained the challenges of head to head rafting: “When you’re racing head-to-head, sometimes both rafts are heading to spots that are only one raft wide, and a lot of times, the rafts would collide as they got to the same place.”

The U.S. women’s team ended up finishing eighth overall, just behind Russia and one jump ahead of Australia. The top three finishers were the Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Japan.

The popularity of whitewater rafting has increased dramatically across the globe. In America alone, 28% of adults participate (or plan to participate) in the sport.

Stamm and Padjen are say they hope their first international race experience won’t be their last! The next winter Olympics are in 2018 — Perhaps we will see Stamm and Padjen on the U.S. roster once again!

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