Local raft guides clean house at Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival. Pictured (l-r): Malorie Dobyns, Sean Woody, Zach Zoller, Mark Zoller, Jevon Hamilton. Not pictured, but also on the race team is Sara Poole.

A local rafting company came home with seven trophies from the 38th annual Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival, held May 18 and 19.

“I first raced at the festival in the mid-80s with my brother Tracy, who was yearly ranked #1. I stopped racing about 25 years ago,” said Mark Zoller, president of Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys located in BZ Corner. “Then Jevon (Hamilton) asked me a few weeks back if I’d ever been there and the next thing we knew we’d developed a race team that had never practiced together, not even a shake-down run.”

Zoller’s had a total of nine entries and came home with seven trophies, placing in the Open Paddle Boat Slalom, R2 Slalom, and R2 Mass Start (all team events). In individual events, Zoller’s placed in the Cat Boat Slalom and the Oar Boat Slalom, where it swept 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

“I’m pretty proud of Zach (Zoller’s son) who came home with two individual trophies and two team trophies making him the winningest boater of the festival for 2019,” said Zoller.

According to Zoller, the race course is absolutely grueling. “First you have to paddle or row for 1.5 miles as hard as you can, then when you are good and spent, you come to a set of eight gates that you have to negotiate. And they are not easy at all. Many racers purposefully skip some of the gates as it is.”

There are time penalties for bumping a gate, missing a gate and even swimming through a gate. “To show how tough the time penalties are, for the Cataraft race I had the fastest start to finish time, but with four gates to go I broke my rowing frame and racked up the penalties so bad that it put me in 10th place,” he said.

There were many races Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys did not even enter, including hard shell kayak races, inflatable kayak races, drift boat races, cataraft rodeo, SUP slalom, women’s paddle boat and, even just for fun, an inner tube race.

“We had so much fun and it was extra sweet to race with and against my son. When he was really little, he would come cheer me on in the 80s. It’s been a long time since I raced a slalom course and I was the oldest whitewater boater out there. In fact, I’d guess that the next oldest must have been at least 15 years my junior. With any luck, I’ll kick Zach’s butt in 2020,” Zoller said.

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