The hammer nails the Nantahala

Eric (Hammer) Evans was a legend in kayaking several slalom titles ago. Now he has won his ninth championship

Since walrus hunting by kayak has severe limitations as a spectator sport, the next best thing for admirers of the craft is to catch Eric Evans’ act in a national slalom championship on a torrent of white water. Evans, 28, won his eighth straight U.S. title the other day, his ninth in 10 tries. As one observer said, “You won’t see Eric’s record broken in a hundred years.”

No other kayaker has put together even two championships back to back in a sport that is not only difficult but extremely dangerous: two experts have lost their lives in recent months, one on Idaho’s Payette River, the other on West Virginia’s Gauley.

The Nantahala in North Carolina, where Evans paddled to title No. 9, is a gentler stream, but its 800-meter championship slalom course was one of fiendish difficulty. The last 15 gates were bunched in 400 feet of continuous rapids.

Read: The hammer nails the Nantahala | Sports Illustrated