When the Nine Ball Rafting Team crossed the finish line in Colorado's Royal Gorge first, at the U.S. Rafting National Championships in June, they hadn't really been expecting to win. They knew that they had been feeling fast, but all of a sudden they were the USA's national team, and on their way to the world championships
Didn't even know we had a national rafting team? You're probably not alone. Teams from across the country compete for whitewater glory on rivers like the Arkansas and Snake, but it's small, not highly publicized and, like a lot of smaller national sports, not really funded.
They also have a little bit of a vendetta. At the last world championships, two years ago, the American team came in fourth, 1/13th of a second out of third place.
So, in the name of national pride and 'merica, they want to go kick some ass. But it's spendy to get to Indonesia, and they're not getting any kickbacks from the government or anything like that.
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"We're all working people, we have regular jobs, but the Brazilians are like national heroes, the Japanese are all over the newspapers," says John Mark Selig, the U.S. Men’s Raft Team captain, of the disparity with some of their competitors.
So, as all national teams should do (um, not), they've set up a GoFundMe site where you can donate to their trip.
So why should you? Because everyone who spends enough time at a sport should have a chance to prove themselves on an international stage. And because these guys are super dedicated to what they do. And because AMERICA.
To race rafts, you not only have to know how to run whitewater incredibly quickly, but you also have to be super strong. The races are slalom style, so they have to paddle upstream to hit gates and navigate strong downstream currents.
Prestigious as it is to be representing the USA in a couple of months, the raft team is just a bunch of normal guys (maybe slightly on the dirtbag raft-guide side, but normal) who have kids and jobs and spend their free time obsessively paddling upstream, or across lakes, or into the wind, to hone their skills. They do a lot of burpees. Give 'em some love.
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