Andrew McEwan

Meet the ruler of the nation's gnarliest paddle sport

Jan 8, 2001
Outside Magazine

Wild thing: McEwan at the Potomac River near Seneca, Maryland, May 2001

Age: 21.
Hometown: Germantown, Maryland.
Years kayaking: 15.
Years "wildwater" racing, a sport that involves steep 20-mile runs down Class III+ rivers: six.
Odds someone will beat McEwan when he defends his title in the National Wildwater Championships on the Pigeon River in eastern Tennessee this month: near-zilch.
Reason McEwan keeps winning, according to teammate Chris Hipgrave: "He's got a paddling gene the rest of us don't."
Length, in feet, of McEwan's wildwater kayak, the Esox: 14.9.
Length, in feet, of the '87 VW Golf he uses to cart it around: 13.5.
Width, in inches, of Crack in the Rock, the fastest channel on the Class V Upper Youghiogheny racecourse, where McEwan took first last year: 24.
Width, in inches, of the Esox: 23.6.
McEwan's prerace nutritional regimen: a large Butterfinger and medium Heath Blizzard from Dairy Queen.
Why dominant European wildwater racers have it made, according to Middy Tilghman, 2nd ranked U.S. wildwater kayaker: "They're sponsored, so they don't have to work. They can lift weights, paddle, then just sit around playing video games." Why McEwan can't afford to sit around: "American paddlers get very little outside financing. We work to support ourselves."
Why the work is worth it: "Wildwater is so dynamic. It's kind of like downhill mountain biking, only the mountain is moving too."

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