Wednesday, June 24, 2009

All Fibarked Up!

Well, after 5 days of racing, demos, booths, paddlecross, Hooligans, boat thieves, cops and testosterone, I'm grateful to be back in my office this week helping patients.

Fibark in Salida, CO was host to US team trials for the Tasmania World Cups. Over 100 wildwater paddlers descended upon the Arkansas River Valley for the megaevent.

Congrats to Andy Corra and Mike Freeburn from Durango, CO for showing us young pups how experience beats testosterone. These two prolific paddlers, combined with junior phenom Peter Lutter from Bethesda, MD, really set the bar smok'n high in all events. Andy Corra narrowly edged Mike Freeburn for the combined title after both sprint and classic events to become the 2009 national champion. Tierney Osullivan returned to her former dominance as regained the women's national K1 title and we're all happy to see her back in a wildwater boat as a lifetime paddler as she attends college at Georgia University. Mike Harvey, my partner in crime training this spring, won the senior class sprint and really raised some eyebrows that a top level playboater could convert to wildwater and get it done!

My sprint skills are developing but never fast enough now in my second year in a wildwater boat. I had a great first run, running the left side of class 4 Cottonwood Rapid which the field equally split runs on the left line and right line (see warmup video below from helmet cam). Cottonwood is a quirky rapid in that the fastest line requires one to setup left, let the left sided reactionary waves push your left aiming bow to the center while the first hole goes perfectly just under my right armpit followed by trying to skirt to either side of the final hole to avoid stopping my momentum. For those wanting to understand the minutia of paddling a long racing boat thru class 4 rapids, timing is everything as if you hit these holes with your paddle perpendicular and not parallel to your boat you're gonna loose arms followed by a beat down in the hole my friend. You see me pause for 2 seconds in the middle of the rapid when the paddler barely visible in front of me flips combined with not being able to see for 2 seconds from the immersion...not a good place to be upside down buddy but he rolled back up in the calm eddy downstream. My second run resulted in a minor eddy out on the left but all in all a major improvement over my first team trials sprint last year.

After a mediocre sprint race, the classic race was a "day of reconciliation" for me as I joked with Gary Lacy before the race during warm up. I felt really good from warm up to crossing the finish line and hard work paid off in 2009...I moved up from my 6th place finish last year on the senior team to a super solid 2nd place finish just behind multi year national champion Geoff Calhoun and the Corra/Freeburn/Lutter trifecta. Corra, Freeburn, and Lutter won the masters and juniors class as Corra was a man on fire I say with Lutter right on his tail. I was very happy with the heel blocks Chris Hipgrave let me in on 2 weeks ago as they really helped me drive the boat in the constant chop of the class 3 rapids. The top 6 US boats qualify for the national team so we'll see what I decide about heading to the World Cups this year in Tasmania.

The Head to Head Sprint on Saturday was an unexpected good time for all. Wildwater racing is a time trial race historically but we lined up 6 boats at a time for this testosterone heavy noon crowd pleaser and a crowd pleaser it was. I made it to the finals with Peter Lutter and Geoff Calhoun. Just as we hit the first drop, Geoff and Peter got typewriter'ed then tboned into each other by the river wide curler wave followed by Norbury and I bumper car'ing each other into the bridge abutment flipping us both. The combination of Peter and Geoff on top of each others boats and Chris and I having to roll ourselves back upright as we crossed the finish line had the crowd just howling in laughter. Below is a prelim. heat with Peter Lutter winning the heat and myself 2nd followed by Evan Ross and one of the Popp boys neck and neck.

USA Wildwater had a booth right at the main hole where we handed out wildwater technique CD's, Zastera catalogues, spread the KEEN love, and sampled over 300 Clif Mojo Bars. The USA Wildwater Team Demo took place15 minutes before the Hooligan race in front of a maximum capacity crowd of approx 8,000. Geoff Calhoun had the announcer howling as he attacked the main hole pulling off a flat spin in a wildwater boat like Tarzan in the trees. We sampled over 200 Clif Mojo Bars during the demo tossing them from our boats into the crowd from the eddys.

If all that excitement weren't enough, my good friend Shane Sigle's kayaks got stolen by some locals after being hidden roadside. After calling no joy and calling off the search, Shane and Gretchen headed back to their hotel. Heather and I decided to look some more. You won't believe it but the kayak thieves turned right in front of me heading thru downtown with the boats hanging out of the back of their Blazer.

After some sly Dukes of Hazard moves, the thieves were apprehended by the cops in their front yard and Shane got his beloved slalom boat while the thieves got 10 years of bad kharma. In the mean time, Heather and I dialed in our roof rack "Salida Security Package" seen at top of page for our next roadtrip to our favorite paddling town! We've got everything but the Ginsu knives to take on these bad apples!

So July looks to be a month of firstly, a haircut and secondly, reconciliation at the office and personal life (ie remind my friends and Heather I still exist) so the blogs will be more about fun paddling than testosterone so check back soon! O yeah....and 1 month off deserves a beer with Heather riverside!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Teva Games Goes Wild (WATER)!

Thanks to a last minute deal with Nick Rader at Teva Games (, USA Wildwater sent a hungry group of 9 wildwater paddlers to do a exhibition race as part of the Bud Light Downriver Race in Vail, Colorado alongside some of the best kayakers in the US including Tao Berman, Pat Keller, Andrew Holcombe, and 100 other fun-having sprint entrants. We were super impressed with the huge number of participants, spectators, and even more impressed with the spot on laser timing system. Perennial wildwater powerhouse Chris Hipgrave (seen below hanging out with Heather and I) of Bryson City, NC won the overall with a solid 15:03 with most of the remaining wildwater field within a tight 20 seconds.

Gore Creek, no wider than a cow's broad side, rages right into Vail Village and was busy with lots of boogie water and channelized drops. Our 14 foot carbon kevlar boats don't exactly turn on a dime so our hearts were pumping harder than ever in what seemed like an alpine luge at 50 mph more than a downriver kayak race. Trees, low bridges, and spectators were coming at us like asteroids as we ducked, dodged, and boofed for our way down the course (see video clip below) in just over 15 minutes. The short boat division winners finished in an impressive 17.50 minutes with the Dagger Green Boat holding it's throne as king of the plastic boat class. Post-race chumming followed with stories of dry heaving in the bushes, low bridge collisions overhead, and lots of eddy outs on the squirrely course. I even caught an eddy overtaking another paddler and gave myself a 30 second/10 point turnabout detour but all is fun on a race like this leading up to team trials.

See the great video footage from the starting line from the HeroCam mounted on kayak bow...crazy perspective and you can see why we love our sport! Yes, we really were having to duck and time our strokes to clear the bridges overhead and get the boat back up to speed immediately past. Great high water this year!

Below, nothing better than a few warmup attainments upstream to get the heart pumping! Can't say enough about how perfect the Immersion Research layers perform in Colorado's freezing spring runoff!

Special thanks to Nick Rader with Teva Games for his special accomodation hosting the wildwater paddlers in Colorado for national team trials in 2 weeks. Teva Games remains king of the whitewater mountain festivals and we look forward to returning formally for a US Wildwater team trials event on the same course in future years!