Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Midwest Championships!

Wow, what a great weekend. I headed out to Wausau on Wednesday for a two-day freestyle clinic with Nora and Laura. The clinic was taught by two Jackson instructors: local Wisconsin paddling diety John McConville and longtime instructor/competitor Colin Kemp. The two had very different teaching styles that complimented each other nicely and in the end I feel like the clinic brought my paddling to another level. Huge thanks to Julie, Cole, Colin, and John for making the Clinic such a great experience!

The one downside (not complaining, believe me) to the clinic is that we spent such a rediculous amount of time boating and practicing that by the time the actual competition rolled around, my out-of-shape self was pretty much worn out. As such, I spent more time counting fish than throwing tricks in the competition. I actually almost swam after washing out of the hole during the team comp, and by the time I rolled up I was too far downstream to help the rest of the team. Apologies to Nora and Graeme for the fact that I contributed approximately 0 points to our "team" run, but thanks to them for stepping up and scoring big in my absence.

Speaking of other boaters, while I was struggling to stay upright, it seemed like everyone else was going huge! Team Pabst was well represented (as usual) and put up some big runs, with Jim going all the way to clinch 2nd in the Men's Expert class behind John McConville. Graeme was a spinning and cartwheel machine, and even landed some loops! Nora had great runs and made it to the Finals with a couple of cartwheels and some sweet blasts, all while proving that she's got more stamina than half of the younger boaters combined. Mike M was throwing gigantic space godzillas, and Melissa landed a couple of the biggest loops I've seen at Wausau. These are only a couple of the people who had amazing performances, but if I went through them all it would take up about 10 posts so I'll leave it at that.

There were some Newbies along for the weekend as well. Laura participated in the clinic with us and made some huge leaps in surfing, spinning, and controlling herself in a hole. Pike missed the clinic, but wound up entering both the rodeo (in the Expert class, no less!) and the boatercross. He did great in both events, including becoming a crowd favorite for nailing a couple huge enders in the competition. Bryan and Sara made it out for Saturday and paddled, surfed, and took pictures. Unfortunately I didn't get much time to actually paddle with them because of the competition, but from what I saw they were rippin' it up. Also, Sara picked up a new nickname - "Diagonal Sara" - for her uncanny ability to body surf the feature of the same name. Sorry Pike and I are so lousy with the throw ropes....

On the whole, the weekend was filled with awesome people, great weather, an amazing paddling atmosphere, and tons of fun. I'm already counting the days till next year's comp...

BUT.... To make an incredible weekend truly over the top required a bit of luck right at the end. The grand prize for the weekend was a free boat, generously donated by Jackson Kayaks. It, among many other impressive prizes, was raffled off to the competitors Sunday afternoon. To my total shock and amazment, Cole drew my name out of the jar first and I won the boat! Still kind of in shock over the whole thing, as I never dreamed I'd win, but I've pretty much had a smile on my face ever since. Quite the finish to an awesome weekend.

1) Melissa giving lessons on how to loop HUGE
2) Me, in one of the few moments I was upright
3) Jim reaching out for victory in the expert division (if you don't count the pros)
4) Pike on his way up!
5) Melissa going ridiculously big
6) Nora digging deep for a loop attempt
7) Graeme gettin' dizzy
8) Craig, doing what Craig does
9) Jim showing his true colors

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I won a boat!

I won a boat, I won a boat, I won a boat! I WON A BOAT!!! WOOOHOOOO!!!!

I'll try to post pics/stories from the weekend soon!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Wausau Baby, Wausau!

Ahhh, so good to be back... After nearly completely missing out on Wausau all together last year, it sure felt great to get back. The course, the paddlers, the county fair and the VFW all made for one amazing weekend. It was great to see so many boaters that I hadn't seen in a long time (Brian & Marie, Mike & Melissa, Team Pabst, etc, etc, etc), and even better to see the newbies absolutely rocking on the water. Laura, Pike, and Bryan K and Sara all made the trip out and did a fantastic job surfing, punching holes, and navigating features. All four of them now have bomber combat rolls and got the chance to prove that again and again. All four also tried surfing in every hole on the river, ran the entire river from the reservoir to the bottom, and generally nailed every move they were supposed to. They've definitely landed solid class III boater status. I think the Gold Star for the day has to go to Sara, though, for nailing her first (and 2nd, 3rd, 4th....) combat roll, first real surfs, and for surviving a thrashing in Diagonal.

Even though she's not a new paddler, I think Nora's also got to get some props for her performance yesterday. Now that she's confident in her roll, Nora is absolutely tearing up the river. She's surfing everything (though it seems particularly difficult to drag her away from the rodeo hole by the train bridge) and throwing moves like I've never seen her even attempt before - Spins, Cartwheels, and almost landing loops! It's just plain fun to watch her and I can't wait to see her at the freestyle competition.

The folks at WKCC revamped the course again, changing nearly every feature on the river. For the most part, they made the holes less pushy and easier to control while maintaining or increasing retentiveness. There are also two holes at the very bottom of the river that are smaller and friendlier, yet deep enough to throw loops in. It's great. There are now about 8 really good places to throw cartwheels on the river. The only improvement that I wasn't a huge fan of was to the hole below the street bridge. It's much easier to surf, spin, and wheel in, but you can't dive your bow down for a loop without smacking it into the rocks. Not a huge problem because the hole's great for so many more things now, but it's definitely not the looping machine it once was.

In addition to the paddling, Laura and I hit up the Marathon county fair Friday night and had a great time looking at cows and going on a couple of really great rides. We even ran into Dave and his new bride there on one of the rides. Then we headed to the VFW for drinks with more than a dozen paddlers (including Team Pabst, of course).

I went into this weekend with high expectations and higher hopes and both were absolutely blown away by how much fun I wound up having. Now if only I could remember how to loop....