Sunday, August 29, 2010

Midwest Freestyle Championships

P.C.: Nora Whittemore, Editing: Hailey Thompson
The Midwest Freestyle Championships were a wonderful competition held in local Wausau, Wisconsin. It was refreshing to find myself among fun-loving and lighthearted competitors. I trained and practiced in the days leading up to the camp and recieved quality coaching from Jackson Kayak's Colin Kemp. Training with the local playboating gurus was a lot of fun, and a top-notch learning experience - and there is always more to learn.

Once the weekend rolled around, I was stoked and ready to compete. Over the course of the week I had learned to Space Godzilla and Backloop (two of the more difficult tricks to perform) and I was anxious to display my new skills. During Preliminary rides, I laid down some solid tricks, including multiple spins, cartwheels, and two Frontloops. These rides got me into the top five, and Semifinals the next day.

The following day also hosted the famed Boater-X event: like rollerderby, only in kayaks. Competitors are released in groups of six, and they race down the river. Anything goes, you just have to be the first one to pass the finish line. I was in a lineup with five basically, when the starting flag dropped, I got the heck out of there so as not to be crushed under all of them. The positive side effect of this was that I got pretty far ahead of all of them, and finished first. The rest of the heats went, and I was put into the Finals line-up. With all guys, again. So, I went with my first tactic - paddle hard, get away. It was working too, with the exception of one detail. In the middle of the race run, you have to circle a buoy, basically, to add dificulty to the race. The preliminary run, I circled it without error. In the finals, I began to circle the buoy, only to have it bob under my kayak. When it resurfaced, it was on the wrong side of my boat, meaning I would have to go back to circle it properly. As I considered doing this, I looked upstream to see all six of the other finalists hauling down the river towards me. Noting that I didn't desire being squashed by men twice my size, I decided to skip the buoy and get out of there. I still crossed the finish line far ahead of the other competitors, but was disqualified for the buoy incident - oh well :) I had so much fun that the final order didn't much matter to me.

Semifinals and Finals were around 1:00. I hopped in my boat and warmed up a bit, then quietly waited for the rides to begin. When they rolled around, I laid down two very solid semifinals rides, which bumped me into third - and top 3 enter finals. In Finals, however, all of the women were getting fairly tired, and we all had mediocre rides. In the end, however, I was able to snag second place! Pretty exciting for one of my first freestyle competitions.

To top it all of: at the awards ceremony, a raffle is held, the top item being a boat - and guess what?! For the first time ever, I got lucky at a raffle! I am now an owner of a brand-new kayak. Pretty stoked :)

See you on the river,


Monday, August 16, 2010

Paddling Instruction

Photos: Sasha Staniski

Since returning from my great adventure in Europe, I have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer and work as a kayak instructor for young students. I really enjoy working with kids, especially, to teach them the basics and advanced skills involved in paddling. They are forever enthusiastic and appreciative, and nothing is more rewarding than seeing them light up when they learn to roll or ferry.
Soon after I got home, I volunteered for several days at the beginners paddling camp in Wausau, Wisconsin, called the Ray McClain Camp. I had a great time, and worked with the smaller girls in the camp who were learning basic ferrying, rolling, and river running skills. They had a wonderful time - and so did I! On my own I have been working with several pupils - one was a 12-year-old boy from Berlin, Germany, (Willie) who was an absolute joy to work with.
To top it all, this past weekend I was able to go back the the summer camp that I attended when I was younger, to teach campers there whitewater skills. I had an amazing time, and was overjoyed to be back in one of my favorite places in the world, surrounded by great campers and counsellors.
It's wonderful being home now, spending time in the water, and being able to spread the paddling love...
See you on the river!