This year’s Payette River Games, brought to the world by Mark and Kristina Pickard including the freestyle feature that they built three years ago that ranks 1st in my opinion (and I am not alone in that feeling) as the best competition feature for the pro-class that you can schedule an event on. Dependable water, wave and hole tricks, easy access and the ability to train on it make it hard to beat.
Last year at this event Stephen Wright won here with an 1810 point ride, the highest score recorded in a freestyle event using this scoring system and 60 second rides. This year was even bigger! A Lot Bigger!
This was our third week with the new 2014 Rock Star and the excitement continues to build surrounding it. I looked into Stephen’s boat and written in permanent marker was “Stephen’s Boat of Destiny!!!” Stephen could not stop talking about his new boat. Clay looked at me yesterday and rubbed his boat and said, “Good job” and “It is an incredible thing when you get a boat that immediately makes you a better paddler.” Dane and Jason were having so much fun paddling and talking about paddling and how much fun they were having here at Kelly’s Whitewater Park. Adam Chappell, from Canada, asked me if the new Rock Star he was paddling was available for him to keep. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having in my new boat. Moves that were normally very difficult got so much easier and more retentive that I was able to throw them just about anytime. Clean Blunt McNasty, Wave Monkey, for example became a common move for us. Loops went huge, while moves like Tricky Woo and Lunar Orbits were being thrown consistently. I am excited that we are starting to ship boats this week to those who want them in the Standard layup. The Competition model is still a couple of weeks out as we get the production molds for making the carbon tracks ready. We have been using the prototype molds so far but they can’t handle the volume needed for production runs, using infusion/vacuum bagging process.
The event this past weekend was the most grueling of my career. On Saturday I competed in a down river SUP race, followed by a SUP Cross where we did 5 rounds of 2 minutes each. Immediately following those races we shuttled back to the top of the river for the Downriver kayak race followed by Boatercross of 4 rounds of 2 minute races. Freestyle Semi-finals followed those races at 4pm after starting at 8am and no breaks all day. Dane, Nick, Gerd, Adam, and I were in the races as well as the freestyle. Dane, Nick, and I were in the SUP races as well. We were all quite tired, but also excited about the semis. Only 5 paddlers would make the finals. Brandon Hephern from England, Gerd from Spain, and Adam from Canada were competing for the chance to make finals along with American paddlers Stephen, Clay, Jason, Dane, myself and Nick (Canadian living in USA). Everyone in the top 5 from semi-finals made the finals except Nick who was replaced by Clay. The biggest news was seeing Stephen throw down a ride of 2160! It was the most impressive freestyle ride I have ever seen! His Cleanblunt/McNasty comb was huge and nearly perfect along with his Wavemonkey, and his helix was massive. Lunar orbit, blunt/mcnasty, phonix monkey, Humungous clean air loop, flip turn, back pan am, and it kept going! It was an awesome ride worth remembering! The results were: Stephen, Dane, EJ, Jason, and Clay.
Saturday was a very tiring day. Sunday was finals. In the men’s class for freestyle, I was the only paddler doing the races that day as well as the freestyle. I got an early workout/training session for freestyle after waking up. Trying not to get too tired. I bought a board for the downriver SUP based on what was there and available, a Surftec Flowmaster which is more of an all around cruising board, but the best I could find. Nice board, just not a racing one. I got 5th in the SUP downriver in the finals. We went straight into the SUP Cross, of which I was coming off of my win in the GoPro Games SUPcross there. I had a slow start and entered the first gate in last place, but made a good pass and was in 3rd at the second gate and came into the final gate in 2nd and we all battled making the ferry by the big hole and we all fell off. I blew low by the time I got on my board and missed the finish and had to attain back up. I got 5th in finals for SUPcross as well securing my 5th place SUP overall. We went back up to the put-in for the down river kayak race. Gerd from Spain was first in the prelims on Saturday and I was second. I was lucky enough to be able to follow Gerd in the finals and tried to catch him the entire way down the river. It was mostly flatwater and Gerd kept his distance and crossed the finish for another win with me in second again. Matt Anger got third , and Galan was fourth, Alec Vorhees was 5th, ,Trey Long was 6th, and Nick Troutman was 7th. I didn’t get to do Boatercross because I got knocked out in semi-finals after an untimely flip in the hole. My boatercross placing was 6th . I had a 6th and a 2nd place to get 3rd overall in the racing. Gerd had a 1st and a 5th for the win.
Freestyle Finals were next:
In the women’s class, Emily was still competing, hoping to make it home before having her baby. 8+ months pregnant she got a 520 point ride with many great moves, looking like her not-pregnant self much of the time even though she was carrying an extra 40 pounds. Claire Ohara started her first ride with amazing sequence of moves, but flushed on a front surf on the wave by carving over too far getting 400+ points. Courney Kerin had 310 points and was in 3rd place after first rides. Emily looked at me from the water and mouthed “I don’t think I can get any more points than that!” She was happy with her ride and didn’t have many more moves she could pull off in her condition. It was a waiting game to see if Claire, the current world champion, who beat Emily in that event would be able to beat Emily’s score. She was capable, but would it happen? After second rides Erin was still in 5th and Courtney got bumped into 4th by Adrienne. After third rides the placings remained: Emily, Claire, Adrienne, Courtney, Erin. Emily won her last event before going home to have a baby! What an impressive run for her!
We had already seen Stephen set a new record here, for the second year in a row. I got to watch Clay and Jason go before me. Clay had a 650 on his first ride, but Jason came out and got a 1970 point ride, huge score! I was next and got a 1350 point ride, which is normally a great score, but not here, not in this group. Dane was next with an 1830, and then Stephen went and got 2120 with his same routine. It was another amazing ride to watch. Clay’s second ride was awesome, a 1530 pointer. Jason didn’t improve his second ride, and I flushed out on my third move. Dane’s second ride didn’t improve his score. Stephen didn’t improve his massive score. In the final round, Clay went again, but didn’t improve. Jason tried also to improve, but couldn’t beat his 1970 in that ride. Dane went and was on fire, throwing moves fast and nailing most of them. It was a massive effort to beat Stephen’s ride, but came up just short, but still was Dane’s first 2000 point ride, making him the second person to break the 2000 point barrier. Stephen got a victory ride! Two years ago I got to do a victory ride here, not this time! It was Stephen’s time in his “Boat of Destiny”.
Awards were next- with big checks and checks handed out to all winners down to 5th place. $4,000 for first in both racing and freestyle for both men and women down to $500 for 5th in both men and women. There were awards for disc golf, volleyball, lumberjack, climbing, golf, SUP and more.
We had a pizza party for the team outside on the picnic table and were all ready for bed. Tired and happy.
Today, the RV is driving across country to Ottawa to Ottawa Kayak School. The new Rock Star on the Ottawa? WOW!! I can’t wait!
See you on the river!