By Eric Jackson
RESULTS AT BOTTOM OF PAGE!
8 Ball- The big news of the 8 Ball was Nick Troutman’s hit on 8 Ball paddler- Nathalie Anderson. Nathalie choose to surf the top wave as a blocker, intentionally getting in the racers way who were sprinting down on her. A bold move that didn’t go well in this case for her. Nick’s kayak hit her head so hard that she got a concussion and spent some time in the hospital. This was following David Silk’s broken nose the day before. The water is fast and the speed differential between the racers and 8 Ballers is much higher than at Vail where we were on less than 1,000 CFS. Emily was not fired up for her rounds as Jason wearing his unicorn outfit was putting the hurt on racers coming into the main feature (including David’s broken nose). I gave her some last minute advice on how to avoid him, but she decided to charge him head on, for some reason, maybe deer in the headlights or something, but it was a full sprint as he charged out of the eddy on the wave right at her. She was winning and rolled her boat over to the right and snaked him as he glanced off and didn’t slow her down. Bryan Kirk and Nick Troutman battled for the first place spot and Bryan got a lead after Nick’s boat slowed down on Nathalie’s head hit. I made this aerial video to show what it looks like. It doesn’t show the hits, but you have already likely seen photos of them!
Here is a GoPro video of 8 Ball from the Air..
We started 5 at a time in the final two rounds and it was crowded and a tough race. I started in the 5th place position due to my seeding which was a little bit of back luck, meaning I was on the most upstream position on the ramp and the downstream position is closest to the first gate. The ramp start was fun but hard on the hands as paddles fly around at full power/speed upon landing and there really isn’t room to get the paddles in the water on each stroke. Smart racers try to spread out a little while the less experienced often tangle early only to look up and realize that they are way behind already. My strategy was to find a way to go from last to first. My Semi-finals run I did just that, coming into the first gate in 5th, but made a pass from 5th to 3rd and then in the second gate I use the same technique that I used to pass everyone in SUP which was to “bank” them cutting in hard and fast and not trying to turn but instead carry my momentum into the side of their boats (in this case it was Tren Long) so it pushed them to the outside of the turn and they didn’t have room to paddle hard, while I deflected off essentially pulling off a slalom turn without using a turning stroke. I lead the rest of the way to the finish putting me in the finals to race for top 5 along with Igor from Russia, Cole from USA, Gerd from Spain, and Alec from USA. Gerd had pole position from the time trial, followed by Igor, then Cole, and then Alec and then me. Off the Ramp Alec turned upstream towards me bumping me upstream and by the time I was able to turn downstream I was 30 feet behind and had to follow everyone into the first gate. I found a wave to ride into the gate out in the current and caught up by about 20 feet in a few seconds and was able to pull from 5th to 3rd coming across the ferry from gate 1 to 2. Gate 2 is one of the best passing opportunities and it is a move I have down (by necessity as the luxury of starting in first place was eliminated with my poor time trial result) Typically, if you want to win boatercross, you have two main goals- 1. Win the time trial and get pole position throughout the head to head races and 2. Be the fastest person on the water in each head to head race, using your pole position to get a lead and then just keep it. Winning from the second spot, or in my case the 5th position takes being super fast, with a passing strategy, and some luck. My Gate 2 “banking” pass went well as I blew by both Igor and Alec and was not far off of the leader Gerd for the peel out but right as I was about to get on the little wave above the big hole that you need to ride in order to get around the hole for gate three Igor reached in desperation with his long arms and perfectly placed his paddle on my stomach and did a full power stroke pulling me backwards (he is a big/strong guy- 6’2” 210 pounds) and him forwards. Not only could I not get around the hole, I had to turn and boof it on river right as Igor passed me back and so did Alec. Gerd was not comfortably in Gate 3 and I was on top of the foam pile planning on dropping into the hole and surfing out quickly but Igor blew his boof and was stuck in the hole. I pulled out of the hole before it caught me and ferried full speed into 3 about 10 feet low, but kept my speed up. I was now ahead of Igor but Cole was right on my tail. I had to avoid Igor on the way back from gate 3 to 4 as he was still trying to get out of the hole. Cole was now right on my tail. Everyone had already been sprinting full speed for 60 seconds and the final 40 seconds was holding on. I was a little wide on gate 5 and Cole pulled a great S-Turn move to the faster water while i was fighting the eddy just above the finish and Cole came up on me fast and was almost ahead of me. I couldn’t fend him off in a full sprint as he was in the fast water and I was in the slow water. I had one shot at staying in third place and that was to engage Cole before he got past me. I turned out hard to the right and he had tunnel vision and didn’t seem to notice me coming at him. I yelled “Hi Cole” right before I side swiped him and pinched his left blade between our boats. His paddle twisted in his hand and his next right stroke slipped as his boat spun out, and I maintained my 3rd place finish spot. Igor followed up in 5th. Like all boater cross races there is a lot of randomness that creates situations where you can’t manage all of the variables. This makes it exciting, but you can’t take it too seriously, as who is on your sides and what they happen to do will determine much in the race. I have been to plenty of races where people who feel they can’t win, simply want to make sure somebody else loses. that is harder than they think, but it changes the strategy a lot. It is not uncommon for me to have two boaters on either side of me who have pre-arranged to try to “squeeze” me out by cutting straight into me from both sides. This is not a way for them to win, but to keep me from winning. For that to work, however, they have to get slightly in front of me, which I do my best to prevent by being faster. Alec did a great job of making his moves on both of the finals day runs. I have this GoPro video of my final two runs… My two favorite moves were Gate 2 in Semi-finals and my “Hey Cole” move at the end of the final race.
Here is a GoPro video from my head cam of the Boatercross:
I was busy with competing in the race so don’t really have a play by play account of the ladies race. Rebecca Giddens, however, took the lead early from the pole position and maintained. After that I am not sure. It was great to see this amazing female athlete back in a race.
I was announcing for finals so didn’t video or take photos. However, the live broadcast was recorded and you can watch it here.
Last year Stephen Wright set the new record of 2160 points in the men’s class. Emily won last year at 9 months pregnant. This year’s finals had Alec, Jason, Nick, Matthieu, and Dane for men. Alec had a 1070 to make the cut to finals and had an 880 and a 900+ point ride in finals but the medals scores were much higher. Jason had a 1400 point ride but was only 4th, while Nick had a 1500 point ride for 3rd. The big battle was Dane versus Matthieu on last rides as Matthieu got a 2060 point ride, while Dane’s current score after 2 rides was 1800 points. Dane got to go last and threw an amazing ride but was just shy of 2000 points. Matthieu the “Domilinator” from France took the top honors this year. It was an all Rock Star finals. The Rock Star was the only boat that really surfs the wave safely as it is the fastest of the play boats, while it also goes the biggest in the hole. This is a good combo for getting big scores and doing moves.
I don’t have any new photos of the Freestyle- but here are some from last year to remind everyone of how cool this spot is!
For the Women Claire, Rowan, Sage, Adrienne, and Emily were the players and Emily threw a good first ride in the 500’s, but all of the other girls hadn’t thrown their best rides yet. On second rides Rowan through her 400+ point ride, and Claire improved with a ride in the 500’s but just below Emily. Adrienne had some great rides in prelims but was struggling to get her rides going in finals. Sage was consistent and throwing amazing tricks but was getting stuck on her left McNasty costing her valuable scoring time. In final rides it came down to Claire to beat Emily but she flushed on her opening Phonix Monkey attempt and then two more times. Emily did one more ride and got over 600 points. She won, backing up her win last year and earning $3,000 for it.
The SUP events were also exciting, but I will not cover them here yet.