By Eric Jackson
Colorado Kayak Supply has been a staple supplier of whitewater kayaks and gear for decades. As a kid in New Hampshire in the late 70’s, I used to get the CKS Catalog and drool over all of the cool kayak stuff. Today, things are not much different, the catalog is just online, but the actual store is still rocking and putting on great events. Paddlefest typically gets me to drive from Tennessee to Colorado, leaving 80 degree temps and 75 degree water at Rock Island, for cold water. Once Paddlefest starts in Buena Vista, CO, my RV is parked at South Main (a pre-planned development that was conceptualized and crafted by Jed Selby and his team of friends and family. Jed was once on the kayak tour, and a sponsored kayaker. Andre Spino-Smith, Dustin Urban, Katie Urban, and others were all instrumental in this places success. South Main houses a brewery/restaurant, a distillery (Deer Hammer), a new amazing hotel (Surf Hotel) that overlooks the river and the hole we competed in for freestyle. There are amazing row houses and independent ones inter spliced with art galleries, a salon, and another shops that make this community fun to hang out in and live in. Once we park the RV, along with Clay’s, Stephen’s, Emily and Nick’s, and about 50 others in the dirt area just downstream of the developed areas, we can walk to the put-in of the whitewater park, to restaurants, bars, etc.. It is an ideal week of immersion into the whitewater community. The “Demshitz” , Pat from Liquid Logic, Kokatat, IR, Shred Ready, Sweet, Werner Paddles, etc. etc.. folks are all here. It is a bit of a “who’s who” for whitewater kayakers.
Programming starts on Friday, with the prelims for the BV Pro Freestyle Competition for Men and Women. I got 5th in Prelims to make the cut for Semi-Finals on Saturday with a 1,060 point ride and a 920. Most of the top Team Jackson Kayak paddlers made the cut. Music also started on the Green as well as whiskey sampling, kennel corn, bouncy balls in the pool for kids, etc. etc.. A big sale on kayak stuff is going on at the store and Marty, our head of our sales team, who has been with us since 2004, spent most of the weekend helping customers pick out the right Jackson Kayak for them. We ate at the new Surf Hotel for the first time, which opened the night before. Amazing place.
That is it in the background to the freestyle competition. Sweet!
Saturday we had Semi-finals, which I squeaked into finals in 5th place, with my second ride being 1150, edging out Hunter Katich, who won prelims. I did my semi-finals after a 1.5 hour clinic in the Mix-Master. I thought we went at 4pm so I did my clinic from 12-1:30. I was walking back to the RV after a great clinic, cold, tired, and was going to get some food, warm-up, but I saw Matt Dumoulin (Top French paddler on team JK) getting his dry suit on and asked him what he was doing. He said- getting ready for semi-finals which start in 20 minutes. Ooops! I took off my wet stuff and changed into dry fleece and put my wet dry deck back on and ran down to the river in time for my rides. My hands were still a little blue and I was not fresh. I managed two good rides, however, and made the cut. Finals were going to be at 5, so i had a couple of hours to get rested up. Nick won semi-finals, and Matt and Hunter who were in the top 5 in Prelims did not. Stephen Wright and Bennett Smith moved up from the 6-10 heat in prelims to the top five in place of Hunter and Matt. I stayed right where I was in 5th.
Finals were super fun and I was paddling good enough for second place, almost, but not enough to beat Nick who had a 1,600 point ride. I had 960 on my first ride, for 4th. I followed up with a 1150 to put me in 2nd, but then got knocked back to 4th. I then got a 1283 to put me in 3rd, but the boys put down good rides (stephen had a 1288, and Bennett a 1315, and Tom a 1330) and I got knocked back to 5th, but only 50 points from 2nd. I was happy with my paddling, just on the wrong side of the tight race.
Saturday night we closed down the “Eddyline Brewery”, a hop, skip, and jump from the RV. Jessie Stone was part of our group and we would be saying goodbye to her Sunday Morning. Jessie also took 5th place in the finals. Sage Donnelly won, and Kady Kellogg was second and Emily Jackson was 3rd.
Sunday we had the downriver race on the “Numbers” section of the Arkansas River. Levels were high at 1,500 cfs and it was a perfect race level. I hadn’t run this section in a few years and certainly didn’t know my race lines. I would have to “Read and Run”. I did manage to follow Andre’ Spino-Smith, as he offered to have me behind him. However, 30 seconds start ahead of me was too far to see his lines. He races this river all spring every Tuesday night. I bailed after the first rapid on trying to follow his lines after taking a few big waves to the chest. Since my fishing doesn’t exactly prepare me for a 15 minute race at 8,000 feet elevation, I was conservative in my pacing and focused on good lines. That worked for most rapids, but made two big mistakes that cost me a good chunk of time. The rapids I did well, however, were pretty slick and it would be hard for anyone to do them any faster. I could see that Nick was catching up to me (he was behind me) in the top of the course, but I figured he would be hammering hard from the start while I would be pacing. After about 10 minutes I felt way too fresh and started picking up my pace some and noticed I was catching Andre and got motivated to catch him and leave Nick at the same time. Unfortunately it wasn’t a 15 minute race after all, only 13 minutes and in those three minutes I was able to catch Andre and finished on his stern, but couldn’t quite get past him, and I also pulled away from Nick, but not enough to make up for the top of the course. I was happy that I didn’t feel like I was going to die from overexertion, but bummed that I left so much on the table due to not practicing for this race and knowing how short it was. Nick looked like he was going to pass out at the finish and I know just what he felt like. It is easy to go lactic too early at elevation and it feels like you are going to die for the rest of the race.
Nick and I were in our Nirvanas. There was also a “long boat category” for any length boat.
At the end we got the results and it was Nick for the win, with me in second, Pat Keller took third in the short boat.
Nick would have been third in the long boat class… We could have combined them.
I did another Slicey boat clinic and showed off the “Stone Cold Stutter” a move that I created in the late 90’s that almost died due to only a few people even knowing about it (or able to do it) and then the slicey boats going away. With the resurgence of slicey boats, and the MixMaster in particular (it is the lowest volume, and sliciest of the boats available) the Stone Cold Stutter is a move that I will bring to light again and will be one that 99.99% of the kayakers in the world will say… “I never heard of that one before” I hope to go to rivers and see kayakers doing it in the next year or two.
Today is the “Milk Run” race. It is a family race for kids on class 1-2-3. I am racing with my 9 year old son, KC , in a Dynamic Duo . This is a fun way to get your kids on the water without them having to have the skills to race it themselves. KC is still not motivated to whitewater kayak (especially in cold water) on his own, but loves the Duo. I am hoping that when we get to the Ottawa River this summer (warm water) we can do more solo paddling with him.
We brought our Nissan Titan out with us this time, making shuttles easier than with the Mini. It will make the creek races at GoPro Games and Lyons much easier!
Next week we are off to another epic whitewater event- The Lyon’s Outdoor Games. We have the South St. Frain Steep Creek Race and a Freestyle event as well. Oscar’s Brewery is in town for another walk-to restuarant/bar to make this an easy and fun place to have the RV, family, and some epic kayaking! The massive floods that nearly destroyed Lyon’s a few years ago, completely changed the creek race. Below is my winning run on this creek back in its “original shape”. I will post a video of what it looks like on my race run this year and it will be 100% different!
See you on the water!