Emily changed her ticket to fly two days before me, so that she would more likely hit Nile Special Wave before it got flooded out. She pulled it off and had a 4 hour session on the Nile Special at epic levels in her new Rock Star 4.0. I arrived to a small wave train with nothing surf-able in that rapid. I was bummed to not be able to say goodbye to this rapid before it went underwater. Jessie Stone, Clay Wright, Andi, Dane, Emily, and I spent the next 10 days running the river and settled into surfing Itunda Hole for the rest of the trip. Every day the river rose downstream and one rapid after another was flooded out until the final rapid after Itunda is all that is left, Vengence. We don’t know if that rapid is going to go under or not. We’ll know in a month or so when the settle the lake levels out to what they plan on holding them at.
The River was still amazing with Itunda Rapid, Super Hole, Itunda Hole, Overtime, Dead Dutcman etc. all being there for anyone wanting to run them.
With the 2019 World Freestyle Kayak Championships coming up in Sort, Spain, I am motivated to up my hole surfing game, and so was the rest of the crew! The new Rock Star 4.0 got run through the paces and we all were doing moves and combos better than ever before. Dane lead the way with the most precise and biggest moves of all of us, but everyone had some personal bests and I am feeling like I’ll be ready for USA Team Trials and the Worlds.
Emily was throwing Clean McNasty moves and getting nice air on them, something that impressed everyone and Dane struggled to pull them off with the clean first part of the move. Clay was getting some really good Lunar Orbit/Loop combos and Tricky Woo Loop combos. Jessie Stone did her first phonix monkeys, and I got my Tricky Woo back (I won the 2001 Worlds with a Tricky Woo pushing me over the top of Eric Southwick at the buzzer), so having it ready for Sort again, 18 years later will be very cool. Andi got her first loop in this hole and it was really fun to watch.
We had a lot of extra curricular activities happen during our trip as well. Our first mission was with Sam Ward of Kayak the Nile. He organized a Monkey Saving Mission for Monkeys that were stuck on Hairy Lemon Island after they clear cut the trees and began flooding it. We got there right before the islands were going under and managed to save a mother, her baby, and another female Red Tailed Monkey. To save them was to catch them…. Emily caught the mother and baby in the water with her hands and put them on her kayak until Sam put them in a laundry basket for us to transport to protected forest. I tried to catch those two out of a palm tree that was almost underwater, but they did the SuperMan into the water, swam underwater, and up into a bush. We spent a good hour trying to scare them out of the bush, but a big Forest Cobra was also in the bush and kind of forcing us to keep some distance. Eventually they dove back in the water and swam for it and Emily caught them.
We found another money on a different island and chased it around the perimeter of infested rocks and bushes. Insects were all going for higher ground and the little higher ground that was still available was now home to a plague like infestation of every kind of insect and animal you can imagine. Monitor Lizards in the dozens, spiders, millipedes, ants, spiders, snakes (one was a Jameson Mamba- a really big one… a really scary one!). Running around in shorts with your paddle trying to scare the monkey out so we could maybe catch it was difficult. Finally, the monkey “swam for it” and I was able to dive in and grab it by the scruff and we put it in another basket.
Kalagala Falls Forest is where we let them go and we expect that they’ll survive. The habitat of this part of the world for animals is disappearing fast.
Our next extra curricular activity was to go with Jessie on one of her family planning and child deworming missions. James, who works for Jessie lead the family planning clinic with about 15 women of differing ages. It starts with an education component and gives some options for how to determine if you want to get pregnant or not, how to control that with birth control, etc.. Some are returning people coming back for their next shot which lasts three months.
Meanwhile, a line up of kids, thanks to their parents and village leaders, waiting to get medicine to kill hookworm, and also getting Vitamin A which is lacking in their diets in a big way. We got to play around with the kids, which is always fun, while Emily and Andi provided the medicine to the kids. Jessie floated back and forth, and also saw a 2 year old with cerebral palsy and scheduled her for the clinic that Saturday. Another day in the life of Dr. Jessie Stone, who makes the world a better place, on person at a time, but now has 90 people working for her in Uganda at Soft Power Health.
Each time going back to Itunda hole was rewarding us with better moves and a better feel for our new Rock Star 4.0. This was the perfect training grounds to learn how to employ the design benefits of this model. I certainly can’t imagine ever going back to the older one now!
We did some freestyle competitions there among ourselves. Dane won each one and Clay and I took turns getting second. Emily was winning after 2 rides in one competition against Clay and I!
One of my other missions was to work with Jessie to get some Lipomas removed from my arm and torso. Jessie introduced me to Dr. Philip who gladly took on the operation to remove 4 of them for $150. The procedure was a little looser than you would find in the USA, and that was exactly what I wanted. I really wanted to perform some of the tasks myself, but Dr. Philip wouldn’t let me sit up during the operation and he ended up doing everything, leaving me to only film it with a second camera. Emily started off filming but lost her motivation and needed to not watch anymore. Jessie happily picked up the camera. As of today, no infections and some nice stitch work. I think I made a good choice.
We are flying home now, and I am out of the water for the next week while my wounds heal. Thanksgiving is in 2 days and we’ll have a house full! Chess and other games will have to replace football for me this year (a Jackson tradition). I expect to be back on the water at Rock Island in 1 week and can’t wait to see how I paddle after my Africa hole training.
I am excited to get my new 4.0 when I get home! I paddled the current one all summer and fall and it is now part of the Kayak the Nile Fleet. If you want to go to see Sam Ward and get some good kayaking in, the Nile River still offers some great rapids, but the wave surfing is limited, unless you like the Cuban.
I am so excited to put myself to the test again this year for making the USA Team and then competing in the World Championships in Sort, Spain. I have many wonderful memories of the 2001 World Championships there with my family (kids that didn’t paddle yet), my friends, and of course, winning my second World Champion title there didn’t hurt my memory of that place at all.
I was able to hang out with Jon, Paul, Davey, Sam, and others that are staples on the Nile… very fun!
Back to the USA for Thanksgiving!!