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August 22, 2006

For some, this event doesn’t have a lot of bearing on their lives; for some it is a really big deal. This time two years ago, I was competing in USA Team Trials and had I not gotten top 5, I would not currently be the World Champion. Why? Because only the top 5 Men, top 3 women, top 3 junior men, and top 2 junior women and C1s get to represent their national teams worldwide. The only exception is the current World Champions get to defend their title automatically. That means that in the USA, I don’t have to make the team tomorrow, and 5 men will be selected with me making #6. Emily must get top 2 and Dane must get top three in the Junior classes.

Training has been fun so far with good camaraderie among the USA paddlers, and tons of Canadian and foreign paddlers making up the lineup. There has been plenty of eying of the competition, and trying to determine what it will take to make the team this year. The quality of paddling is awesome this year which will assure a super strong USA Team for the 2007 World Championships. There are a bunch of super strong Canadian, British, French, Costa Rican, etc. etc. paddlers as well, which will surely make next years World Championships a hotly contested one.

Jay Kincaid, Clay Wright, and Stephen Wright are really showing their stuff, which is exciting to see. In the 2005 World Freestyle Championships, I was the only USA men’s kayak in a Jackson Kayak. There is no question that Clay, Stephen, and Jay can all make the team this year. Stephen wowed the crowds at the National Championships this year and knows what it is like to dominate. Clay won the National Championships last year, beating me out for the title, and has a solid plan and is showing the skills needed to nail awesome rides consistently. Jay fires off one good move after the next in rapid fire and is awesome to watch, not needed to set things up like most people do. I will also compete, of course, because it is something I love to do. I want to make the team, even though I don’t have to. There are so many top men to name all of the ones with a shot at the team, but I’ll try to name every one I think could make it: Jay, Stephen, Clay, Dustin Urban, Andrew Holcombe, Bryan Kirk, Rusty Sage, Jimmy Blakeney, Marlo Long, Rush Sturges, Todd Baker. I am sure there are more that I am not thinking of, sorry.

In the junior men’s class, last years National Champion Billy Boyles is looking super strong, along with Justin Patt from California. Dane has been consistently performing super well nailing one great move after the next, and looks really relaxed. This years national champion, Jason Craig, is getting stronger by the day on the Garberator wave, which is a new experience for him.

In the women’s class, Tanya Shuman, Devon Barker, Hannah Farrar, Katie Selby are all doing awesome. Emily looks like a great shot for the senior women’s team but is going to take advantage of being a junior and try to win her last junior world championships next year. Brin, a Keener, has been improving daily and is looking like she can “bring it” tomorrow in the junior women’s class.

In the C1 class, Seth Chapelle, Dan Burke (2003 c1 team), and Jeremy Laukes are the only ones I have seen her so far. I expect to see Joe Stumpfel here too, as well as other C1ers I can’t think of.

What usually happens on a team trials day is a combination of quality top notch paddling and major blowouts. Some people really step it up and are on fire and others can barely catch the wave or get a good move without flushing. People like Jay rarely choke and usually get fired up for a big competition like this. Some people take it too seriously and don’t deal with the pressure as well. I wouldn’t dare try to guess today, but will simply watch tomorrow to see how people do. Everyone wants to paddle well, and in the end most people want others to paddle well too. With that said, there is always something trying to steal your attention and raise the level of alert from green to yellow or red. This year it will be water levels, rules changes on the horizon and being debated, longer than normal training lines due to international athletes training for the World Cup, trials being held across the border in Canada, etc. etc. It is no different than normal life, where winners focus on what they want to get done and those who struggle or lose are focused on the obstacles. The water came up last night creating a 100% green wave that has a narrow landing zone. I was able to stick air screws, helixes, pan ams, etc. on it but it can also be hard to front surf. This will create an alert for the organizer (Kristine) to call the event at the Garberator in the morning and move it to Baby Face, or keep it on the Garberator. Luckily for Kristine, she planned in advance and had a meeting last night with USFKA people and they came up with a cut-off level for the Garb at -.25. Anything higher than that or lower than -2 and it will get moved to Baby Face. Most people have only really trained at the Garb so there would be some stress if it was moved.

There is a great platform right at the Garb to judge from and hanging out there all day is quite fun. The weather is as good as weather gets, and it is a beautiful wilderness setting. Did I mention the bass and catfishing? Sweet! We catch so many fish that it isn’t funny. Most have never seen a lure before.

Well, speaking of fishing, it is the day before USA Team Trials and I paddled for three hours already and am ready to rest up for tomorrow. I think some fishing is in order! Want me to work today? Don’t count on it! Today is Feel Good Day. It is something I learned from John Lugbill years ago. On any big competition day, or the day before it, you must declare it a feel good day. This means that nothing can get you down and nothing is more important than just being happy and feeling good. I feel good when working too, but to forget about work for today and tomorrow and just paddle is to eliminate thoughts about important things that I want to do, and postpone them for when I can actually do something about it. Want to have a successful day? Make it a feel good day!

🙂 EJ