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March 5, 2006

Last night was a Jackson Kayak staff party, after a hard weeks work by everyone. We built our 200 boats again this week, finishing 40 per day each day. Some days they worked from 8am to 7pm, but no body left the plant until the job was done. Friday night at 6:40pm the 200th boat was inspected and bagged and the guys came over for Kristine’s chili, beer, soft drinks, and a warm fire on the deck fire pit (a present from the staff to me for Christmas). Emily and I left the party early at 10pm and started off for the Mulberry Fork River in Garden City, Alabama. This is a great race with a host of great personalities that you can count on being there. Max, Brad Hines, Keith Yell, Mark Travis, the Alabama Small Boats guys, etc., etc. I got too tired to drive the whole way so we stopped at a Super 8 for the night and woke early and got to the race site at 8:30am. Emily and I went up to registration, only to get turned away, because they had a “no same day registration” rule in place. I have been working on the Ricochet for a year now and I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally get to race it. It is the best looking slalom boat I have ever seen and I am convinced it is the best paddling one too. However, I wanted to put it in the gates and give it the real test. I was caught off guard for a second as we started walking away, thinking that I was going to cry. I managed to put that one down in a hurry, but only then did I know just how much I wanted to race today. Emily and I decided to check out the gates anyhow and within one minute, a guy I had just met, Johnny, ran down to say we were able to race, SWEET!

We got dressed and I was warming up and in the starting line in 20 minutes. The boat was so easy to get to go where I wanted and easy to dive into eddies, and pull a sharp pivot turn like no slalom boat I have ever paddled. I can honestly say that I have only ever paddled one 3.5 meter boat before, so I have no idea how the European boats paddle. My goal was to design a slalom kayak using the expertise that David and I learned from designing boats in general and break some barriers down that slalom boats have always had. It took David and I three separate designs (plugs, molds, and boats),and a full year, to get it right. Whether there is a better boat from Europe out there or not, I don’t know. Do I love my new Ricochet, oh yea!

Well, Emily won the championship women’s class, and I won the Championship men’s class. I had two runs, both 150 seconds long. I hit a gate on my first run but nobody saw it, so I got two clean runs on the score sheet.

Emily made a new friend with a girl named Kate, from Atlanta. Kate is also 15 years old and a good slalom racer.

Dane went creeking with Clay and Stephen. They made a team for the Steep Creek competition (most vertical feet in a week, or something like that).

I brought my camera but didn’t get it out, sorry. It is a beautiful river, and a fun race course. Next week we will be back in Alabama for the Northern Alabama Whitewater Festival. This event includes a freestyle event over a 15-20 foot water fall, a freestyle event at “Ender hole” on the Locust Fork, a ramp competition, and tons of party fun.

🙂 EJ