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May 9, 2006

Anytime you have a major competition with 5,000+ spectators, serious prize money, TV coverage (30 minutes on OLN), and the top boaters in the world going for the win, you have a sweet competition. Judges are paid for their time here, the head of the competition Jim Litchfield is paid to organize the event to the fullest, the awards ceremonies are full on (last year with Dancing girls!), and everything is done in Reno style, but all right here in the beautiful whitewater park. There will be live bands playing all day, literally on the island where the event is staged so you can listen to it while competing. The main event is an invitational so only the top 10 men and women are invited (according to a survey by athletes, I was one of them). However, the cool thing is that nobody is left out! On Friday the day before the main event the Open competition allows anyone who wants to enter to compete. If you get top 3 in that open event, you go on to the main event. The idea is that if you can’t get top three there, you didn’t deserve an invite anyhow. If you do get top three, well then, welcome to the show! Emily got 1st in the open last year and went on to get 2nd in the main event and that was a shocker for the women’s class (she was 15 then).

The water levels in Reno are WAY higher than the last two years. It has hovered at 3,000 for the past week. It was actually going up fast but they opened an irrigation ditch up in Tahoe that sucks a lot of water out. There are two spots we are training in and one that we are playing in for fun as well to prepare for the competition. #2 is on the left channel, normally known as the freestyle channel. #3 on the “small side” is the favorite of the spots by most of the competitors. Both holes allow for every hole move known to man, but as with any hole, some moves are particularly challenging, or one direction is easier than the other. #2 hole has a bit of a diagonal going on and you have to set up in between moves or you throw your second move in the rocks. #3 is fast and you can do combo moves quickly, such as my opening that, so far is, Lunar Orbit right-back loop- Mcnasty right- Front loop. I can do those 4 moves linked together, which there is no way I can do that in #2. Water levels are a little more touchy in #3 small side though, so if the water goes down, we will not want it there. Yesterday afternoon we were on the rocks there too much.

At the bottom of the course, below the park, where a competition would not be easy to stage, the two channels come together to make a sweet wave that is also awesome and we play it daily too. Dane just happened to come down to the wave while I was there and started throwing one move after the other. In his first ride he got a Helix, Donkey Flip, Flip turn, three air loops, a back loop, a McNasty, and a Flash Back (spin into a clean backstab). I just kind of watched and said, “whoa”. Dane has been hanging out with his buddy Jason Craig (also 12 years old) a Reno local. Jason and Dane are on their own schedule. In fact, Dane has been living with the Craigs in their condo (that I can see from my RV window right now at the whitewater park) Yesterday, I mentioned in an email to somebody that I hadn’t seen Dane do a ride in the competition holes since the first day we got here. I was mentioning to Kristine that I wonder if I should remind Dane that he got an invite to this competition (he was actually an alternate next in line but took someone’s place when they dropped out) and that he was going to be competing in the Men’s pro class, not the junior class. I wanted to get some direction from her whether or not I should suggest a more structured training plan and have him paddle with me, or just let him do his own thing and hope he is taking the competition serious enough to deserve his spot in it. Well, I saw him do some rides yesterday and I don’t have to ask that question any more. We went to “#3 on the small side” where the comp is most likely to take place and on Dane’s first ride he hit a perfect Tricky Woo, air loops, space godzillas both ways, back loop, mcNasty, Phonix Monkey, cartwheels, a clean cartwheel, and then surfed out of the hole on purpose. It was over the top as he did the moves in rapid fire, missing only two or three attempts in all of those moves, and paddling like dad when he is training for a competition. I just gave him a kiss and said good job, and never mentioned training to him. That boy has, believe it or not, done almost zero training with me. 99.5% of all of our paddling together is playing, and rarely have we ever (I can only remember once) done an official workout where I set the plan and he went along with it. Instead, I will do training rides often, and he will do his own thing. He does like to play “Pig” or other games at Brave Wave however, or do let’s see who can do the most moves in 10 seconds, that type of thing.

Emily is a different character all together than Dane. To give you a little insight, Kristine is at Rock Island checking on our house that we are building, so it is just Emily and I in the RV (Dane is at Jason’s). Yesterday, Emily made a grocery list and made me take her shopping to get what we needed. She literally is so far past where I am in terms of taking care of daily business and making that a priority that it is scary. Since Kristine is not here, I can see just how on it she is in every way. “Dad” she would say, “We really need to clean up the RV today.” And she would start cleaning, organizing stuff, and giving me directions on what I can do to help her. “Dad, you have to help me with school today” and have her work complete except where she is having difficulty. Crazy! Kristine would be proud, since this is where she blows away anyone I know and it is rubbing off on Emily. So on the water, Emily paddles with me almost every session. She is VERY aware of the fact that she got second to Tanya Faux (from Australia and one of the strongest women paddlers you will ever meet.) Tanya is here training and the women are only better this year than last. While the guys were throwing every move in the book last year, the women have a lot of moves that they are still not able to do in competition yet. Emily is trying to get those moves for her rides and can tell the clock is ticking. She got her McNasty two days ago to the right! That is one move that I have not seen any other women do yet. She knows that to win she will need more moves and be consistent at them. With the guys it is being able to hit your move bigger and faster than the other guy and have your moves available on demand with no screw ups, no flushing, and be able to earn big or huge bonus points for doing them exceptionally well. So, that is my day training with the kids. However, my training partners are Jay Kincaid and Stephen Wright. If you remember the results from last year it was EJ, Jay, and Stephen in that order, with Stephen winning prelims. The training is exciting as Jay is a machine that knows each spot and each move like a 6th grader knows the alphabet. Stephen is the worlds biggest looper, and knows how to make the big moves go huge, making a 22 point move worth 28 with a bonus, for example. My specialty, besides loving the challenge of the competition and having my best rides in competition, is linking the hard moves together and throwing a flurry of points in a short period of time, and then recollecting and showing off by ticking the moves together. Each of us approach it a little different, but each of us has each move in our quiver. With that said, Jay is the Tricky woo machine, Stephen is the Air Loop/space Godzilla (with bonus) jumping bean, but has a weak Tricky Woo for example. I suck at the right phonix monkey in the #3 hole and won’t even try it in the competition (there is not time for every move anyhow, so we all have to pick and choose our moves based on our chances of success and specialty. This is Freestyle kayaking at its best (for this type of hole competition).

I will see if we can get some video today with Dane’s video camera and some photos with Stephen’s camera. Look for a visual on what I am talking about tomorrow.

What about the rest of the competitors? I haven’t seen them practice much yet, they are on a different schedule, and some are just pulling in. Corey Volt and Todd Baker, are both looking great. I am waiting for Ruth Gordon to show up. I haven’t paddled with her since she got her new Star and am excited to see her in action in a small hole! Devon Barker got here yesterday and was practicing with Emily and she had a good first workout. While she was not invited, she is a good bet in the open to qualify!

🙂 EJ