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By Clay Wright. Learn more about Clay.

June 7, 2006

The Teva Mt. Games in Vail is always a big event – 6 kayak comps in less than 1 week? This year’s good water was especially enjoyable – though homestake was low (56 cfs) Dowd’s and the hole were great.

Dowd’s was the opener, Dan Gavere and i strung 3 gates on river right (stop signs to hit with your paddle) and the racers did one time trial, then a head to head. The final women’s battle, Nikki Kelly led the pack but a gate-judge said she barely missed the sign so Tanya Faux ended up the official winner followed by Laura Nash then Nikki and then Emily Jackson – both of whom missed a gate. Men’s also had drama, while EJ took the win, Jay Kinkaid paddled in 2nd but the same gate judge cried foul, reducing him to 4th behind Brad Ludden and ?

Homestake has Pat Keller’s creek focus paying off, winning the 2-run timed event by 4 seconds. EJ held off Brad Ludden by less than a second for 2nd and 3rd, while Tao crashed on his 2nd run to fall out of the top spots. Fisher’s string of bad luck continued – ending up 15th due to 2 lackluster runs, but nothing as bad as ww racer Geoff Calhoun who’s blazing time ended on the lip of ‘leap of faith’. He was plucked from his pin by safety boaters minutes after lodging stern down but head up just a foot from the lip.

Big Trick contest was great due to high water levels and a suprisingly good hole in downtown Vail. While Todd Baker’s 22” air-loop (distance of boat off the water at cockpit rim) would have won easily, his flush cost him 6” of height in the results, allowing Pyranha’s Jared Seiler to take the win at 20” and Stephen Wright came in 3rd with several 18” loops.

Then the rodeo:
While numerous top athletes skipped out on the contest due to the small – hole feature, top Teva talent Marlow Long, Rush Sturges, and Brooks Baldwin braved the crowd and showed some big-wave class by giving it their all. IT was great to see these big-wave specialists perform out of their element instead of drinking on the bank with their peers. Shows guts and good sportsmanship.

The top Pro’s demonstrated that practice and expereince pays off. While Bryan Kirk and Todd Baker were right up there loop for loop, EJ, Jay, and Stephen Wright’s Mcnasty’s and clean cartwheels put them in finals above the rest. On finals day, Jay posted an 80 point ride – the highest of the comp till finals. But Stephen followed with a 132 thanks to a well-timed Phonics Monkey (the only one of the event). EJ was told the score to beat and in typical EJ style he bested it by hitting BOTH Mcnasty’s as well both clean cartwheels, a backloop, and a splatwheel – chiming in with the highest scoring ride of the event – a 145.

In women’s it was Emily Jackson’s show. With the notorious Tanya Faux knocked out due one early, long flush in pre-lims, Nikki Kelly and Devon Barker rose to the occassion – each posting their best rides of this or any previous Vail event. But Emily’s big loops, airwheels, and clean cartwheels made her narrowly missed Mcnasty not matter in the least. Father and daughter JAckson took the 1st place check once again.

8-bal was wicked fun – for the blockers especially, and Robin Betz led the women under the bridge while I think Rush Sturges led the men? If he didn’t win, he sure gets props for doing every single event of the comp – with Brad Ludden, EJ, Jay, Stephen, and many many others.

Oh – and Chris Emerick and Polly Green won the ‘High Side of Good’ film award (in Daniel D’s honor) while Scott Shipley and Rebecca Giddons won the Everest Awards (over Risa Shimoda and Scott Lindgren).

This 5 day event might not have the draw for normal paddlers as a lonely day on Skookemchuck, but the gathering of top kayaking atheletes and personalities certainly makes this event one of the sports brightest. There is much more on the Teva Mt. Games other sports (biking, climbing, adventure racing, trail running, fishing etc) on, or on some Yahoo sited. Search around for full results and photos – could there be a better covered event?

Clay Wright
Co-kayak event organizer and head judge.