Select Page

October 1, 2007

This year’s national championships were held at the “Adventure Sports Center International” in McHenry, Maryland on top of Wisp Mountain. This new $25 million dollar Whitewater Park is the first one truly designed for playboating and rafting, instead of slalom and rafting. The event was held on their “A” Wave, and “B” Hole. It was a format where you did two rides on the top wave, and then went downstream 50 yards and did two rides on the next hole. The top wave is a fast 3 feet high, shallow wave that you can helix, mcnasty, blunt, clean blunt, and airscrew on, but watch out it is only about 2 feet deep. The bottom hole you can do all of the hole moves, but it is also a little tricky, due to the nature of the way they make the hole.

In the competition, Stephen Wright won prelims, and I was second in the men’s class, with Bryan Kirk in 3rd. In the Semi-finals Bryan Kirk had great rides to get 1st. I was second and Stephen was third in that round. In the junior men’s Dane dominated and beat the men’s scores, with incredible rides on the “A” wave. In the Semi-finals Dane had a 124 point ride on the A Wave. The second highest score on that wave was Stephen’s 97 point ride! He literally schooled everyone in the competition on that wave in that round! Emily dominated the women’s pro class with a win in the prelims and then the semi-finals. She paddled really well at both features. LP and Jason Craig placed second and third in the prelims and Semi-finals. Making it to the finals was Stephen, EJ, Jay, Andrew Holcomb, and Bryan Kirk. Team Jackson had 4 of the top ten finishers in the men’s class and 3 of the top 5. We had 5 of the top five positions in the junior men’s class with two Shooting Stars (little guys) with Dane and Jason. In the C1 class we had two of the top three (Jordon and Dane in Shooting Stars) with Seth Chapelle getting first place (Fluid) with awesome rides. In the women’s final, it was Tanya Shuman (Wavesport), Eleanor Perry (Dagger) and Emily (Jackson). In the Junior women we had Morgan (Jackson), Lauren (Jackson), and Charlotte (Jackson), paddling a Shooting Star, Star, and a Fun.

The finals started in the evening under a beautiful sunset sky with powerful overhead lights (like a football field), keeping the “B Hole” lit up for competition. People started rolling in while music was played over the massive P/A system, and vendors sold food, beer, and snacks. Hobie and Corey Volt were on hand for announcing, and Shane Benedict was there to help with judging along with Gary Mullins, Kelsey Thompson, Nick Troutman (foreigners weren’t allowed to compete in this nationals), Jimmy Blakeney, and Matt Soloman. The banks really got crowded as the finals got underway. The amateur classes (men and women) went first, followed by the junior women. In junior women’s class Morgan took first with great loops. Lauren with cartwheels was second and Charlotte got third.

In the junior men’s class, LP had a great first ride with both McNasties, air loops, and space godzillas. Max, and Jason Craig also had great rides to round out the top three after first rides with Dane in 4th and Eli in 5th. Dane came out of the hole and decided he would paddle around the course (he loves the conveyor belt) but didn’t realize that after re-seeding, he would be going second on ride two! I ran up the course to tell him to hurry up and he did a 90 second sprint down to the hole, and almost lost his 2nd ride for being late! He entered the hole with a big entry move, huge loops, a trickey woo, mcnasties, backloop, and space godzillas to get a 95 point ride and move in the lead with LP still in second with 50 points. Max was now in 3rd, Jason in 4th, and Eli in 5th. On the final ride, Jason Craig had a great third ride to put him up from 4th into 3rd! the final order was Dane, LP, Jason, Max, Eli.

In the senior women’s class and the C1 class I was warming up for my competition so I didn’t get to watch them. I saw that Emily got to do a victory ride and the order was Emily, Eleanor, and Tanya. In C1 it was Seth, Jordon, and Dane.

In the Senior Men’s class we all did our first ride after the scores came out it was Stephen, Jay, Andrew, EJ, and Bryan in that order. Stephen had a 96. Bryan went and moved ahead of me, but then I went and got a 107 putting me in the lead. Jay, and Andrew went and bumped up their scores, but Stephen nailed his ride plus a backloop on the buzzer to get a 116 and pull in the lead again. Now the order was Stephen, EJ, Jay, Andrew, and Bryan with one ride left. I really expected to get a 140+ on my final ride but flushed out on a Space Godzilla and missed a couple of key moves. Jay had a great ride at 101 and almost passed me, but ended up just solidifying his 3rd place finish. The results were Stephen 116, EJ 107, Jay 101, Andrew and Bryan were below 100 but I can’t remember the exact score.

It was totally dark by the time the competition finished. I hurt myself on the first day of training here and tried to train a second time but had to get out early and ended up just taking the last two days off. I hurt my ribs at the A wave hitting bottom on a backstab. It didn’t slow me down during the competition but I hurt them worse during finals and won’t be playboating for a little while. Luckily doing blunts is not part of my next trip to Newfoundland on Thursday where I’ll be in a Rocker and we’ll be running some big stuff.

I paddled out of the lights down the rest of the course in pitch black water and a sky full of stars by myself. It was refreshing; one of those, “glad to be alive” moments where I just looked around at the stars, got pushed around by some mellow whitewater, while floating out of the bright lights of being in the spotlight, performing, and suddenly I am by myself, nobody watching, and I reflect for a moment on my life, and smile, turning my attention on the last drop of the course, going between the dam, wondering what kind of hit is waiting at the bottom, since I hadn’t seen it that day (could be a wave, or sticky hole). It was a breaking wave and I got stern squirted into the swirly pool. Floating around the corner looking again at the stars before getting to the conveyor belt, which had been turned off I spent the next few minutes thinking about packing for an expedition in Newfoundland, with Dane this time, and hoping I have everything, because there is no time to order anything! The temperature had dropped into the 50’s and walking up the conveyor belt was cold in my bare feet and Patagonia capalene shirt dripping wet. A warm RV, my wife, my kids and dogs are all there in the parking lot. Awards party, $1 beer, pizza, and lots of friends made for a great finish to the 2007 National Championships. This time the kids were both 1st and I was 2nd. I’m cool with that… for this year. I think I want to be national champion next year. Stephen Wright has won two in a row. He is quite impressive to watch and compete with. He is disarming and really lives for that moment where it is show time and a great performance is required to win. It is like playing a game with your kids and you really would be happy for them to win, but try your best to beat them anyway. Jay kept throwing down better rides each round and each ride. If there was one more round, I think he would have won. He started to get scary at the end with Phonix Monkeys both ways, and as he puts it, “making a fat boy fly” with huge loops. He came within 6 points of my 2nd place ride and was less than a move away from winning.

We are heading home now to pack for Newfoundland! Nick, Joel, Ben, Jesse, Darin , Dane, and EJ will make up a team that will run 1st descents in this north eastern Canadian Island! More about that later.