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August 24, 2009


By Colin Kemp

This year I was fortunate enough to be invited back to Wausau to coach the Midwest Freestyle Championships for the second year in a row. Needless to say it was great to see a bunch of familiar faces. This year’s trip had a few new twists to it that added a bunch to the experience. The freestyle clinic was in enough demand that we had to add a third instructor to be able to handle everyone. On the morning of the first day of the clinic I was interviewed on the morning show along with Dave Lemke, the Wisconsin World Kayak ambassador. Take a look at the anchor woman’s slippers when they pan down to show the boat! Everyone at the TV studio was great, and they made both Dave and I feel at home for our first live TV interview.

Right after we got done with the TV folks we were off to get geared up and start the first clinic group. We had a number of new faces that signed up for the clinic which was great, but for me as an instructor it was super cool to see the progress that so many of my repeat students had made since last year. My two fellow instructors were Team JK member and Wisconsin native John McConville and Brian Tupper, the Sacramento/Coloma World Kayak ambassador. Each of the instructors taught two groups of 5-7 students for 4 hours each. After class we all got to get in as much play as possible for the remaining 1 hour of water time. Needless to say we were all tired at the end of each day.

Saturday brought the first rounds of competition. All preliminary rounds were held for the expert men, intermediate men, women, and masters. This year the organizers allowed the women to compete in the men’s event as well as the women’s event. It was cool to see how many women jumped at the opportunity. It was great to see a very full women’s class this year with 15+ women strutting their freestyle stuff. I was fortunate enough to just edge out my fellow JK teammate John McConville for the men’s preliminary win. After everyone had sufficiently tired themselves out we hosted a movie premier in the basement of the VFW. After the movie we announced the teams for the team event. The team event is something that I have not seen at any other freestyle competition. The organizers put the names from each of the skill levels into three different hats, and they draw one expert boater, one intermediate boater, and one beginner boater at random and form teams of three. Each team has 2 full minutes to rack up as many points as possible. You can put two people in the hole at the same time if you would like to try to get more points faster. The trick is to try to give everyone a list of moves that they are strong at so you can maximize the variety score. After the teams were named everyone spilled out into the parking lot for a friendly game of 4 square. In my mind this is Wausau! The whole boating community gathering in the VFW parking lot after a long day of boating to keep on playing.

Sunday morning brought bad weather! The organizers did a great job of working with what Mother Nature gave us. First we had the boater cross. We got to use the same awesome course that was created last year, but this year you were required to use the boat that you competed in during the freestyle event. This was a great equalizer; however, there were a few boaters more focused on the boatercross than the freestyle so they surfed in their river running creek boats so that they could have the advantage with speed. We ran heats of 5 boaters with the top boater advancing on to the next round. We had well over 50 boaters race! After two preliminary rounds I found myself in the start eddy with a significantly longer boat sitting next to me in my Mon-Star. I had my work cut out for me to say the least. Fortunately I got a good start and had the hole shot for the first dive gate. Carnage ensued behind me and my long boat friend was taken out. I was able to power my Mon-Star to the finish for the win. Team runs were next and my team did not go until later on so we got to watch the show for a bit. The team runs are so much fun to watch 3 people attempting to coordinate a very dynamic event. We our time came our team just concentrated on having fun and attempted to do the moves that we assigned to ourselves. I was fairly sure John’s team had edged us out for the win, but once the scores were posted we walked away with the win. Thanks to my teammates for a great time. Right after the team event wrapped up we went straight into individual finals. The top 10 from preliminaries advanced on and we all got 1 ride, so you had to make it count. Only the top three got one more ride to see who would come out on top. At this point we were starting to see some very tired boaters! Once again I was fortunate enough to win my semifinals round. In the last ride for the final three I ran out of gas! I went from scoring the highest ride of the competition n semis to dropping almost 100 points. John McConville took advantage and walked away with the win. Every competitor then helped with the breakdown of the event and the awards ceremony was held. It was a spectacular event, and I need to thank Julie, Cole, Mike, Ashley, and Chad for making it happen. I was ready to take a long nap by the time I got back to Reno.

For additional pictures of the event take a look at Nora Whitmore’s blog

Later ; Colin

Team JK

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