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Any good competitor knows that you can’t control what your competition does, so you have to focus on your own performance.    I won my first two events in 2011 for Freestyle competition this year, before the Reno River Festival.   Reno is always a heated competition.     In the early days Jay Kincaid was the local favorite, and a beast to compete against here.   Now the local favorites consist of Stephen Wright (world’s bronze medalist in 2009), Jason Craig (World Champion Junior- 2009) and Ruth Gordon (World champion 2007, and World silver medalist 2009).   Reno is no stranger to top talent.    To make matters more challenging- add competing at the home spot for the these top athletes.       Jason Craig was out for this year’s competition due to his traumatic kayaking injury that he is recovering from and will be for some time.     We are hopeful that he will kayak again, one day, but don’t know when.   Stephen Wright had a minor muscle strain and took some days off prior to the competition, but certainly had no intention of holding back during it.

The competition week started off cold and the water was at 1,500 cfs when we arrived.  A perfect level for “#3” hole the spot that the organizers want to hold the competitions at.   At this level the hole is retentive and easy to move around and great for scoring big.  It is easy to paddle back into as well.     However, warm weather and 180 % snowpack at Tahoe meant that the water was on the rise all week.   Tuesday it got up to 1,800 cfs, Wednesday up to 2,000, Thursday up to 2600, Friday up to 2830, and Saturday over 3,000 cfs!     I trained on the “slalom channel” all day on Thursday thinking that there was no way they would hold the competition at the Number 3 spot as it was too diagonal and too flushy and not really “attainable” meaning that when people flushed it would be a long time to get back into the wave/hole.     However, I was wrong as Ruth Gordon, who was in charge of much of the organization of the event, hit the river at 6am on Friday with Emily and I in tow.   We went out with her to see where she wanted to hold the competition.  We followed her to the Number 3 spot and her position was that “if it isn’t terrible, this is where we’ll compete.”   I got in the hole and was able to throw loop moves, wave moves, and a couple of combos, but most moves were much more difficult.    I couldn’t say it was terrible, it was fun and clearly you could do moves in it.  It was set- we were competing in Number 3.

Prelims and Semi-finals were much like anticipated as Clay Wright, Stephen Wright, Dustin Urban, Craig Kleckner (Craig had a couple of good rides to get into finals in 5th)  Stephen won both prelims and semi-finals with one ride scoring over 1,000 points.   at 1150.

Finals:  Water is at 3,000 cfs-  Bands are playing loud in the park, Hobie and Jeff are announcing at river’s edge, and the crowd was estimated at 15,000 that day.   It was electric.

The Women went first and Emily and Ruth had an incredible showdown, with the local girl winning in the end in a very close battle!  See emily’s update for that write up.

In the men’s finals- Craig went first and had a 560 point ride a solid ride including an airscrew, McNasty, and more and it started things off hot.    Clay was next and had a 750 point ride really bumping up the heat already and taking the lead.   Dustin went next and had an 820 point ride- setting the bar HIGH and also taking the lead from Clay.   I went next.    My routine was:  Blunt/Mcnasty left, Huge/Clean Air loop, Huge Space Godzilla Right, Huge Space Godzilla Left, Air Back Loop,  Back Pan Am Right, air back blunt right, Back blunt left, Helix Right, Air Screw Right, McNasty Right, Phonix Right.     12 moves in 60 seconds on a diagonal wave that takes about 6 seconds or more to surf back to the sweet spot if you travel left on your moves.      I was fired up to paddle well and getting ready for the World Championships includes paddling up to my potential, putting down rides just like I imagine them to be, verses something less.

I peeled out from river left, and looked up at the judges on the way out, just after getting a good luck kiss from Kristine and Emily (from the other side of the river among the crowd).    I nailed my Blunt/McNasty on my first pass and stayed in the sweet spot and went straight into the Air loop- I made it huge and clean and stuck it in the sweet spot and looked up at the judges with “did you see that?” look on my face, hoping they remember to give me the bonuses.   I did my Space Godzilla right immediately by a short carve over and plugged my bow in fast.  My carbon Rock Star flew up high again and I kept my eye on the Judges around the entire flip and kept my head dry- which is a technique I use to both get the bonus, but also assure I get the most air.    I was still in the sweet spot and my routine was going perfectly so far.   I plugged a little too quickly for the Space Godzilla left and it didn’t go very high, not big enough for a bonus, plus I landed angled left and shot over into the dead zone and had to climb my way back- losing a good 6 seconds.   I got over and hit my back loop, back pan am, back blunt both ways, and then Helix after the 15 second buzzer.      I knew I only had a few seconds left and spun quickly into my right McNasty and it went straight over the top and big, I knew I was on my last 2 seconds and reached across my bow for the Phonix Monkey without looking at my position or clearing my eyes and pulled hard and dropped my edge auguring into the foam and throwing the boat over my head in good form.  Everything clicked, I thought and I was super fired up, fist pumping in celebration of nailing my routine at the buzzer and making my moves, except for the left space godzilla, all feel and look good.    It took a while for my score to come up as they added and re-added the moves.   I really had to go the bathroom so I got out of my boat and walked across the concert stage in front of the audience to get to the porta potty quickly.   By the time I got back and in my boat they were just announcing my score- 1480 points.  Sweet!  This is a big score for me, or for any event in a non-retentive, angled hole like this where the entry move isn’t really a good option, and the moves don’t come quickly.   I realized, however, that the missing 120 points was my missing donkey flip!   I totally forgot about it, somehow.

Stephen did his ride and had a huge ride as well, scoring 1350 points!    His air loops were rediculous and his blunt/mcnasty was incredible.

On second rides I went for an entry move but flushed over to the weak spot and had to climb back.    This ride went well after I got back to the sweet spot but missed my phonix right and backloop for 1,150 points.     Dustin Flushed early and was now in 4th place, with Clay nailing an incredible ride at 950 points setting the bar again higher for 3rd place.   Then Stephen went.   He nailed huge air on his first move, then blunt/Mcnasty both ways, lunar orbits, phonix right, helix, back blunts, Whew!  I am good at judging and adding scores and it came down to his huge bonuses, as well as whether he got the back blunt or back roundhouse.    I had him at 1450-1550 depending on how they judged his bonuses and back blunt move.    We waited and waited….    Boom!   1530!   Wow, huge score- 50 points more than mine, putting me in second place.   This is exactly what I wanted him to do so I could try to beat that score again and not just cruise.

On third rides- Craig was still in 5th after his final ride, then Clay did his but didn’t improve his 950.    Dustin went next and was on fire!  He nailed a huge clean air loop, and space godzilla, then a blunt/Mcnasty and then went the other way and started going off!   After waiting for his score to pop up… 1050!   Dustin pulled ahead of Clay bumping Clay to 4th and putting Dustin in 3rd.

I had one ride left and was going for fast and furious.   I nailed my first 4 moves faster than before and big.    My back loop was next and I went to plug but the wave greened out and I had to twist to the side to stay in the hole.  Then I tried again and did the same thing!   Shoot!!! Game over already- there was physically not enough time for me to beat 1530 but I tried and failed miserably.   950 points.    I missed four move attempts trying to go for it at double speed.     Stephen got to do a victory lap at his home spot.    He went for it as well but didn’t get his routine again.

Wow- awesome competition- very exciting for me and others!

I am happy with my performance even if I didn’t win this one.    That was my best Reno score yet at any water level.

I don’t know anyone who did video of the competition, so I don’t have any, but to get an idea of what Stephen looked like paddling in this competition, check out his Carbon Rock Star video….

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