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Stephen getting the thumbs up to go

Friday was the prelims for the Freestyle event on Gore Creek.   Low water on Gore Creek (240 cfs) was a challenge for Clay Wright- organizer of the Freestyle event.   He had to figure out how to make a hole at this super low water that was worthy of having the international event, or cancel the show.


With the help of three pieces of 4/8 plywood, lots of rope, and some good old fashioned effort and ingenuity we turned the bridge drop at “International Bridge” into a difficult but workable hole.    Warm weather helped after that by raising the water each day by a small amount.


Prelims was quite interesting to watch, as  some of the senior men got zero point rides, but we also had a couple of 900+ point rides.    The women cut down to 5 and the men to 10 for Saturday’s Semi-finals (men) and finals (women).    Stephen Wright won prelims with 1600 points for two rides combined, with Dane in Second,  Matthiew Domoulin, Pringle, and Dustin Urban in the top 5.   Nick Troutman, Greg Parker, Bryan Kirk, and Jordan Poffenberger (he was in a C1).    I was 9th in Prelims (Ouch, but still made it, Whew!)   After prelims downtown Vail turns into a big party scene with concerts, Teva Parties, and other company parties around town.     Some of the athletes are done by elimination and consider Friday the “Loser Party” round 1.


Waking up Saturday morning early to be ready for the 8am start of the downriver race called the “Downriver Sprint” isn’t easy.   The Freestyle Semi-finals start at 11am, so rarely does any freestyle boater do the down river race.  You can’t train for the freestyle if you do the downriver race, not to mention that the 20 minute race at 8,000 feet will tire you out.   I have registered for this race every year but decided on Saturday morning to skip it.   This year I sucked it up and managed to get in the truck with Mike Dawson and crew and got to the start on time.     My start wasn’t until 9:08 and then I had to shuttle my boat back to the start for Mike Travares to use (his boat that I was borrowing)  Under normal circumstances there was plenty of time for his 9:47 start for me to make it.


This race was going to be my first ever run down the upper section of Gore Creek.  I would have to read and run for the fast lines.   It was going well in the beginning as I think I choose the right lines 90% of the time and was moving the boat well.   There were safety and camera crews at all of the rapids and it was clear that I was on the course going the right way.    I was pacing myself to prevent lactic meltdown and was going to blow it out when I was a few minutes from the finish line.    Mike Dawson explained the finish line to me as “just below your RV” and my RV is in Lion’s Head, downstream of the freestyle hole by about 5 minutes.    I came into Vail cruising along and there was quite a good group of people cheering me on at the covered bridge above the freestyle hole as I paddled by.   I raced through the 8 ball course and through the hole and heard my name being announced on the PA by Dan Gavere.   I picked up the pace around the corner and figured I could go hard for the next few minutes to the finish line.   It got really quiet downstream of the hole and there were no more safety boaters in the rapids and no more cameras.  I figured they must all be at the finish line.    I was getting lactic and too tired to keep up the pace and went around one corner after the next, thinking “where the hell is the finish line!”.     I kept it going the best I could and was out of town before I knew it and headed down towards the Eagle River.  I was very concerned that I missed the finish line already, but was more concerned about stopping before it after all of that effort in racing for the past 40 minutes.   Finally the rapids starting getting steep and choked up and it was clear that they would not be having the race in them.   I found a bridge and got out, alone.    I walked up to the road, my arms dead tired, and with nothing but a cup of coffee in me, I was dehydrated and dizzy.   I started hitch-hiking on the main road with my kayak and wet gear.  I had another issue-  my shuttle to take me to the top was not going to be looking for me there, and Mike was waiting for this boat to race.   After about 15 minutes of walking up the road, I got to a construction site and convinced a nice guy named David to ride me up to the start in the construction pick up truck.   When I arrived about 15 minutes later,  Mike Dawson, the last guy to go, just pulled out of the start and Mike Travares was waving his hands to me to run fast.  I ran his kayak up to him he got in and started!     I felt really bad to have delayed his start.  They allowed him to start at the end, about 20 minutes after his scheduled start time.    I told him that I would split any prize money I won with him for causing him this stress.


It turned out that I got third place- only 4 seconds behind second, and 11 seconds behind third with a 23:01 to the “1/2 way point” in my race and the finish line for everyone else.   Next time, at least I know the race course and will race a 20 minute race, not a 40 minute one!    Mike Dawson won, followed by Jeremy Rogers, and then me.    Full results here:


By the time I got a ride from the ABC Sports Crew from the delivering the boat to the start and back to the hotel it was after 10 am and the semi-finals start at 11am!  I was super tired and my lats were sore.  I was also hungry, thirsty, but felt too sick to eat.   I got my gear off and went down to the GNC booth and asked what they had that I could use to help me recover quickly and have some energy.  I got their Power Shake a protein shake and I could drink that, which was ½ of the battle.   I drank my shake and then got me freestyle gear on.    This cut from 10 to 5 was going to be hard.   The top 10 was stacked!   Current world champion, Pringle from England,  Matthiew Domoulin from France who was 2nd last weekend at BV with big rides, Stephen Wright who won prelims and has won here before, Dustin Urban who has won this event 5 times in his history, Nick Troutman, who won the 2009 worlds and has been at the top 3 at most events, Dane Jackson who won last weekend and is on fire, and the list goes on!   That is a tough finals to make!


I didn’t have any practice in the hole Saturday morning as it was time to compete by the time the race was over and I was dressed and ready.    I manage to get in and loosen up my lats, and drop into the hole for a ride.  It was clear that the water was colder and I needed a scull cap on!   I ran up and got my scull cap and back to the river for my semi-finals rides.    I was the second person to go after Jordon due to my 9th place finish in prelims.    My routine was to do an “entry McNasty” then Split phonix, into cartwheels and splits for combos, and then my loops, and an orbit at the end.    My first ride was a 720 point ride (better than my best 600 point prelims ride) where I got everything except my entry mcnasty.    I watched the others do their first rides and after first rides I was still in first place in my heat.    On second rides, I thought I did better but must have still not gotten my entry mcnasty and didn’t improve my score.   Greg Parker had a great ride and came in at 760 points, 40 points ahead of me to finish up our heat.  I was now  in 2nd place out of the first heat of 5 and the only way I would make the finals is if I beat 2 of the paddlers in the second heat with my 720 point ride.   Since it is reverse seeding, the second heat had the highest scoring paddlers from prelims.    After First rides I got knocked down from 2nd to 4th place, with Dane, and Dustin beating me.     After their second rides, Stephen had a good ride (1st to go in his heat) and knocked me into 5th place.   I now had to watch as Pringle (current world champion) and Matthiew from France were going.   Pringle flushed on what was otherwise great Phonix Monkeys and Mcnastys and then hit the rock hard and was rejected on some other moves, flushing out fast and downstream upside down.   He was not going to beat me on his second ride.  Then it was Matthiew going and he started off with a sweet split/phonix combo, but flushed, and then it kept getting worse as he was rushing and missing moves, and also flushed out upside down on a couple of moves.   I couldn’t believe it.  I made it into the finals in 5th place!    Nick didn’t make it to finals and it was a bummer as he normally does so well in the competitions, but Teva Games has been one that has eluded him three years in a row.


Immediately following Semi-Finals I went to the room and Kristine brought me back some cheese pizza from Pazzo’s Pizza.   My first meal of the day and I was starving, but still could only eat ½ of a piece of it.   KC, Dane and others finished it off quickly.    Then my family arrived.   My aunt Jackie, uncle Bob, cousin Sherry, and her kids.      I was super fired up to have them here to visit with again.     We went over to Blue’s restaurant for them to eat and I ordered French fries but was still not feeling like eating again for some reason.    The ABC Sports film crew found me there and asked if we could do another interview with Dane and I before finals.    They have been profiling Dane and I competing against each other since the creek race.    We did the interview and finished just as the storm clouds blew in.   Finals were scheduled for 4pm, but the rain started at 3:30pm with lightning and wind.    Clay delayed the competition for a 4:30 start.    The women were first to go.   Nick, who was finishing up JKTV Episode 6 (six months already!!) needed the intro filmed and got Dane and I to do it as we were putting in for the big finals.    The rain and wind stopped as the storm passed and the sun peaked out again.    What an awesome feeling to be in finals with Dane again here at Teva Games.    Last year he was there as well, where Dustin won, I was second, and he was third.


I got to watch Claire O’Hara’s first ride which was a 660 point ride!!   She was destroying this event with big moves!!   Courtney Kerin was in 2nd with 330 points until the final ride where Haley Mills had a great ride and bumped Courtney into 3rd place, followed by Adrienne, and then Elaine.


I was the first to go after women’s finals and started above the bridge again.  Going for my entry McNasty.   I got the thumbs up from Clay, waved to Kristine and blew her a kiss (tradition) and then dropped in throwing what I thought would count and going straight into a split phonix, some cartwheels, loops, orbits, etc.. and was fired up as this was my best ride yet.   The score came up at 840 points.   Stephen was next and went ballistic and got an 1190!!   That score in this hole was amazing!  What started off as a potential cancelled event due to a hole you couldn’t do anything in, was ending up proving that you can make just about any hole work if you are willing to learn to deal with rocks and challenging set ups.    Dane went and got an 800 point ride, while Dustin was a 700, and Greg was in the low 400s on his first ride.    I was in second place after 1st rides.


On second rides, Dane nailed his ride with a 1140 point score, but still 50 points shy of Stephen’s 1190.    I was now in third.  Dustin and Greg still only at 700 and 500 points.  My second ride was terrible as I missed my entry McNasty by falling on my head and it set the stage for a bad ride.    I was sitting on my first ride of 840.


On Third rides I decided to start below the hole and do my right phonix first (I was struggling with that move to the point that to this point I have never actually gotten one in practice yet!)    I got the thumbs up and entered into the hole with the crowd screaming, PA blaring with two announcers bantering back and forth, and the TV cameras pointed straight into my face.   I went for my right phonix but missed it.  I kept moving and did my left splitwheel into a left phonix and nailed it, linking into catwheels and a split the other way.    I did some good loops, and an orbit and the buzzer was about to go off as I heard them counting, 3,2, 1…  and I threw my Right phonix at the buzzer and nailed it!!  Sweet!  My score came up as 920.   Not as high as I was hoping, I must have missed a move in there somewhere, but still my best ride of the competition, and on my final ride!  Stephen did his third ride, but didn’t improve.  Greg did this third ride but stayed at the 550 mark and stayed in 5th, which was his first ever Teva Games finals.   It was the first time his dad wasn’t there to watch, which was too bad as he would have loved to see Greg compete in finals.    Dustin was next and was coming off of a win last year here.   He was still 200 points behind me and the last person who could knock me out of the top three.    He started off perfectly, but then bobbled in the middle of his ride.  I was still beating him until the final second of his ride as he nailed his right phonix at the buzzer.   It was going to be close….  The score announced and he got a 960,  40 points ahead of me.    Dane had one more ride to try to beat Stephen but missed his phonixes after getting huge, perfect Mcnastys.       It was a fun finals, with lots of unknowns and some great rides.   Stephen hadn’t won since 2009 here and it was great to see him take another win!


The top 5 scores are here: I am not sure where to find the complete scores for all competitors.   It was great to see that all of the top 5 competitors were in the Jackson Kayak Rock Stars this year!   Dustin Urban was playing around in the Jed and I was wondering if he might use that for the competition.   I was very happy to see that he preferred the Rock Star and clearly it worked for him.


The awards for the Downriver Race and the Freestyle were immediately following the freestyle finals.  I managed to get dressed quickly and run back down just in time to get on the stands for my third place in downriver.    After the awards my family all went to an Italian restaurant for a late dinner to catch up.    We got to bed late last night, but with only the 8 Ball event left this weekend, it should be all good.      I have my Zen 65 for the 8 Ball and it will be the perfect boat for that!



Look for an 8 ball update later…