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Although I have been coming to Colorado to compete since 2000, this is the first year I made it to Buena Vista for the CKS Paddlefest. The altitude of nearly 8,000ft almost killed me the first day on the water – I was coming from sea level and acclimatizing takes at least a few days. Despite a lot of gasping for air, I could not have arrived at a better time to paddle in BV. A huge snow pack and warmer temperatures meant great run off on the Arkansas River. The play park’s home features were terrific and playing in the competition hole was so much fun. It’s no surprise that Dustin Urban is as good as he is with all this incredible play in his backyard. One of my favorite things about BV is that you can walk to the river from “South Main” if you stay there – I just love that.

The competition spot in BV definitely gave each paddler a chance to highlight the best of their paddling and put on a great show for the crowd – it was a super event. The women paddled really well – finals were a great competition. Emily and Courtney had big rides and Natalie really forced Haley and I to do everything we could in our rides. In the end, Haley and I tied score wise but because my second ride was higher than her third, I took third place.

Katie and Dustin Urban did a fantastic job running the event. It was also exciting to see how many junior paddlers showed up and how many women were in the open class. Having a look at what the future holds for freestyle is always wonderful to see. Finally, I was so pleasantly surprised to how many paddlers in general came to the Paddlefest weekend – super cool and fun to bump into people I had not seen in years from Chile, Sundance Kayak school in Oregon, and all over! In addition to all the great play in BV itself, Emily, Courtney, Juerg and I did a really fun run through Brown’s Canyon one day – it was beautiful and great to be back there after 14 years!
After Paddlefest, we headed to Glenwood Springs, home of the 2009 US Freestyle team trials to surf the big wave in town. The water levels were excellent when we got there and only kept improving. Once again it was a treat to be on a big, Nile size wave and share it with other paddlers, SUPers, and Surfers. All kinds of locals came out to surf and watch. The weather was gorgeous and warm compared to BV – even hot in the middle of the day and afternoon. Juerg was really excited to be surfing a big wave again and really enjoyed the 2014 Rockstar M on the feature, trying all kids of helixes and airscrews. French Team paddlers of Mathew D, Marlene and Luc arrived and showed the locals why living at Le Mallet is a how you can learn to really surf big waves super well. We spent two awesome days surfing there and then headed to Lyons.

As is customary on some of my road trips, Juerg and I took an unintended detour on the way to Boulder and Lyons and ended up following a very narrow steep canyon up and down into Boulder – an extra two hours added on to our trip but well worth it. The views were stunning and seeing how much snow is in the backcountry makes you think that Colorado will have a long water season. Being a mountain guide, Juerg was loving seeing all the big mountains, views, and snow, and was ready to head off into the backcountry to ski! Once we made it to Lyons, another place in Colorado I have never been, I was stunned to see the damage from the massive flooding they experienced there last September. There is still so much debris in and around the riverbed that runs through town – the river even changed its bed from the flood. Luckily, there were still good features to play on. The Lyons competition site consisted of two holes and a wave. The river was at a nice high flow and the Pro-competition hole proved to be quite challenging. On my first day paddling there, I spent an hour and forty-five minutes trying to have a ride!! I felt like I did not know how to paddle anymore! Luckily in the midst of my frustration, EJ came out and coached me on exactly where to drop in and what to try in the hole and I had a lot more success after that, thank goodness! Being tired and frustrated never helps you progress so it was good to get off the water feeling like there was hope.

The next day was supposed to be prelims but severe thunderstorms developed in the afternoon and the entire competition was put off until Saturday. The Saturday turnout for the event was great and so was the weather – we really lucked out. Both Emily and Sage paddled really well – it was inspiring to see especially knowing how tricky the feature was. So overall, the competition was really fun and challenging for me, and the town of Lyons was an unexpected pleasant surprise. A town of 2,000 people, Lyons is home to a great blues music scene, Oskar Blues Brewery, and great food at the Fork restaurant! Despite the damage to the town, the people seem to be incredibly resilient and positive and gave all the paddlers a very warm welcome. It was a wonderful weekend all the way around!