Monday, August 24, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time there were three, extremely hot chicks who decided to run the St Louis. Lori, Natalie, and Nora. One by one they gathered in the evening at the Outpost for a little wild wilderness camping. That night they drank a little Summit and watched shooting stars while talking about things only three, extremely hot chicks will talk about. Morning came with a beautiful mist over the reservoir and the promise of a gorgeous day. We drove to the put in and saw a wonderful couple standing by the river. Becky and Dan. Dan looked at us and said Becky, I have to paddle with those three extremely hot chicks. Really, how often do you see three extremely hot chicks on a river? Becky said she understood and told Dan she would wait for him at the Outpost...even if it took forever. So three extremely hot chicks and Dan paddled off down the river. We came to the first wave and played a bit. We soon saw three more men paddling so hard you would have thought the devil was following them in a raft. They slid into the eddy and said that they had heard way over in the small distant town of Jim Falls Wisconsin that three extremely hot chicks were going to paddle the St Louis. They drove many miles because really, how often do you see three extremely hot chicks on a river? So Chris, Daniel, and Mike joined the three extremely hot chicks and Dan to paddle the Louis. While we hung out at first wave, a cute green frog popped up between Natalie and Nora with a wistful look on his face. Being extremely hot chicks he realized that there was no getting any lip from either us and he swam slowly away. Extremely hot chicks don't fall for the "Really I'm a handsome prince routine". Soon a raft with three "domesticated" men and a wife and children on board came floating by. They looked wistfully at the three extremely hot chicks and thought "Really, how often do you see three extremely hot chicks on a river. They floated on down the river. Then the three extremely hot chicks led the men down the river. Several of the men were newbies. Some without a roll or float bags but they did very well on the rapids. The three extremely hot chicks had the only playboats so we played the eddyline in the canyon. Dan's boat was a bit of a cross over so he was able to get some enders in also. We paddled on to Electric Ledge. Natalie and Nora looked at each other and said how do you want to do this? Rock, paper sissor's, and Natalie got to lead. Natalie and Nora styled down and waited for Lori to follow. She styled it down and hit a roll just for fun at the bottom and so the three extremely hot chicks waited to see how the men did. One by one they came down and they all did very well!! We were happy. We paddled out the last set of rapids and prolonged the day by playing around Upstream Downstream for a while. One last hurrah with the seal launch in the reservoir and we were back at the Outpost. Becky was waiting for Dan on the shore. Next time Becky will paddle with us and there will be four extemely hot chicks on the river and really how often do you see FOUR extremely hot chicks on a river?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Midwest Freestyle Clinics

Last year started the tradition of having freestyle clinics the two days prior to the competition. Colin Kemp and John McConville taught some great clinics last year that were so popular Wausau added a third instructor, Brian Tupper, to accommodate the increase of students. Last year my instructor was Colin. I paddle often with John so I was secretly hoping to have the "unknown factor" of the new guy, Brian. I got my wish. Brian has all kinds of mad skills and a very calm personality that enables a paddler to relax and work on skills. Patience being one of the most important traits for a whitewater teacher, Brian had it all. In my class I watched the students visibly improve within the first day and a vast improvement over two days. I would rate Brian as a top notch instructor and I was fortunate to have him. If these three instructors return again next year I believe that Wausau is going to be known for the Freestyle clinics also. Plus the addition of Bear Paw doing the intro to whitewater course I can easily see an influx of many new paddlers to the sport. With these types of instructors I can see so much growth across all levels of paddling ability. It's interesting to see the different needs of different levels of kayaking. I believe it gets to a point that for a very experienced student the technical ability of the instructor is just an afterthought where as what is needed for an experienced kayaker is a coach that can motivate the mind. Someone that knows how to break past that barrier in a paddlers mind to push them to believe the next step is possible. Even with teaching beginners mind control/fear control is important. Bottom line is instilling confidence in your student. That said I can confidently say the beginners that took the classes were confident enough to throw down at the competition. Next year it is going to be even bigger. My only regret is that I wish they would have the classes on Wednesday and Thursday and have Friday as a rest/practice day. Just my two cents. Hint, hint.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Midwest Freestyle Championships

The Midwest Freestyle Championships is the premiere kayaking event in the Midwest. This is Cole Jacobson's second year chairing the event and as his ideas have grown so has the Championships. The changes made this year encouraged many new kayakers to give it a try. The beginner class was huge! Cole's idea to combine men and women in the beginner, intermediate, and expert class really hit the mark. Women who would never even consider competing felt comfortable joining in the fun. The woman's division doubled this year! When I count the women in the beginner class and other women in the sport I am confident we can double that amount next year. All in all the women really rocked the park. The skill level of the ladies has increased dramatically! It was awesome to see the ladies throwing loops and Godzilla's. Next year who knows...maybe there will be a few attempting a Phoenix Monkey or more. This years top women were Crystal Gustin, 1st place, Melissa Manger, 2nd, and Amy Vickers 3rd.
The men's division was incredible also. With more and more pro boaters coming to Wausau, the expert division was redefined. Many paddlers from last year dropped down to the intermediate division leaving the very cream of the crop in experts. The judging was precise in the expert division with no charity given for "almosts". Yeah...we saw some good sh...uh, stuff in that class!
The intermediate class was great to watch...some of the boaters will easily go to expert class next year. Top men this year were John McConville, 1st place, Craig Esposito, 2nd and Colin Kemp 3rd.
Boatercross was wild as usual. Lot's of flips and drama but no injuries. Colin Kemp taking 1st and Bryan Zlimen taking 2nd.
Team Rodeo had a new twist to it this year also. Teams of three paddlers were determined by drawing one name from the experts class and two from the rest. Although I miss my team from last year it was fun to take a chance in the drawing.
This year Cole had provided commemorative medals to all the participants. The top place finishers were awarded belt buckles. Very nice. Very very nice! I'm looking forward to collecting many more. Maybe even a belt buckle! This year the swag drawing was huge thanks to Jackson Kayak, World Kayak, Midwest Moutaineering, Bear Paw, Whitecap Kayak, and I'm sure many more. Melissa Manger won this years Jackson kayak. I was very happy to get a Level 6 shorty dry top. I had been shopping for one since this spring.
The fun didn't stop when the water turned off and the sun went down. There were movies to see and beer to drink. Four Square and Hoola Hoops in the parking lot. Blues Festival on the island. Sunday paddlers service under the tent. Even all the pooches were having a great time hanging out.
Many thanks to the City of Wausau for hosting this wonderful event. Huge thanks to all the people that work so hard to put this on. Cole, for chairing the event...the Wausau Whitewater board, Diver Dan Conrad and his rescue swimmers...awesome! And the most special thanks to Julie Walraven without who Wausau wouldn't be Wausau! Check out these photos from Bryan Koops at and be sure to check Bryan Zlimen's blog on the right. Next year promises to be even bigger!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Double Wausau

Exciting weekend! Wausau is really becoming a destination mecca. Paddling, climbing, biking, restaurants,micro brewery's, fairs and festivals. Summer in Wausau just rocks! I went out Friday night after a 12 hour shift thinking that the rain was over...nope...I ran right into it. I had visions of all the sensible paddlers staying home and dry and thinking I may be the only one camping in the rain that night. I was glad I was wrong...very wrong. It looked like the start of a great party. I was up early on Saturday and the first one on the course. Lots of new faces from even further destinations. Montana being the furthest. The weekend went well. New paddlers getting out and spreading their wings. The classes that Bear Paw are putting on are wildly popular and what a great place for instruction. The bottom part of the course after this last change is perfect for newbies. Saturday night we had an incredible storm. I found myself wishing I could watch it from Rib Mountain but I settled with watching from Toaster Flats. Some people catch lightning bugs...I caught some lightning. It was pretty tricky but I worked it out. Sunday was another great day of paddling. I paddled until I was just about too tired to roll and called it a day. There's a lot of excitement in the air...The Midwest Freestyle Championships are this coming weekend and everyone is practicing hard. Over the years the regular paddlers have gotten so's great to see. It used to be a loop could win it looks like you'll have to pull a Phonics Monkey out of your pocket to win. There's a few that can do it! Little Drop can be a fickle place. Your roll needs to be quick or you'll flush down stream. Ah well...wish me's seems lately I've lost my mojo but after three hours tonight on the Verm I have it back. I love my Verm! Keep praying for rain!! It's working!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sturgeon Falls

Burgess and I in need of a playboating fix headed to Sturgeon Falls this last weekend. The level was dropping fast so we didn't know what to expect when we arrived. Someone upstairs gave us a break and the level jumped Saturday to 45,000cfs giving us the precious eddy access. The weather was raw with wind whipping up the lake into whitecaps and blowing spray off the tops of the waves. Burgess and I had the place to ourselves. The waves were fun. Surfers just had a very small foam pile on it but Chamelion and Triple S was in. Later in the afternoon Trevor and Paul from Winnipeg came out followed by a paddler from Saskatchewan and a crew from Thunder Bay. Even with occasional wind driven rain we were having fun. Three board surfers joined us. It was great to see them rocking the waves also. I really have to give it to them paddling those boards out there. The surfs were long but the paddle back for them was REALLY long. Definately a great group of people on the island! The next day Burgess and I had to do the early morning shift. The weather was so nice it hurt to think we only had a few hours to play. The lake was glass to paddle across but unfortunately during the night the level had dropped and the eddy access had left. We carried up repeatedly to get as many surfs in as we could. I can only pray that we ALL get more rain soon! Here, there, and everywhere! I've been to Sturgeon now four times. Each time my curiousity is piqued about the rest of Canada. I've met paddlers from several of the Provence's and love hearing about their country. It's a place I hope to explore more.