Monday, May 24, 2010

Canoe U 2010...First Weekend

Rapids Riders is a club that is committed to teaching whitewater kayaking and canoeing in a safe and fun environment. Each spring we lead a fresh batch of newbies out on the fast moving waters of Minnesota. I have been with Canoe U for four years now.  The first two as a safety boater and this is my second year teaching.  One of the most rewarding things about teaching is seeing the growth of your students.  From Saturday morning on the lower Kettle to Sunday evening the growth as a kayaker was immense.  The joy on their faces at the end of the day on Sunday says it all.  Kayakers are a special breed of people.  Bonded together through the love and challenge of a river.  At the end of the weekend, nine students understood the experience of running a river.

This year I'd like to highlight the ladies!  We had a very nice group of ladies and they all were amazing women!  Each one taking the challenge of water in her way from bold to determined...all were successful!  My goal as an instructor is to make it easier for women to learn, and most importantly, stay with whitewater.

Now the men...whooo boy are they fun to teach!  We had a fun group of men with also that were not shy about running those rapids!  Reports from the other two groups confirmed that all the students were rocking the river and having fun.

The growth doesn't stop there.  Looking at the instructors and safety boaters many were students from the previous years.  Amazing kayakers now and awesome friends! Check out Bryan's Blog for his super photos!

In two weeks the students will come again to the rivers for their graduation weekend.  Another solid two days of running rivers.  It just doesn't get much better than this!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Kettle River Padlle Festival Number Four!

Tony Vavrika started the tradition of the Kettle River paddle Festival four years ago.  Since it's conception the water level has been varied from high water down to this years low water of 340cfs.  Still the highlights of the weekend are the down river race and the rodeo.

Saturday morning the weather was gloomy but it didn't dampen the spirits of the many paddlers that showed up.  My crew did a playboat run in the morning just for fun.  We found play still on Blueberry Slide and various spots down the river.  We turned around and went back to the top for the downriver race. As we waited for the racers to arrive at the put in we saw John Abraham pull up and we knew who first place was going to be.  John is an amazing racer from Duluth!

It was decided to go in heats separated by one minute.  They asked for the serious paddlers who considered themselves to be the fastest to go in the first heat.  Four young  men and I stepped forward.  OK...I what if I'm left in the dust.  I came to race. We started out in a group and I was in the middle.  As we approached the first drop I slowed to let the men boatercross battle it out for the narrow line down. I'm not a fan of boatercross racing.  I stayed with the pack after that never losing them as I had originally thought. I ended up taking 4th in the fastest kayaks!  Even at low level there was carnage.

 Back at Robinson Park we were greeted with Surly beer, I love their coffee beer, and more and more paddlers were rolling in.  It was time to head to the Gaslight bar where a great chicken dinner awaited us. I have to say I love the Gaslight!  They have the best Bloody Marys and always have great music! Tony as always puts on a very fine event and the swag table was heavy with great products from the sponsors. The paddlers were truly Blessed to be provided for by those sponsors!

Everyone outside NOW!  The fireworks  were to begin!  I am not exaggerating when I say these are THE BEST fireworks I have ever seen. The first year I saw these fireworks the lady next to me had tears in her eyes!

By then I was pretty tired and was thinking my tent sounded pretty fine but the movie was starting.  The Call of the River by Kent Ford.  I thought I'd watch a bit and then head back but I was hooked from the first minute.  This is an amazing film documenting the history of whitewater paddling.  The old footage and photos of some of the worlds pioneers in paddling!  See how many you can recognize.

Sunday dawned with sunshine and warm temps!  Beautiful!  Rodeo day!  We all put in and paddled down leisurely.  We had many new paddlers and with the river low it was the perfect time to mentor them down.  Hell's Gate is the last big rapid on the river and our destination was at the bottom.  The hole was friendly and the competition just as friendly.  Graeme Bloor taking first place.

This years low water attracted many new paddlers as well as the experienced.  As I looked at who I considered experienced I saw that it was many Canoe U alumni that have gone on to become solid  paddlers.  Some becoming instructors as I did. The community is also growing with more women coming into the sport. Also Ivan Bartha from the University of Minnesota St Cloud came down with a large crew of new and experienced kayakers and brought various boats for everyone to demo. Predominately a variety of Jacksons but also some C1's and canoes.

Thank you Tony for another great Kettle Fest!  Also a great big thanks to the city of Sandstone and the sponsors that make this a spring tradition!  You can check out all the information at  Kettle Fest  I'm looking forward to next year!!