Monday, August 22, 2011

Midwest Freestyle Championships 2011

Jack Blomquist

This weekend was the 2011 Midwest Freestyle Championships! Sunshine and smiles was the theme for the weekend! Paddlers from all over the Midwest converged to throw down and party.
Jonathon Sisley

Brian Tupper

  Each year representatives of Jackson Kayak hold a freestyle clinic for beginner to advanced paddlers. The three top instructors, our own John McConville , World competitor Colin Kemp,  and Brian Tupper teach two days of nothing but freestyle.  The results from the clinics that are reflected in the competition are phenomenal! New kayaker, Nick Pritchard, learned to cartwheel just the day before competition in John McConville's class and nailed first place in the beginners class!
John McConville
Colin Kemp
   The competition in general has benefited greatly with the addition of these classes.  Giving substance to dreams of "going big".  This synergy has brought more and more paddlers each year to Wausau Whitewater to try their skill against some of the best!
Bryan Zlimen

  This year our own John McConville took first place in the men's expert division for the fourth time in a row! Colin Kemp, a world competitor, took a close second with our own Craig Esposito taking third!  It was no easy feat to be at the top of the expert division this year.  Each paddler in the expert division had it in them to place...they were all that good!
Craig Esposito and John McConville
Jake Ament

  The women's division was dominated by Melissa Grover who won first for the second year in a row.  Christa Gornjak taking a close second and Ashley Knutson taking third!  Ashley is also the director of Wausau Whitewater!  She competed in many classes all while keeping a huge event perfectly organized! Thank you Ashley for all you do at Wausau!  Full results can be found at Wausau Whitewater Park.
David Conrad

  The freestyle team event was a hoot again this year with a whole lot of creative paddling!  And lots of carnage!  The boater cross did not have a heat that didn't have boaters upside down and colliding!  The competition was a hot battle in both these division!
Ashley Knutson
Christa Gornjak
Melissa Grover

  Part of the magic of The Midwest Freestyle Championships is the community.  Tradition has found us every Saturday night in the parking lot of the VFW playing Four Square late into the wee hours.  Someone always rides the plane at the VFW in ever creative ways despite the chain link fence surrounding it.  It's always friendship and  and smiles when we all get together!
Kristoffer Kuhn
Komtanoo Pinpimai
  Behind the scenes the very backbone of Wausau is at work.  Our hard working team of volunteer rescue swimmers, led by Dan Conrad, are expert at swift water rescue.  Pulling paddlers and gear out of rapids preventing many injuries!  Many others generously donate their time to man the tables, scribe, erect the structures and keep events moving smoothly.  In a word all these volunteers are AWESOME!  Thank you so much for what you do!
Diana Kittelton
  Familiar faces returning each year contribute to the magic!  Chad Kehn returns every year to judge the competition.  Fair and precise in his judging, he lends a continuance of stability.  We are lucky to have Chad as our very own judge!  A big thanks to Chad!
  Mike Schroeder was in attendance to witness the joy his design brought to all the paddlers.  He has worked hard for years to create a world class whitewater park.  His design is creative, beautiful and innovative! We can only be blessed that he has dedicated his time and talent to the park.  Thank you Mike!!
Kevin Haro
Zack Porod
Ben Peters

  The end of the day on Sunday brings the tear down and then the drawing for door prizes! Top prize this year was a Jackson Star!!  Bob Menard won the drawing for the pretty red kayak!  Every paddler won something in the drawing!  Amazing!  A big THANK YOU! to all the sponsors who help put this on!
James Illiff

  The saddest part of the day is the goodbyes. The apex of the summer is the Midwest Championships and it's over.  Hugs and farewells.  Sweet memories embedded to relive in dreams and day dreams.
  I posted four volumes of photos on Facebook.  Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and The finals. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sign of the times...

Earlier this spring MN DOT had placed a big sign on the bike trail at the Vermillion River just a few feet from the bike bridge.  It was held down with some sand bags.  I shook my head as I knew it would soon be thrown in the river by the local kids. It lasted on the trail for longer than I thought but then I saw it half way down the cliff hanging on some trees.  I thought, "At least it's not in the river."  It stayed there quite a long time until one day when I entered Triple Drop I saw it right in the middle of the river. Emergency eddy out!  I pulled it out and stuffed it up against the cliff and a large rock where hopefully no more kids would see it.  I called the Hastings Park office and reported it.  Barry said he'd have the park crew go and pull it out.  They couldn't find it.  I offered to paddle down to it and tie a rope on it but things never came together and it didn't happen.  Then I found the sign stood up right next to the river...the kids had found it again!  So I stuffed it back in it's hiding place and hoped it would last until the clean up.  I had horrible visions of that sign getting lodged in RR Hole causing serious injury to any paddler who would flip there.  Yes I am a Mom so I worry!   Powershading into that sign could take your head off!
The rope throw
   Everything happens for a reason.  I had a flat tire this Friday after paddling the Kettle River.  Great friends helped me get the tire fixed but I was on edge all weekend since my spare was ruined and the garage man said it wouldn't last long.  I planned to pick up a set of tires before heading back home on Monday morning but I was only able to get one for my spare.  I stopped in Hastings and made an appointment for 10am the  next morning.  Then I made a quick stop at the Hastings Park office to sign the papers for the Rapids Riders Vermillion River Clean Up.  Kristen wasn't there so I said I'd stop back in the morning after I got my tires changed out.
Pinned down by water

On it's way up!

   The tires were on in no time at all and I headed to the Park office to sign those papers. I saw Barry while I was there and asked about getting the sign out of the river.  I told him I had time to kill and could do it right then.  He got the maintenance supervisor and he told me he'd meet me there at noon. They looked to be a couple of muscular men so I thought they would be able to handle hauling it up the 89 feet to the bridge.
  I paddled down and pulled the sign from it's hiding place.  The boys threw down a rope and I tied many, many knots making sure the sign would not come loose on it's journey to the top.  I told the boys to pull and they did.  But the sign just flopped into the river and was pinned by the water.  Ah well...  I waded in and tried to pull it out.  It wouldn't budge!  While feeling around for purchase I found a 1 inch hole at the top of the sign.  I ran the loose end of the rope through and then using my weight on the rope slowly pulled the sign up and free.  I yelled at the men to pull again while I held the rope end to keep it from swinging into the middle of the river. They were able to suspend it half way up when I saw they had tied it off.  They had to call in 2 more men to help with the job.
  My part being done I hopped into my kayak and surfed Triple and then hit up Donut Hole.  It was low but fun! I walked up, changed and went to thank the men for getting it out.  I found out they had only gotten it as far as the bridge and couldn't get the legs past the bridge.  They had a forked branch they were trying to push the rope with.  I moved the branch down low under the chain link fence and stood on the branch to hold the sign away from the bridge.  The sign came up and we rocked it over the fence and onto the bridge.  High fives and smiles all around!!
   The effort put in to bring this sign up was a lot.  It required gear, knowledge, team work, and 5 people to remove one sign.  It took us an hour in all to get it out.  This is just one piece of garbage in our favorite play river...just one.  Rapids Riders has been cleaning this river for over 10 years now.  In those years we have literally removed tons of garbage from the Vermillion River and hauled it up the cliffs by hand.  Bikes, appliances, scrap iron, light posts, and even one motorcycle. The effort is tremendous but rewarding to be able to show a little love for this river.  This years Clean Up is Sept. 24th at 9am.  Meet at the falls pavilion.  This year we have many sponsors that have donated door prizes.  Jackson Kayak,  Midwest Mountaineering, Immersion Research, WRSI, Shred Ready, Seals Sprayskirts, KIND Bars, Werner Paddles, Friends of the Mississippi, Adopt a River, 3M and more coming!  Always a good time!
Everything happens for a reason...I'm glad I got the flat tire on Friday!  Without that (bad) event the sign would still be in the river!
This is one BIG sign!