Monday, August 1, 2011

2011 ACA Whitewater National Championships

 American Canoe Association has come back to the great Deerfield river this year to host the 2011 Whitewater National Championships. The Championships consists of 3 days of racing  involving canoes and kayaks in various distances. I registered for the sprint and long race.

white water national championships

Paddling buddy and US team wildwater kayak member Mark Wendolowski let me use his old and slightly abused Speeder. The Speeder is a fast downriver kayak, but made of plastic, it weighs almost twice as much as some of the other boats in the competition. I will have my work cut out for me to keep up with the other Kevlar and carbon glass boats

Mark paddling the Speeder

I have run fife brook countless times and maneuvered in and out and even sometimes backwards through the class 3 rapid known as the Gap. I have certainly run the river enough times to have eliminate any intimidation the rapid would muster in me. Yet as we paddled toward the start, never having used a longer boat in a class 3 rapid,  I began to feel my nerves and hips tighten up. As i approach one particular rock cropping, I tried to get comfortable and attempt an easy slot move between two rocks. Instead I got pushed by the current and pinned against a pair of rocks. With my fellow paddlers ahead of me I had to push back and forth against the rocks to get released before too much water pillowed up on the side and flip me upside down against the rocks. I got the boat out, but now my nerves grew. If this little rock is going to pin me, whats going to happen in the gap?

 The short race was a sprint in time trial fashion from just above the gap to below.  After a short minute from the start of the race, i prepared to pick my linefor the gap.  At last minute I decided to throw on my nose plugs figuring there was a good chance i would flip in the eddyline. I attacked the center line cautiously then made the right line move paddling hard and edging my boat into the eddylines. In a short time i was through. Normally as a playboater kayaker, we would spend up to an hour playing in the gap's waves and eddy lines. Today though, I was pushing for time. Racing long kayaks brings a different feel to boating, and i was loving the adrenalin mixed with the endorphins, like a red bull and vodka of drinks.

The following day came the long race. Mark was able to get some of the local "Loser Cup" paddlers to come out. The Loser Cup is another whitewater "non" race on the class 4 Dryway. Short but very technical, dangerous at times and swims can be much more painful.  With some practice, a new boat, and maybe a larger set of kahunas, i will be able to write a race  report in 2012.

The one advantage i have over the technical paddlers is a set of very large lungs and good working slowtwitch muscles. In other words, I am an endurance guy. Most of the kayakers went out fast, but over the course of the next hour and fifteen minutes, i was able to pick off paddler after paddler. I finished exhausted but in third place. Mark W finished first with a course record and local loser cup paddler and long time raft guide Mike Porter finished second.

                                                                On the Podium 3rd place

Mark Wendolowski showing how to find the right line through the Gap

Next years race will be held in North Carolina. Since writing the original report i have picked up a new whitewater racing boat. I wonder if a road trip this summer is in store.