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This was the fifth time I attended the Teva Mountain Games (TMG). This was also my most favorite to date. Whether you’re a paddler like me, or a mountain biker, a runner, a climber, whatever – these games are the games you need to attend. It is a carnival atmosphere that is well run and managed. There is something for everyone here, including really good food! I had the best pizza I have had since I lived in Durango (Home Slice), in Vail it is Vendetta’s!
Day 1 – Homestake Steep Creek Challenge
TMG started with a big bang for me. We rolled in Wednesday night (we meaning my Dad, my friend Max Karlsson and myself). We were camping in the Lion’s Head parking RV parking lot next to Jackson Kayak’s motorhome, but it wasn’t long before EJ woke everyone up by firing it up and heading up to Homestake Creek. We followed in the morning at around 7:00am.
Everyone was kind of freaked out that I was going to run Homestake. They said I had to do some more practice and had to talk to Clay Wright beforehand. I went and did some practice with Pieter Kasban on the creek. Let me tell you, the launch ramp is fun! You get in your boat and slide down this ramp and drop into the river. You have to stick it and pivot really fast to make your turn downstream. Everyone was making a big deal of how hard it was. Guess what? I’m a slalom boater -- it was easy for me to stick it and pivot.
That’s where the fun begins. The upper section of the course is very tricky and every move is a must-make move. If you get off of your line, you’ll probably have a very bad day and either get banged up on sharp rocks or maybe even pinned. I missed a sweep stroke on the left and got pushed sideways into a rock and held for a couple of seconds. I was able to push off easily enough, but it was an eye-opener. Still, as hard as the upper section is, it is a lot like doing a slalom course – except the gates are rocks and are not hanging.
I felt pretty good so far, but I did flip coming off of Sunshine. I was trying to boof hard left and got a little worked and rolled up and backed out of it. Anyway, it was at this point I decided I was not on my ‘A’ game and decided not to race. I talked to my Dad and to Clay and told them my decision. They really supported that decision and that’s pretty cool. Next year, I’m going to win it!
Day 2 – Pro Freestyle Prelims
Okay, sometimes freestyle isn’t working for me. I was pretty impressed by the work they did to get the hole going. But I was still pretty nervous as it was really obvious that the rocks were “there”, and I did crack my helmet a couple of times. I have a new combination move I have been working on and somewhere I remember my Dad telling me I needed to inform the judges and explain it to them so they could score it. Guess what? I forgot and I did not get scored for it. Hey! I’m only 11 and I forget stuff sometimes! Lesson learned.
Day 3 – Downriver Sprint
This year I started doing Wildwater racing, a lot of Wildwater racing and training in real DR boats. It has paid off. Although I think the original start time was 8:00 am, they were delayed in sorting out boats and everything else (safety boaters etc.). I knew I was going to have a big advantage going into this race. I wanted to make podium, but I also knew that was going to be hard. I’m only eleven and these guys are a lot bigger and stronger than I am. I decided to paddle an old Dagger Blast. Mostly because I knew how fast the boat was and that I could paddle it fast too. I ended up coming in 13th overall, last year I was 45th overall. So that was a big improvement and I think just maybe I have a shot to win it next year. It was a fun race and I enjoyed paddling hard.
Day 4 – Last Day: 8-Ball Boatercross
This was the best day by far. It was sunny, hot, and a great day for some of the best fun that can be had in paddling at TMG, the 8-Ball Boatercross. I really only wanted to be an 8-baller, but they wouldn’t let me (at least not until much later), so I signed up for the event to compete. It turns out this was a great choice. I was in Heat 4. I don’t remember who else was in my heat, but Eric “EJ” Jackson was. I remember thinking that I always seem to end up with EJ in my heat, either in freestyle or Boatercross. I’m not complaining, but heck – How do you beat a guy like that? He’s one of my biggest boating heroes, and it is hard to beat him! I decided I was going balls out though.
They gave us the signal to go and I took off. I was paddling like crazy and as I was going down and blasting by the 8-ballers I realized that I was wayyyyy ahead of the pack and wayyyyy ahead of EJ. I was beating him down the course! I looked back and saw he was paddling like crazy too. Well, that ended up costing as I dropped into the hole near the finish line; I got nailed by Chris in his Dagger Green boat in the chest and neck. It didn’t really hurt, but it kind of knocked the wind out of me and I got pinned up on the wall. I didn’t make the qualifier. But I have to look at it like this, I beat EJ down the river; he knows it and I know it and TMG knows it! That was pretty cool! The coolness didn’t end there…
Day 4 – Icing on the cake
They finally relented and let me be an 8-Baller for the Quarter-finals, Semi-finals and finals. I was so super stoked I felt like I was flying through the air. Ken and Clay said I had to be really careful and not get hurt in front of the crowds.
Seriously, this is 8-Ball Boatercross! Yes, I knew I could get hurt and you know what? I wasn’t worried. I appreciate their concern, but I am a lot tougher than they know. I got in a lot of great hits and I took a few hits. But all the time I know I was smiling, this was fun. I think Ken and Clay realized I am tough and I am not afraid of anything. It is all in good fun and I respect every boater out there. River people are the best in the world.
Peace out – SYOTR.