Waves and raves at the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials | PostIndependent.com

Waves and raves at the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials

Tourism is Everybody's Business
Kate Collins
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kate Collins

Water may be the defining element of Glenwood Springs. Whether it’s the geothermal kind that springs from the earth’s core or the snowmelt that feeds the Colorado and the Roaring Fork rivers, much of what we love about Glenwood, its huge hot springs pool, Gold Medal fly-fishing, world-class rafting and kayaking, and even the emerging sport of stand-up paddle surfing, wouldn’t be available without water. It has long defined the geography, history and even the culture of our town. And it’s going to be celebrated in a big way this May, as we host the defining event for the best kayakers in the nation at our new pride and joy: the $1,000,000 Glenwood Whitewater Park, completed last year to the delight and rave reviews of the worldwide paddling community.

The U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials will take place May 30-31. Starting at 9 a.m. each day, 100 of the best freestyle kayakers in America will converge to vie for a spot on the national team to represent the United States in Thun, Switzerland, at the world championships this August.

McNasty and Phoenix monkey may not be household terms just yet, but spectators at the team trials will be treated to these and other amazing aerial tricks as paddlers compete. In freestyle kayaking, the goal is to throw as many different moves as possible in a 60-second time frame, and the higher the degree of difficulty, the better. Judges award points based on difficulty, variety and amplitude. The more moves performed, the more points a competitor can accumulate. Tricks will be performed on the g-wave, which can have flows ranging from 4,000 to 22,000 CFS (cubic feet per second). Some moves may also be performed in a “hole” on the river, depending on what the water flow is on event day. Other crowd-pleasing moves include the airwheel, darkside/Jedi flip, tricky whu, Pan Am and lunar orbit. Some of these moves can launch athletes and their kayaks inverted and up to 4 feet in the air.

World champs Eric Jackson and daughter Emily Jackson, along with junior champ Evan Garcia, have already clinched spots on the team and are not required to compete, but will mostly likely show off their award-winning style at the competition.

Along with whitewater action, there will be lots to do on shore with the seventh annual Yagatta Regatta. Happening in concert with the team trials but taking place at Two Rivers Park a mile away, the regatta will help welcome athletes and add to the festivities. This one-of-a-kind rafting flotilla and costume contest brings together the local whitewater community amid a raft race, micro-brews, food booths, live music and kids’ activities. The regatta will also raise funds for Operation Vacation, a nonprofit that provides all-expense paid weekend getaways for deserving soldiers and their families.

As a member of the small but enthusiastic Glenwood Whitewater Events Committee, it’s an invigorating time as the countdown of “the months until the team trials” is now just a few remaining weeks. The event-planning atmosphere reminds me of half-pipes and snowboards in their infancy in the 1980s. Glenwood feels like the epicenter of freestyle kayaking, and the sport is on the verge of something really big.

For more information on the U.S. Team Trials, to register for the competition, volunteer, sponsor, or see a tutorial on freestyle kayaking moves, go to http://www.glenwoodwhitewaterevents.com. See you at the park.

Kate Collins is vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

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