Area paddler chases his dream |

Area paddler chases his dream

By the end of this summer Ben Guska will have traveled virtually from coast to coast and crossed both the Mexican and Canadian borders.It’s not a bad way to spend his first summer out of high school, particularly when many of the stops during his journey include gnarly whitewater and perfect play waves for the kayaking enthusiast. “It is definitely (a good way to spend the summer) – to be able to go out and do something for fun and get by (financially),” said Guska, a standout soccer player at Glenwood Spring High School and the captain of the Glenwood hockey team in his senior year. “The way I looked at it, everyone has the option to go to college, but not everyone has the option to go kayaking around the world.”It’s not all loops, spins and rolls for Guska. He’s on the job as a professional kayaker.

“I guess that’s what they’re calling me,” Guska said with a laugh.Guska was recently named to the Wave Sport Kayaks National Developmental Team and is also sponsored by Head Trip Helmet and Stohlquist WaterWare. To give himself and the products he represents more exposure, he will compete in 15 events this summer – including the Teva Mountain Games, which began Thursday in Vail. Guska will also attend retail shows, and travel for video shoots.Guska entered on competition as a pro last year, but the Teva Games, because of the prize money and media exposure, will be his biggest event as a pro in his young career. The Teva Games is a multisport event similar to the X Games, but focuses on outdoor events that include kayaking, rafting, biking, climbing, trail running, adventure racing and even a mountain dog competition. With $50,000 in prize money and 10,000 spectators expected to attend, it’s worth the trip for most of the top professionals.”Teva Games is definitely the biggest one,” Guska said. “Pretty much all the pros in the country are there.”Close to home and on familiar waters, the Teva Games should be a comfortable place

Paddler: see page A17for Guska to launch his pro career. He also had some success at the event last year as an amateur, making the West squad and being on the winning side of the East versus West competition.This year Guska will compete in a pair of events. The rodeo event, Guska’s specialty, kicks off with qualifying at 3 p.m. today. The finals are slated to start at 11 a.m. Saturday. And Guska still treats the prospect of paddling against some of the world’s top kayakers more as a fun activity than work.

“I’ll be going up against the world champions and all that, but it will be fun,” he said. “I’d just like to move myself up in the ranks. It’s not all about competition, but about having fun.”As long as I don’t come in last I’ll be happy. A lot of people I compete against are friends, so it’s not too nerve-wracking. And they’ve all been at this point (in their careers) once too.”On Sunday Guska competes in the “8” ball sprint – a survival-of-the-fittest sort of race. The event is a 200-meter sprint with eight boaters starting together and four other boaters waiting lower on the river to knock the starters off course.Strategy for the “8” ball?”I don’t think there is a strategy,” Guska said.More information on the Teva Mountain Games can be found at http://www.tevamountaingames.comMore information on the Teva Mountain Games can be found at

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