After I got back from the WildWater World Championships in Slovenia it was time for me to transition from WildWater training to freestyle training. I went back and forth from home in VT to upstate NY training on the Black River. There was plenty of rain this summer so most of my training was done at high water Hole Brothers which was “fun”, since it was a wave, but not really “ideal”, since the World Championships was being held in a hole.
I left NY on August 16th with Brook and spent the night at Lynn and Gary’s house(Lynn is Jeff’s cousin) near State College, PA. Lynn made an awesome panko crusted chicken dinner with sliced potatoes in a cheesy cream sauce and steamed broccoli. After dinner we had a small bonfire in the backyard with smores and freshly baked brownies. It was fun hanging out with them along with Molly and finally meeting Emily and Ryan. Awesome people, all of them. I woke up early the next morning and started the 10 hour drive to Bryson City, NC. On the way I made a stop at Sheetz and got a fresh-made buffalo chicken wheat wrap along with some Cape Cod Kettle Cooked potato chips and a plain seltzer. I arrived in Bryson City around 5pm and went to the Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground to set up camp before I went to paddle. The campground host, Terry, was an incredibly nice guy and was super excited to have another competitor stay there(Haley Mills was already staying there with her sister Clara and Clara’s husband BJ, more on them later). As I was setting up camp the rain started and it didn’t end for about a week! I finished setting up and headed over to the Nantahala Gorge to get my first training session in. There was already a bunch of paddlers there from around the world. I jumped in the water and had my first paddle in the hole since making the US team in April.
I got back late that night to the campground cooked dinner really quick, took Brook for a walk and went to bed. It rained hard that night and everything was damp. I checked the forecast and it showed rain all week. My intention was to tent camp for the first two weeks and then move into the cabin when Jeff arrived but I’m a princess and needed a cabin immediately. I asked Terry if the cabin was available and he said it was for a week and a half then I would have to move back out since it was reserved for 2 nights. That morning I met Haley’s sister Clara and brother-in-law BJ and their dog Judy who is 14 and dominated Brook who is twice her size. They invited me into their RV and gave me coffee and made me a delicious veggie omelette with peppers and spinach. It was great catching up with Haley since I hadn’t seen her since April and getting to know her outstanding family.
I dragged my tent, EZ up and all my gear over to my cabin and got sorted out and started to dry out a bit. My first week of my second World Championships in 2013 finally began. Open training was a little frustrating with so many paddlers trying to get time in the hole. People were taking long rides and paddling back into the hole after deep flushes (I may have done this once or twice myself early on). I then got so fed up with the wait and my ass going to sleep on me that I would take 2 rides and just get out. That’s freestyle!
Haley and I got word on Wednesday August 21st that our lightweight Mobius 49′s were ready. Thursday we woke up and headed to SC to the Wave Sport factory to get our boats outfitted to us by Hans Nutz, the designer. It was my first time at the Confluence building and it was pretty impressive to see what goes on the there. It was a huge facility and was awesome walking around while boats are being molded all around you. It was great seeing Hans again and he really did such an awesome job designing the Mobius. A big thanks to him for dropping all his other work to make us a lightweight version of the Mobius in time to practice with before Worlds. When we finished getting the boats outfitted to ourselves we headed to Asheville and ate dinner with Dave Fussilli, Team USA/Demshitz coach at this great mexican restaurant called Luck Otter. I had the grilled chicken burrito with rice and beans and a margarita on the rocks. Haley and I had big plans to paddle that night but by the time we got back to Bryson City it was like 10 so we bailed. Haley’s mom had arrived at the campground earlier that day and had brought homemade Lemon Angel Food cake. Haley brought me a piece before I went to bed, it was so delicious! The Mills family knew how to make me a happy camper and that was with food!
Next day at the hole in my brand new Mobius the line was super long but I took like four rides and felt really good in the boat. The Mobius 49 fits me great. My loops were bigger, cartwheels and splitwheels came around nice and quick, I was more retentive, and my phonix monkey had never been more consistent. I’m extremely happy with this boat! Haley’s family took care of me again. They showed up at the river with a picnic lunch and I joined them. We had chicken salad with spinach, peppers and tomatoes, bubbly water and OMG homemade rice crispy treats with homemade marshmallows that Mrs.Mills made! That night Haley, her mom and sister had a campfire and invited me over to join them. Brook and Judy (BJ and Clara’s dog) were finally friends and they poked around together. Remember the homemade rice crispy treats I told you about? Well we had the homemade marshmallows for smores and I’ll tell you they were the best damn smores I have ever had (sorry Lynn)! I will say that Haley and her family can come spend as much time in VT as they want! They took such good care of me!
Photo by: Haley Mills phone
Saturday August 24th was the Mystery World Championships on the Hiwassee River at this spot called “The Leslie”. I met up with Claire O’Hara and Dennis Newton from Great Britain and Motoko Ishida from Japan to caravan the 2 hour ride to the event. It was great getting to know Motoko off the river. This being my first ever Mystery event I didn’t really know what to expect. We got there and there was like 30 squirters waiting for the release water to get to the spot. Word at the put-in was this was the most attended squirt mystery event ever. It felt pretty awesome to be a part of it. I finally met Sarah Anderson who I bought my boat from (a super-sweet PS Composites “Shy Kor”) so that was fun. There were lots of rafts to take us down to the mystery spot. One thing that I’ve learned about squirting is that the boats can be hard to paddle down a river, especially a shallow one. I put my boat on a ducky with Claire, Dennis and Motoko and Brook and I made the 30 minute walk. I got to the competition spot about the same time as my boat. We had about 30 minutes to practice and learn the seam. I got a bunch of help from people on what to do but had a really hard time finding the sweet spot. I think there were like 9 heats and you get 5 rides. I’m new to this so bear with me about how it’s scored and what not. You get points for down time and that’s pretty much it but you get 2 rides where you get extra points for entering the seam differently, for example: if you went forwards each time you could enter it backwards. On another ride you change it up from using a paddle to hand paddles or just bare hands. Thats’ pretty much what I figured out on how the scoring works at Mystery Worlds. There were like 7 women which was pretty awesome and everyone was super friendly. Claire had like a 25 second downtime in the Womens class and won plus beating a lot of the mens downtime. I never got under I just spun around out of control on my five rides but had such a fun time trying to get under. In the mens class Pat Taft killed it with like a 42 second down time which was crazy to watch! After the event Dennis strapped my boat on the ducky and everyone floated down to the take out and I hiked back out with Brook and this super nice couple who were putting up with Claire during the Worlds. After the event we went back to a cabin that was rented by a bunch of squirt boaters and they had a mexican food truck come to the cabin and you ordered food and they had a bunch of kegs of free beer! I was so happy that I went to this event! I met a lot of cool people, learned a lot about squirting and got to eat mexican food out of the back of a truck, that’s a damn good day for me!
Trying to get under!
Photo by: Sam Voight
Sunday was the last day of open training and I took my two rides and called it a good training session! Monday was the start of team training and coaching. Every country had an hour of training each day and the squirt boaters also had an hour of training every day separate from the surface boaters. That worked out great since I had a chance to practice both disciplines. Stephen Wright, Dave Fussilli and Jeremy Laucks helped coach. The first few days of training we voted on one minute rides and if you flushed you were done. It worked great getting about 6-7 rides in an hour. I think it was Wednesday when we decided to do 45 second rides and if you flushed you got to paddle back in just like competition. We still pretty much got like 6 rides in and we stayed in the same order every day to make it easy. Squirting training was a little more hectic with 20 or more people in squirt boats at a time waiting in the eddy for their turn in the hole. It was really hard to just sit in your boat in the eddy and try not to get in the way of others. I’d be in a full on bow stall hanging on to Jeremy or Claire would be across my chest while my boat was under her boat. It was pretty freaking funny at times watching the chaos during squirt practice. Even with all the chaos it was enough time to figure out how to mystery move in the hole and do some technical tricks in the flats and in the hole.
Photo by: Philip Robert
August 30th arrived and I had to move out of the cabin (it had been reserved for the weekend by another group). Before I moved out I had breakfast with Haley and family again. We had coffee, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, wheat toast and I brought yummy banana nut bread that I bought from a women selling it at a little farmers market. After breakfast I dragged my EZ-up with help from Haley and tent back over to where I camped the first night and threw all my stuff in my car and then chucked it in my tent and EZ-up. I wen to practice and waited patiently for the day and night to be over because the next day Jeff arrived finally! It felt like an eternity since I saw him last.
I woke up, got ready, drove to the airport in Asheville, NC and Jeff arrived Brook and I were so happy to see him. Brook was crying and barking with the cutest high pitched noise. It made me all most cry but I didn’t. We gave each other big hugs and kisses and I felt whole again. It was such a relief to finally have him there with me. We drove back to the river so I could paddle at team training. After that we went back to the campground took Brook for a long walk and hung around for a bit before squirt practice. The next day Jeff met BJ and Clara and they hit it off as I did when I first met them. An amazing couple with lots of things in common with us, including a fundamental employment deficit. After we had coffee with those guys it was time to move back into the cabin. This was my 3rd time moving. We dragged all our stuff back to the cabin and settled in.
Monday September 2nd was the last day of country training. Opening ceremonies began that night at 6pm. It was so cool to be a part of another US Team. My first Freestyle World Championships was in 2009 in Thun, Switzerland and I came in 15th place at that Worlds. In 2011 I was a Judge at the Freestyle World Championships in Plattling, Germany. I didn’t make the team that year but got qualified to judge instead. In June of 2013 I competed for the USA at the WildWater World Championships in Solkan, Slovenia and came in 28th (Europeans are fast). Now two months later here I was at another Opening Ceremonies representing the USA at another Freestyle World Championships. It was such a great feeling being a part of the ceremony and walking down Main St. in Bryson City, NC and seeing my parents who I hadn’t seen since April. I ran up to them gave them both a big hug and was so happy they could come and be a part of this with me. My parents would love to come and watch me compete more but my mom takes care of my grandmother pretty much full time along with my Auntie Carmen (who took Jeff and i on an amazing Cayamo Music cruise in January) and Uncle Stephen so it’s been hard for for them to get away the past few years. I was so happy that they were able to come and be a part of this with me. A big thank you to my Aunt Carmen and Uncle Stephen for rearranging their work schedules so my parents could come. I wish they all could of been there but unfortunately it’s just not feasible right now. When the ceremony was over my parents, Jeff, Haley, BJ, Clara, Dave, Jeremy and Bren (member of the British team and Demshitz paddler) had dinner at the Cork and Bean. We had such a great time at dinner and had lots of laughs.
Photo by: Tracy Bennett Smith
And there it was the World Championships began on Tuesday September 3rd. The Jr Men and OC1(Open Canoe) went on day #1. I drove in to cheer on the boys that day. All the Americans made it into the next round. I paddled the river that day with Dave who was on a SUP. I wanted to just keep myself fresh in the boat since the Womens K1 was not until Friday. I found out that Squirt women had 40 minutes of training Tuesday at like 5pm so I stayed and had a great session. I really worked on getting my mystery that entire session and felt pretty good about it.
Lynda and Meg
Jeff’s mom Lynda and sister Meg arrived on Tuesday. We had dinner with them and my parents at the gorgeous cabin Lynda rented just a thousand yards from the campground. Lynda came to Thun in ’09 along with Jeff’s sister Marcy and had rented an amazing cottage for us in Lauterbrunnen in the shadow of the Jungfrau, and also came to Slovenia in June and again rented us a beautiful house in Srpenica, a tiny picturesque village just south of Bovec on the Socja river in the Julian Alps. You have developed a knack for getting to my competition venues and making them feel like home, thank you so much Lynda! Meg and Lynda made a dinner of hot italian sausages and peppers and it was delicious!
Photo by: Paul Trahan
I went to bed that night feeling ready for Squirt prelims on Wednesday. Being fairly new to squirt boating I had my expectations in check. I practiced quite a bit in flatwater and had learned to cartwheel, splitwheel, bow stall, stern stall, wash out, and bow screws. That was pretty much all I could do for technical tricks but I felt pretty good about them. I was in the second of 2 heats of women. 10 out of 12 would make it to semi-finals. I knew it would be tough to make it since I was so new but felt that if I got my mystery and all my technical tricks I had a chance. My name was called and it was “go” time. Stephen was with me on day one and told me to mystery first and then do my technical stuff. My first ride I didn’t get a mystery but scored some points on my technical stuff. The thing is in the ICF scoring system to score a mystery your head has to go under water for two seconds for it to count and if you stay under longer than two seconds you get more points. If you get a mystery to score it doubles all your technical points so that’s how you really improve your score so you want that mystery move to go. Before my ride Stephen gave me great tips on what to do to make sure I get my mystery. I had one more chance to do my thing. My name was called and I charged up to the hole, fast. At the last possible second before crushing the rock in the hole I turned sideways and pretty much window shaded the crap out of the hole and BAM I was under for like 4 seconds! I came up like “hell yeah!” and then paddled up to the deeper water and could hear Stephen yelling at me to do wash outs, cartwheels, splits and so on. My score came in and I was in 6th place with a combined score of 279. I made it into semi-finals! It was such an awesome feeling! After squirt prelims Meg made lunch for us. She made an awesome turkey sandwich on wheat with tomato and mayo, chips, bubbly water and fruit. I was starving and devoured the sandwich, chips and fruit!
Photo by: Tracy Bennett Smith
Lou and Barb
Thursday was the mens class and Jeff’s Aunt Barb and Uncle Lou arrived from Washington, GA. It was really nice that they made the drive to come and visit and watch me compete. We spent most of the afternoon catching up with them before Jeff and I had to leave to meet my parents out for dinner. We went to Cherokee and ate dinner at a Bistro in Harrah’s. Thursday was also a big day because it was the start of the NFL season! If anyone knows me I love me some football. The Superbowl Champion Baltimore Ravens (cough) opened the season up with a loss against the Denver Broncos. If you didn’t know that well now you know.
Friday finally arrived and it was time for K1 women prelims. There were 30 women, cutting to 10. It was going to be a hard cut to make since there were plenty of really good women boaters there. One thing I’ve learned from competing the past couple of years is to keep my expectations low. When I do that things always work out better for me. It may not work for everyone but this past year has really helped me just enjoy competing and when I enjoy competing I paddle way better. I was in the third heat and it was a stacked heat of women with Claire O’Hara from Great Britian (current world champion), Ruth Gordon from Canada (former world champion), Marlene Devillez from France, and Maria Noakes from New Zealand. The announcers called our names for the heat and we all paddled down to the hole. I was being silly paddling down and got stuck in this little pour over above the hole. It was outstanding! I could hear everyone cheering for me and I looked up at the judges stand and they were all laughing. I surfed out laughing pretty hard. It was a great way to start the competition that’s for sure. Jeremy Laucks was my coach and we talked about what I needed to do to make it into semifinals. We decided that I needed to do tricks to make it into semis. I had one ok ride for 223 points and one pretty good ride for 373 that put me into 5th place with a combined score of 596. I was happy with my results and now had to wait for 3 more heats of women to go and could get bumped out. After a long wait I was bumped from 5th place to 7th place but it was still enough to make it into semifinals! Yeah!
Jermey telling me to do tricks!
Photo by: Jeff Campbell
The Farringtons, the Cookout and the Jam Session
Friday night we had a cookout at Lynda’s. Jeff’s coworker Brian Farrington, his wife Leanne and his awesome family (sans Anna) had literally just arrived and came up for the feast. Also there were my parents, Lou and Barb, BJ and Clara, their great friends Eric and Laurie, and Haley. There were like 18 people there in total. We had Angus burgers with pepperjack cheese, hot grilled sausages, hot dogs, green salad, baked beans, incredible corn on the cob, these delicious coconut macaroons that Clara made, and some insane chocolate chip cookies that my mom had bought at a bakery in Cherokee. It was a really fun night. After dinner, Brians’ daughters Corrie and Amy broke out their Violin and a drum box, Jeff had his guitar and I had my bass. We played all the songs that I knew (which is like 7) and though the girls never even heard most of the songs that we played, they just jumped right in and killed it! It was so much fun playing along with a violin and drum sound. When we ran out of songs that I knew Jeff and Amy and Corrie continued to play a bunch more music. It was a super fun night and one I’ll remember forever! We named our band “Cabin Four” and plan on releasing a hit record soon. Corries’ boyfriend Calen will be our roadie. Corrie has a beautiful voice in addition to being an amazing talent on the violin. Amy played the drum box like a pro and then broke out her guitar and killed it on that as well. Talented young bunch! Inspiring!
The Farrington Clan!
Photo by: Tracy Bennett Smith
Saturday was a big day for me as I had decided to do a Sprint race for the WildWater US Nationals in addition to competing in two semifinals later that same day. I had brought my wildwater boat and my wing paddle with me but hadn’t practiced in over a month. I hopped in my boat and attained up to the race start. I felt a little awkward with my wing paddle which is a 205 60 degree offset straight shaft and my freestyle paddle is a 194 zero degree bent shaft. I usually don’t have much of an issue transitioning from paddle to paddle but that’s because I usually paddle my wildwater boat nearly every day. The past month I had only paddled freestyle to get ready for worlds. When It was my turn to race the timer said “go” and off I went. I felt like I was having a great race until I hit the top pour-over above the freestyle hole and missed my brace on my right side and was immediately upside down. I rolled up pretty quickly and finished the race but lost a bunch of time being upside down and then having to get the boat back up to speed. I’ve been racing for about a year now and that was first time I ever flipped my WildWater boat and rolled it. In a sprint race you get two runs but I decided to only do one run since I had to get ready for Squirt Semifinals which started at noon and it was already like 11:15.
I switched gear, got my squirt boat out of boat check and was ready to go. Jeremy was now officially my own personal coach, as far as I was concerned! He helped me get my skirt on and we were ready to go. In semifinals you get two rides, best one counts. We stuck with the same strategy of mystery first and then technical tricks. My first ride was great with a sweet mystery move and most of my technical tricks went well. I scored a 353 which put me in first place in my heat. My second ride wasn’t very good since I didn’t get a mystery. There was one more heat to go. I had to sit and wait to see if I made it into finals. Claire killed it taking first, Motoko took second, I was able to hold onto third going into finals. Fourth was Hitomi from Japan and fifth was Yoshiko, also from Japan. I was pretty happy that I made it into finals. It was time for Jeremy to compete, he finished in 3rd place going into semi finals in squirt. He had two good rides getting a mystery in both and getting a bunch of technical tricks and made it into finals in fourth place.
Hi Five from Stephen!
Photo by: Jeff Campbell
Saturday was a pretty long day. After squirt semis we went back to our cabin and I took a nap. It was finally getting close to semi finals. We met up with the family and had some pizza at this outdoor wood fired grill place at the Nantahala Village and then it was time to warm up and digest. The semis started at 9pm so I got in the water around 8pm to warm up and wake up a bit. I’m not a youngin anymore and am usually getting ready for bed around 9:30 so this was going to be an interesting competition for me. The place was packed! I’m pretty sure the bleachers were full of people. All 10 women were in the water and before the first heat started your name would get called and you would paddle down below the feature and answer one question from the announcer Cory Volt. After all 10 women answered our questions it was go time. It was going to be real hard to make it into finals with the 10 women who were in semis. I was fourth to go in my heat. My first ride was a 305 with a huge air loop, a phonix monkey, cartwheel and a shuvit is what I’m guessing was scored. My second ride wasn’t as good with a 233. I knew I wouldn’t make it into finals with a 305 since there was another heat to go but I was happy with my performance at my bedtime. I had fun and thats all that matters to me. The five women who made it to finals was Claire 575, Katerina 546, Hitomi 413, Ann 410, and Adriene 410. They all made it into finals with great rides but I won the dance competition in the eddy and I won getting stuck in the pour over, no one got stuck like me or danced like me.
I was so tired by the time we got back that night. I slept well that night! Jeff was a great husband and packed everything up on Saturday so we didn’t have much to do Sunday morning. Our plan was after squirt finals to start the 15 hour drive home. Squirt finals started at 10am and I was sore from the day before and pretty much the entire summer by that point. In finals we had three rides and the best one counted. My first two rides weren’t that great I had a mystery in my first but not my second ride. I was in fifth and knew I could get a better score than my 116. My ride was good with a nice mystery and some technical stuff and I improved it to a 253 but it was not enough to move up the ranks. I stayed in fifth place with 253, in fourth was Hitomi with a 280, Yoshiko 286, Motoko in second with a 603, and Claire in first with 1,153. It was a great honor to compete in finals with these women. I learned a lot about squirting at the World Championships and am excited to learn new technical tricks and improve my mystery moves. Hopefully I can make the US Team again in kayaking and squirting for the 2015 World Championships. In the mean time I will take proper dance lessons and improve my dance moves.
Jeremy and I waiting for my score.
Photo by: Tracy Bennett Smith
I had so much fun at the World Championships thank you so much to my family and friends who came to visit and watched on the internet. Thanks to my amazing sponsors Wave Sport, Shred Ready, Zoar Outdoor, Mitchell Paddles, NRS, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Watermans Sunscreen, KEEN Footwear, and Pau Hana Surf Supply. A big thank you to Stephen Wright, Dave Fussilli and especially Jeremy Laucks for all the help with coaching you guys did an amazing job and also to the Katich’s for being great Team managers. The biggest thank you goes to the best husband in the world Jeff for being so supportive of me and sacrificing sailing time to come watch me flop around in my kayaks!
I’m home in VT and looking forward to a Fall filled with creeking, freestyle, wildwater and squirt boating!
Hope you enjoyed the long read!
Till next time,