Monday, July 05, 2010

Giant Slalom on the Green River

Jeff "Freight Train" Payne givin'er
This is my favorite form of racing on whitewater.  I love the technical nature of paddling harder rapids with gates hung that make you paddle places you might not have or even wanted to paddle necessarily.  In fact setting the gates makes a rapid that you may have paddled a hundred times a totally different problem because you have to look at it and paddle it in a different way.

Checking out the lines
Gate 1:  Go over drop backwards to the left,  Go into the parking garage on the right.

John set up a great course on a river that most of us know so well we can point out one inch water level differences on just about any section of the river.  The fact that he set up some moves that many of us had never done before was awesome.  Let me give you a run down.

Adriene focused in on Gate 1

The starting point itself was somewhat unknown.  The race started just below the Pencil Sharpener drop in a crack in the rocks.  Many of us have started here a time or two but its very unusual.  The thing that makes it more unusual is that its 5 strokes from there that you are dropping through the notch of Gorilla and headed for the first gate.

Yours truly feeling good about first gate little did I know what would happen next.

The first gate is the one that had every competitor focused, and a little nervous.  It was hanging in an eddie.  No big deal right?  The only problem is that this eddie was 3 strokes from the top of a big drop that lands on rocks, between rocks, and finishes in a river wide hole.  Top that with the fact that rumored changes in the currents around the drop that is Gorilla were leading to many creative lines including numerous backwards runs through out the spring and summer so far.  It was awesome to watch the focus come over every ones face at the start line.

Nice race bib rescue by Nate.  Thanks!

The next gate was the one that evaded the most paddlers.  It was placed just downstream of the speed trap below Gorilla and near the right hand wall.  The current coming out the hole is pushing hard into the eddie on the left thus making hitting this gate on the fly very difficult and nearly impossible to get from the eddie if you miss it the first time.  This gate lead to my demise on my first run.  I came off the drop in perfect position to move towards the right side of the hole and thus stay right as I came through the hole, but just as I was hitting the hole I angled a little too much to the right and the hole stopped me dead.  I had a millisecond to try to pull through but I didn't get a good stroke then I felt myself dropping back into the hole.  I tried to line it up for a good back ender that usually pushes you out of the hole.  I was hoping it would also drive me towards the gate just below but my freestyle background kicked in by accident and I threw my body back more like a loop than an ender and unfortunately I stuck it and proceeded to side surf, do another end, and then get pushed up against the wall where I gave up while face surfing and flailing roll attempts.  At any rate this gate was tough and in a second many paddlers were given 50 second penalties for missing the gate.  I was given a good solid ounce of humility.

Heres the beat down video from John Grace and LVM.
Shane Benedict caught in a rare moment of carnage from Lunch Video Magazine on Vimeo.

Now after a little set back like that there are a couple ways it can go.  It can all go down hill from there or you pick yourself up and go for it again.  First of all I was bummed because I knew I could have done well in this type of event.  After the down river part of the race I was in 4th and I knew my strengths were in the Giant Slalom.  So that was a bummer and of course I was not that psyched about swimming at all but after getting it back together I knew I had to go back up there to do my second run and see if I could actually make it to the bottom of the course :).  I was tired from the swim and my arms still felt the stress from the down river race.  So sitting at the top of the race course and looking back down the throat of the notch was not very high on my list of things I wanted to do but it was that thought of knowing it was something that I could do that gave me calm in that moment.  My second run went very well and it ended up tying for one of the  fastest runs of the slalom course.  

Here is the video of the 2nd run.

Shane Benedict cleaning up his run #2 in 2010 Giant Slalom. from Lunch Video Magazine on Vimeo.

That was a good feeling. 

So it was a crazy day.  The excitement of competition.  The nerves of challenge.  The expectations of performance.  The failure.  The dose of humility. The challenge of refocus and finally the contentment of pushing through.  It was a great day.  A different day than most but a great day.

Adriene coming into Gate 3.  You can see Gate 1 and 2 behind Lil A.

The Scream Machine gate, gate 3, was placed further left than most people run that drop.  It wasn't a scary spot but it did make for some shaky runs down Nies'.  The fast line was to go left of the gate then use the pillow currents on the left shore to push you across to the river right line at Nies' which lines you up for the 4th gate below the boof on the right of Nies'. 

Toby "Budget" McDermott riding Frankenjefe III into Gate 4.

The 5th gate was all the way on the river left side of the river from gate 4.  The tricky part about this gate was that it was possible to hit it while going downstream but it was very tight and only a couple people were able to clean that line.  It was much easier to clean going upstream from the eddie but the trade off was the speed downstream.

Sprinkle, smooth as ever, trying to sneak by the tricky Gate 5

After the 5th gate we had to drop down through Power Slide and keep it lined up for a tiny finish gate between the rocks in the middle of the river.  This proved to be one of the hardest parts of the course where numerous paddlers spent 20 or 30 seconds trying to line up the final move to stop their time. 

Dropping into the final move
Great day with great folks on the river.

There was also a sprint race as the start of this event.  Which seeded everyone for the slalom portion of the event.  We raced from Big Hungry (the put in) down to Chiefs' rapid.  It was about a 10 minute race and it was brutal.  The scores from the two slalom runs were 50% of the score and the sprint race was 50% to make the placings for the entire event.   Congrats to Pat for paddling beautifully and winning the event.

The entire results are here. 

Here are a bunch of shots from the event.  Thanks Betsy!

Thanks for pulling me out of the drink Nate!

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Green River Games: A summer camp paddling competition

Lots of Liquidlogic out there.

I got to spend last weekend with a group of camps from Western North Carolina.  They were all competing in the Green River Games a competition hosted by Green River Adventures.  The comp was for camps that have whitewater paddling programs.  They competed in 3 different events, slalom, down river, and team racing.  Woody and I did some surfing and stand up paddle boarding with them as well.  Inbetween races we coached and paddled with all the kids.  They were fired up to try anything new.

Remixing it up with Matthew Hilbish from Camp Talisman

There were 6 camps involved in the competition.

Congratulations to Camp Illahee (the only girls camp) for winning the first Green River Games.  

The other camps involved were:
Camp Carolina
Camp Blue Star
Camp High Rocks
Falling Creek Camp

It was awesome to paddle with all those young guys and girls. We did a bunch of surfing at the surf wave on the lower Green.  Everyone seemed to get a pretty good hang of it by the end of the session.  I also got to practice my Coupe surfing.  Woody had a bunch of Stand Up Paddleboards and when I saw him it was total chaos.  All the kids wanted to jump on the Versa Board.  It seemed to be a big hit.

How often do you blast and hang out with tubers at the same time.

Anyway it was an awesome day all around.
Hopefully we'll see even more camps out for next years Green River Games.

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