Definition for Kayak :-)

Kayak [] n. 1. an oblong banana shaped boat with a hole in the bottom from which the occupant dangles. Can be propelled the wrong way up by experts. (definition courtesy of Pete Knowles)
(And I've got this one from Chris' Kayak Lexicon)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bayfront Blues Fest Duluth 2009

From Friday to Sunday 5&6 of us were chillin' at the Blues fest. The music was awesome, the weather was not. Above is from Sunday, when it finally remembered that it was August, i.e. Summer. Friday was cold & windy, Saturday was wet and we eventually got back to our tents completely drenched. Must buy rainsuit!

My top three favorites were Otis Taylor, who performed a very innovative brand of Blues. Charlie Musslewhite and The Mannish Boys. But overall there were very few bands to be sniffed at!

Here the crew:

Laura & Frank. It was Frank who got us all out here.

Tom & Courtney.

The clouds were going by foot that day.

"Flags" to find your way back:

One of my favorites, a toilet plunger and trailing roll.

"Life is the Blues."

Pink Floyd.

Summer in Minnesota.

It may rain but we don't budge!

That special face in the crowd:

Now that's more like it! - Sunday:


Liz joined came on Saturday night and caught a bit of the rain in the night but the good day at the festival, using the umbrella for shade.

The vendors village:

That kid and his dad in front of us were a riot!

The sun is setting on the Festival:

The crew again after shedding a few layers:

Camping. Frank has scouted us a nice ground and site a hop skip and jump from the festival. And it's Monday morning and we are breaking tent.

The weather nearly wore us down, but in the end it was a really nice weekend!
Thanks to Frank for organizing and Tom for driving and doing most of the cooking!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Open Canoe Nationals and North American Championships

At Wausau Whitewater

I am glad Peter asked me if I could go to Wausau and volunteer with judging the Open Canoe races. It was an awesome weekend and I got to see pretty much the length of the course over the three days with amazing boat talent and skills. I got to see a lot of poetry in motion. I just think it's beautiful, like art is beautiful, when you get to see such deliberate paddle strokes and boat control.

I got a bit of a treat on Saturday because I was posted right on "Big Drop" (above: Christopher Stec VA) , which gave me a chance to see a lot of the course at once and since I was looking after the gates below the drop I got a chance to take pictures while still having my eyes intensely peeled on the gates I was judging. (I saw one of the more experienced judges take the camera out, when it didn't interfere with their duty. She is also a boater and was competing on Sunday, so I figured it's gotta be ok to do it with good judgement.)

Eli Helbert VA. He's intense, when he's paddling, but you'll see him goofing around after the races in a series of pics further down. Fun!

Brian Heikenen WI sliding down Little Drop.

John Floberg WI in tandem with ? towards Little Drop. Look at their boat tilt. I had no idea what those open boat canoers can do in a surf wave until I saw John surfing if up at the open boat put in last year! It was a short canoe either. That made quite an impression on me and I recognized him right away in the competition!

Mary Hirsch-J. with David Hirsch WI into Big Drop.

Jennet Fisher and Roy Hunter CT in a boat they built themselves and which has quite a distinctive shape and a little tail "thorn" at the end. Not sure if the tail is to make it 14 ft and eligible for that class or if it has some practical reason, but I did see them catch a gate with it a couple of times on exit, which was a bit of a pitty. Otherwise the boat worked really well for them and they reliably caught very swift lines down Big Drop to efficiently spin into an upstream gate on river left.

In the bow the youngest competitor at 4 years old. Can't remember who the dad in the stern is, but he safely powered and steared them through the course, which is quite remarkable from sitting in the stern and not in the center. Definitely a croud pleaser!

Holding on tight down Big Drop. I was told that he was in charge of some stearing down the course coached by his dad telling him when to stick the paddle in. 4 years old. I wonder if we'll see him back again doing great things on the water on his own.

Chuck Wendler PA. He's got a bent shaft paddle and apparently also does a lot of marathon paddling. I was amazed by the deliberate propelling of the boat. Quite distinct and very precise. Definitely a joy to watch! And a really nice and humble person.

John "Kaz" Kazimierczyk NH. You can see it doesn't take a good fotographer to capture his distinct paddle action. Efficiency is the word. He uses a lot of slicing action and only takes the paddle out, when he is crossing over. Also very precise and fiercly swift as well. Mesmerizing to watch! Enjoy the series.

Brandon Salayi MT (stern) and Ben Schmidt MT. Brandon Salayi is a cheeky bugger who took the time to call out to me after catching a pole and swearing: "You didn't see that, did you?" Brandon, I did see it and if I hadn't, your "Oh s**t!" would have given you away :-) Those guys are competing, but they are still having fun. I wonder if the Germans are having as much fun. The sport is much bigger in Europe in general and I remember watching a lot of televised whitewater slalom when I was little. When a sport gets bigger it often makes the competition so fierce that the joie de vivre is taking a back burner. That's a shame so let's enjoy that part of it still being a bit of an esoteric niche sport here in the US!

More Brandon and Ben. Look at their boat tilts in the series!

John Flowberg soloing, I am pretty sure the canoe I saw him surfing.

Another mixed OC2:

And here Amy Vickers and Pete Steffe MN:

I know Amy as a smashing kayaker and a great instructor from last year's Women's Whitewater Festival at Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort. If I remember correctly she said that she just started to OC last year!
Her husband Pete was one of the organizers of the competition and I am sure has put a lot of time in to make it happen with a bunch of other folks and his wife Amy.

Tina and Tom Wood WI Daughter and Father Team:
Tom and Tina Woods are pillars of the Wausau whitewater and slalom community. Not only in organizing the annual Ray McClain Slalom camp but also with many volunteer hours and with giving a good example like here on the course. Tina has been recovering from a shoulder injury which still didn't keep her from teaching at the camp and also to the boy scouts this year. I hear from Valery that the camp was awesome again this year. I missed it, but I had a great time last year and hope to do it again next year.

Baling: A privilege of open boaters. Apparently it's worth it for boat control and for weight, I have seen several stop and take the time to do it.

Martin Talbot Quebec. He's easy to recognize by his daughter's little green dinasaur stuck on top of his oragne helmet.

Hailey Thompson WI and ? Hailey is the rising star in Wausau. She hauls from Steven's point and her mum Jean is proud to show a picture of here as a baby in a canoe. She is only of junior age but is in the Women's National Team for whitewater slalom in decked canoes and kayaks.

John Floberg WI (stern) and ?

Eli Helbert VA goofing off after the race. Keep scrolling. He's going to have a buddy juggling in the bow any moment now :-)

Competition at the hole. And Eli has picked up his bow juggler.

Getting up...
And juggling! I saw three balls...
Impressions from a team run. Those are fun. The competitors have to finish within 15 secs of each other.

Awards time! High fives, happy faces and hugs! (For results click here.)

Some of the volunteers I got to work with:

Sitting on the left: Bruce, who introduced me to the art of using the transmission equiment for the first time. After that it was pretty easy.
Standing in the middle: Peter Buckley, who ran the judging of the competition. He's an Official and is invited to judge all over the globe. As is his wife Susan who I know from the camp. Very nice people, incorruptable and supportive of their fellow paddlers. They do both compete in the Buttercup races themselves. One of these days I'll try one myself. I hear the Last Ditch race in September is very beginner's friendly.
Left with a straw hat: Jennifer, Bruce's daughter.

Middle: Val who is a very new and very enthousiastic whitewater kayaker.

On the far left: Natalie, who boats herself and competed on Sunday with bronce success! She is also on the ACA board.
Right: One of our valiant safety guys!

Val's husband Paul, who is smiling, because he just caught me taking a picture of him. He says of himself that his wife drags him along after her paddling kicking and screaming. :-) I hope to see them at Jim Falls one of these days or if not there, then somewhere else on the water!