Freestyle Nat’l Champs Wrap-up at Kelly’s WW Park in Cascade, Idaho; Wright First for Men, Emily Jackson for Women
The North Fork downstream had its chance with a blow-out extreme race a few weeks earlier. Now it was the North Fork’s chance to show freestyle kayakers what it could offer. And it offered plenty at the U.S. National Whitewater Championships July 6-8 at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, on what competitors called “possibly the biggest loop spot on Earth…”
In all, 80 competitors showed up for the event, which doubled the registration from last year. “We’d like to thank the 80 competitors and over 5000 spectators who came to the Freestyle Kayak National Championships in Cascade, Idaho,” says organizer Devon Barker-Hicks, who paddled to a third-place finish. “We had fantastic water, and the top feature was ideal for huge moves, while middle feature was perfect for the open and cadet classes.”
Indeed, in a river park designed by Gary Lacy of Recreation Engineering & Planning, the course proved a resounding success. Says fifth-place finisher Clay Wright: “It’s possibly the biggest loop spot on Earth. The top feature is the biggest and baddest — the best part is dropping the bow, reaching for the stars, and throwing the biggest loop of your life.”
And competitors used it to their full advantage. After soaring to first place in the men’s semi-finals, Jason Craig, fresh off his back injury, came roaring back to the competitive circuit, landing in first place after the semis. He ended up settling for second in the finals behind a high-scoring ride by first-place finisher Stephen Wright (it was the highest scoring ride to date in his career), taking home the top $3,000 prize.
Eric Jackson took third, followed by Nick Troutman in fourth and Wright in fifth.
For the women, Emily Jackson took the podium after her debut on the slalom scene, narrowly missing the Olympic slalom spot, followed by Ruth Ebens in second and Devon Barker-Hicks in third, Erin Clancy in fourth and Haley Mills in fifth.
In Open Men, Tory Wilson beat out Daniel Dixon for the top spot. For Junior women, Laruen Burress bested Sage Donnelly in the finals; and for the junior men, it was Alec Voorhees on top over tanner Griffith. In OC-1, Jeremy Lauks out-duled Dane Jackson and Nick Troutman in third.
There was also an inaugural SUP Cross event, letting racers have some fun on the lighter side of competition. Haley Mills took first over Emily Jackson for the women, with Boardwork’s Mike Tavares beating out Nick Troutman in second and Ken Hoeve in third.
But it was the hole that stole the show. “It’s a big frothy Rock Island/Upper Railroad sort of thing with steep surfer’s right green wave shoulder you could throw wave tricks but only if you are careful,” says Wright, himself coming off a stellar season. “An occasional bubble tossed the unsuspecting off the back even when front-surfing, so many competitors chose rides that used the wave to get to the top of the foam pile so they could accelerate down the foam and up the green. Sometimes it resulted in a bit of a beat-down before you could establish control again. It made for entertaining rides.”
“The only thing that gets the crowd going more than a beat down is when they drop the bow into the green, tap the cemented in boulders that created this man-made feature, and launch the boat into the stratosphere.”
Other- Idaho River sports
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