Kayaking 101: What’s a space Godzilla? | VailDaily.com

Kayaking 101: What’s a space Godzilla?

TMG rodeo practice 1 KA 5-31-07

VAIL ” A space Godzilla isn’t a B-rated Japanese horror flick.

A McNasty isn’t anything you’d find at a fast-food restaurant.

And there are no phonyx monkeys to be seen at the zoo.

Welcome to the world of the kayak rodeo, which begins today at 1 p.m. in Gore Creek in the Vail Village as a par of the Terva Games. There is a method to the madness. It’s sort of like how penicillin was invented.

“All these moves, kayakers just tried them,” said competitor Bryan Kirk, who started paddling when he was 8 in the Potomac River back east. “We found we can do them. We found out that it was physically possible.”

The hole

Kayakers have 60 seconds during the rodeo competition to perform assorted tricks. They start by paddling into the hole, the area where Gore Creek runs into the underwater rock features that create the terrain park.

The idea is to perform as many tricks in the allotted time while staying in the hole, though the current of Gore Creek tends to sweep paddlers west toward International Bridge.

If a trick is landed outside the hole, and the paddler is flushed downstream, he or she not only loses six points from the judges, but the precious time it takes to get back into the hole.

“I think you’ve just got to put your move to the right spot and you’ve also got to be aware when you’re doing your move of recovering when you land,” perennial contender Tanya Faux said. “Pushing yourself backwards up stream every time is very important, and leaning forward.”

The tricks

We’ll start it simply. A spin is exactly that. A loop is a forward somersault. A cartwheel is a vertical spin. Then, we leave it to last year’s women’s winner, Emily Jackson.

– Space Godzilla ” “The loop, you go straight up and it’s over the front. In a space Godzilla, you jump up and twist yourself sideways. You’re doing a cartwheel in the air.”

– McNasty” “McNasty is when you’re backwards. You’re in a backsurf and you pull your bow underwater. So then you’re going to be spinning around in a 180, so you’re facing back upstream, but your bow is going to be under the water already. So you’re going to be vertical and you’re going to be in a loop. You’re backwards and then you’re forwards and then you’re jumping into a loop.”

– Phonyx monkey ” “The phonyx monkey is a cross-bow pirouette. What happens is that you cross your paddle to the other side of the boat and it will pull you into a vertical twist, a 360, and at the end you go into the loop.”

To the casual viewer, the $64,000 question is how do rodeo competitors stay alert when they’re flipping themselves underwater?

“I guess it’s a hard one to explain,” Faux said. “When you see gymnasts, you probably ask the same question. ‘How do you know where you are mid-flight when you’re in mid-somersault?’ It’s just body awareness. It’s the same thing in kayaking.

“You become aware of where your body is and what the water is doing. It’s something you need to experience before you do it again. You make a mistake first, learn from the mistake and then you can hopefully not repeat that mistake.”


There are a few extra moves for which to watch, according to Eric Jackson, Emily’s father and the defending men’s champion,

“In a spot like this, in a touchy-feely spot, meaning that there’s not a lot of forgiveness, if you make a mistake, it’s easy to flush out,” Jackson said. “So people will be doing another move which is a split wheel. A split wheel is when you start a cartwheel in one direction and then do a twist or a 180-degree twist and go back and cartwheel the other way. It’s like a flip with a twist.”

Also expect clean cartwheels, vertical spins without the use of the paddle.

Despite the best-laid plans and all the practice Thursday trying to find the sweet spots for tricks, inevitably some will be flushed out of the hole. There are still opportunities for points with a rock splat, a technical term for planting one’s boat vertically against International Bridge, or a rock rotation, a 360 against an outcropped stone in Gore Creek.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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