Whitewater fun and excitement in Glenwood Springs | VailDaily.com

Whitewater fun and excitement in Glenwood Springs

Sean Johnson
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Dale Shrul/Post IndependentMichael Palmer of Glenwood Springs gets a congratulatory fist bump after a qualifying run on Saturday. Palmer qualified for the semifinals in the Junior Men's competition at the 2009 Whitewater National Trials. The semifinals will wrap u p today and will be followed by the finals at 11 a.m.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado “Watching from the top of the hill, the crowd sees a kayaker push off the side of the Colorado River bank and drift into the whitewater wave backwards. The kayak tips down under the wave, and once or twice the kayaker is completely engulfed in the rushing water before being shot out the other side, ending the run.

With a loud roar, the crowd cheers on each kayaker from upon folding chairs, rocks, a small set of metal bleachers or by simply standing with their hand over their brow to block out the sun. The majority of the spectators sit on top of the dirt hill with light jackets, to battle the slight chill of the wind coming off the river, that slopes down and across the water.

A mother of two young children, Jessica Reed, stands on the opposite side of the river with her husband while holding her dog steady on a leash. Reed has only been brave enough to try kayaking once and has no desire to do it again.

She laughed while explaining that once is enough for her and that she would never try the wave.

“I’m smart and want to live,” Reed said. “I do not have enough experience to be out there.”

Music played in the background while two announcers explained different facets about the competition and kayaking itself. One thing they focused on was the fact that each kayaker really needed to tip the top of the kayak up as much as possible in the wave. This was the trick to gaining a higher score from the judges.

The Glenwood Whitewater Park, just a little more than a year old, is the reason the 2009 U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials came to Glenwood Springs. Volunteer staff member Chris Tonozzi was excited about the weekend events and said the day was running smoothly. The organizers have been meeting since last July to get the competition off the ground and running.

Tonozzi said that many hours were spent each night making phone calls and writing e-mails. He is hopeful for another competition next year and thinks the likelihood of that depends on how fired up people get about it this year.

The Main challenges in organizing the event were availability of space, and how limited the parking is at the Whitewater Park. Even the judge’s booth is halfway up the hill, in order to have a better vantage point to watch the kayakers.

Daman Martinez, who kayaks frequently for a hobby, was only there to watch the competitors, saying that he is not of the right caliber to be competing in the competition.

“I love being in the water,” Martinez said. “I can’t really pinpoint why I like it so much. It’s just the thrill of it.”

Martinez has not been in the water this year, however, as he is waiting until the water goes down a bit before he jumps back in.

This was just part one of the competition in which kayakers compete to gain a

spot on the U.S. Kayaking Team. Those selected will compete at the World Freestyle Championship in Thun, Switzerland in August. Saturday was the preliminary and semifinal trials, and each kayaker had four different runs to show the judges what they could do on the wave.

Many spectators were there to root on their friends and family who were in the competition. Felice Harlow was sitting in her folding chair and waiting to watch her niece, Emery Tillman, compete.

Harlow was excited to watch her ride the wave, adding that Tillman has practiced kayaking from New Zealand to Chile. Harlow has never kayaked but was very proud of her niece and waited in anticipation to cheer her on.

One competitor, Ryan Huebscher, does not expect to make the team. He has only been kayaking for a year and started practicing last week for the competition ” he put in five full days on the wave to prepare himself.

“There’s no way I’ll make the team,” Huebscher said. “I’m brand spanking new.”

Today is the wrap up of the semifinals with the finals starting at 11 a.m.




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