Front Range Play Boating

The water on the Front Range has been at a pretty steady medium flow because of temperature fluctuations in Colorado (it is still randomly snowing in the high country in the middle of June) which hopefully means a long steady season.
I started off my play boating season hanging out in Buena Vista for a few weeks. I was talked into competing in the Pimp and Ho Rodeo. I was the only girl in the competition and was in the same heat as Dustin Urban and other fantastic world class play boaters. I was a little intimidated but had a great time.
View of the Golden Whitewater Park
photo by: Chester Joe Crab
The best part of living on the Front Range in the summer is the Golden Community Rodeo series. http://eddyflower.com/EventDetail.aspx?EventId=86 . As a beginner, this event was the highlight of my week; everyone around the FR would gather at the Clear Creek Play Park in Golden, hang out and compete for awesome prizes. This event consists of four competitions, each one having schwag and awards afterwards and on the final night the overall prizes are given away. The divisions are as follows: men’s and woman’s novice, intermediate and expert classes, a junior class and finally a masters class. I decided I was ready to compete in the woman’s expert division this year in preparation for stepping it up next season and competing at FIBArk and other larger events. I did very well in the series this year.

In the first rodeo competition, I was a little shaky and could not go vertical because of the water level (grrrr, rocks!), but I still managed to place first.

Sometimes it is hard to concentrate when the MC is making fun of you. Thanks Reed!
Photo by: George Gatz Photgraphy

The women got after it!
Shannon Ronan sporting the pink WRSI.
Photo by: George Gatz Photgraphy

After hanging out with Steven Wright in Lyons and Corey Volt in Golden and Buena Vista, I was able to get a few pointers. In the second two events, I improved big time sticking my air loops, cartwheels and trying very hard to throw and stick my McNasty and Airwheels. I was super siked that I placed first in both of those competitions as well.

Throwing down, Check out the reflection of the water in the flames on the helmet. Sweet!
Photo by: George Gatz Photography
Photo by: George Gatz Photography

The final competition was no big deal because I was the only girl in my division. I swept and took the overall title in the woman’s expert. The best part of the competition is the overall awards. This year I won a brand new boat!!!! I still need to pick out which one I want. I am so excited!
I also want to thank WRSI for sponsoring this event!!!! I feel it is very important to support grassroot community events like this, where everyone becomes a super star regardless of level. These events are very well attended and usually have just as many spectators as many of the large pro freestyle competitions. Golden is very lucky to have such a great volunteer boating community and sponsors to put this event together.
I can't wait to help out with this event next year and encourage more woman to compete!!!

Now that the freestyle comps and the Eddy Flower Vertical Challenge are over, I guess it is time to step it up and start planning some multi-day trips.


Big water east with my new little beast


So I've had the good fortune to enjoy a few weeks in the Ottawa Valley on some of the Ottawa River's best features and threw together a little vid. I also just became the father of a small (but ferocious, seriously don't ever steal my stuff or he'll get you) beagle puppy named Pete. I'm back out west in Revelstoke BC, so look for more updates soon from the creeking Mecca of the Universe! Well, at least Canada. Here is the link to the aforementioned video that I mentioned before http://broadbandsports.com/node/17205 hope you enjoy,

Dan Caldwell


The 2008 USRA National Rafting Championships The Season's Final Chapter

Everything changes and ends.

Our journey began nearly 6 months ago in the midst of long, cold, and lonely winter. We generated light on the sixth day of every week by committing to paddling together every Saturday. It seemed as though every run was along snow lined banks, and each put in a long seal launch into icy waters. Grown men acting like boys, going tubing on a raft, laughing, the cold winter wasn’t so cold anymore. In time we were rewarded with spring.

The days became longer and the darkness slowly began to slip away.

Race season. Pain, commitment, organization, personal sacrifice.
Yet the laughter was rich, the interactions more congruent, the memories entrenched.

Flat-water training began 3 months ago. In the last month, the snow lined banks were replaced with dirty asphalt often only an inch from our nose as we hammered out push ups, and the clear streams now served as a reward for paddling on the murky Willamette.
Three times a week. This was a period of growth.

We rolled into Idaho for the United States Rafting Association National Championships knowing that we had already experienced a remarkable season. The goal was to paddle hard and do our best, and the boys did not disappoint.

Things don’t always go according to plan.

The slalom course at Lower Otter’s Slide on the North Fork of the Payette had 4 upriver gates which included very difficult ferries. Our practice went okay, now we would have two timed runs and the best times of the two would determine placing. Our exuberant yet inexperienced crew exploded out of the starting area and nearly missed gate 1, a hard left turn to an upriver gate. Rattled, I miscalled the move through gate 2 and we missed gate 3 which snowballed into confusion and the rest of the run was completed in shock and despair.

A Nationals level format consists of a slalom, sprint, and downriver. We were one heat into 3 days of racing and were already faced with not even placing. All that work….our backs were now against the wall. Other teams compounded the pressure by having solid runs. My crew looked at me for direction, I fought back the fear and returned a confident stare. We went for a run. Sweat was familiar.

Solemnly, we settled into position at the starting area, a glance downstream revealed the left bank to be lined with spectators and the difficult gates dangling amongst the fast water. 3-2-1 the boat lurched off the bank and we set the line to gate 1. Conservatively we slid slightly downstream before charging back up and through this upriver gate. Ferrying out into the current we deftly backed through gate 2 and headed to 3 which was yet another upriver gate. Cleaning 3 we spun around and charged for 4, we were on line and our confidence increased with each millisecond. We nailed 4, snuck through 5, and attacked 6, coming out hot at the perfect angle for the big pour-over which hid the consecutive upriver gates of 7 and 8. The boat landed sideways off the pour-over in line and centered for gate 7, we could now hear the crowd. Fighting upriver through 7 we spun around in the current and set up for 8 which was quickly negotiated before heading back across the river to the finish.

We nailed it. Failure merely establishes a setting to evolve and succeed. With the trust we had established in each other, the boys pushed through. Our shouts and hugs following the second slalom run will never be forgotten. Many of us could not remember the last time we had felt such joy, Rasta equated the feeling to the birth of his son Ryder.


The sprint consisted of about 300 meters of Class I and flat-water before entering a huge breaking wave which guarded the entrance to Staircase Rapid, a long Class IV on the South Fork of the Payette. Again we had an excellent start and held a fast line as we barreled into the entrance of Staircase. The entrance wave surged on the boat momentarily burying us as we careened downstream towards two big holes. We recovered and sprinted towards the finish. A good run but we knew we could do better. I glanced at the times, we were just a few seconds out of first and tied for second.

The second run was more exciting. We were faster coming into Staircase and on line for possibly winning or getting second when the entrance wave slapped us silly. Onlookers would say the line and angle were good, our bow left getting blown out of the boat would indicate it wasn’t good enough. Our right side continued paddling and steering while the left pulled our swimmer back in and got re-situated. Given all this we were only 4 seconds slower than our first run. We finished day 2 tied for 3rd place.

Downriver, 4.5 miles

Our fitness and passion on this weekend was unmatched. Technique and experience, the two variables that separated us from the top 2 teams, Behind the 8 Ball (1st) and Team Colorado (2nd) would again be the determining factors in the downriver discipline. Our timing was slightly off, and my guiding technique not quite up to snuff in a world class race situation. Our lines were all good, however at this level it is much more than that. Fortunately, I know what to fix. 8 Ball has paddled together for 8 years, Team CO 3, ORT? We have had this particular crew together for 4 weeks, only 3 were the same from last year. We have gotten better every year. The 2008 National event marked the first time we even had 1st and 2nd place in sight. The gap will continue to close.

The 2008 season was a resounding success. It wasn’t just all the wins and good times. As a group we also experienced pain, loss, spirituality, fear, love, and mostly acceptance.

Dad’s saying, “That’s my son” when they otherwise do not feel comfortable sharing their feelings.
Feeling good even after defeat.
“That was as great a feeling as the birth of my son”.
“I will never forget your efforts here today, my hope is that these friendships last forever”.

ORT, we are more than just a rafting team.

There was no regret after stowing all the gear one last time.

Each man went home with a smile, walking quietly into that good night.



Football throwbag on the Cal Salmon

Hello! Sean Bierle again... just wanted to report on a recent rafting trip I helped lead down in N. Cali. For the past three years, I have head to California for the last two weeks of May to help lead a two-week rafting trip for a group of graduating high school seniors. The trip is always a blast because the whitewater is great and the students are at a really unique time in their lives. This year, the water levels were incredible, allowing us to hit up several stretches on the Klamath River, Clear Creek, the Methodist Creek section of the S.F. Cal Salmon, Butler's on the Cal Salmon, and the Pigeon Point run on the Trinity.

Just prior to this trip, I received the new football-shaped throwbags from WRSI and was excited to try them out. First, since there were a bunch of high school guys who were football players, we tried it out on the ground. We had trouble getting a perfect spiral, but had a blast tossing it around.

The real test came when I needed to use it for real in a live rescue situation. On the Cal Salmon there is a rapid called "Overhang" which punishes rafts that go into it. It is notoriously sticky, and every year I've been down on the river I've seen rafts spend minutes surfing, unintentionally doing tricks I'd struggle to pull off in a kayak. Well, this year, our group had our fair share of rafts going into the hole, and I was stationed at the bottom of the rapid with the bag. I managed to tag a couple of swimmers, really feeling accurate with the easy-to-throw design.

Also, when one raft was surfing in the hole, I threw my bag to the guide in the stuck raft. He held onto one end of the line and I had the other while my crew paddled our raft furiously downstream. We actually towed the stuck raft right out of the hole! I wish we had video of it, because it was incredible.

We're looking forward to the great water levels here in Idaho now, and plan on putting our WRSI gear to good use.