Well friends, another year has gone by and I know you hear the same things from me time after time. The Midwest Freestyle Championships is our family reunion of sorts and the last time we will see everyone together for the year. The kayaking is done for most as fall hits and life gets busy while others plan warm weather getaways and gauley vacations. I am excited and sad to report about the midwest event again this year because while it is enjoyable for most, there always seems to be some moments of sadness.
This year we were disappointed to find out that Brian Tupper would not be joining us for the clinic and competition due to having extensive spinal surgery from a motorcycle accident he suffered years ago. We have all been praying for him with his surgery and looking forward to him healing and joining us again on the river next season. The clinic continued though with Jessica filling his shoes and instructing our beginners. This clinic is my favorite part of the year as it often teaches us the components of freestyle we all too often overlook, the basics of positioning and setting up in a feature. I think this has been my most difficult concept to learn in my now 3 years of paddling. It is easy to get caught up in learning to loop and cartwheel, but in order to be consistent with your tricks and perform well in a competition you have to be able to deal with the maneuvering necessary to pull off a 60 second ride.
Colin helped me make huge progressions with this at Little Drop, a great feature for every trick, but a difficult one to maneuver in as an intermediate boater. Our course at Wausau is phenominal, but due to the restrictions placed on us by the DNR for design, we aren’t allowed to pour cement to make perfect, even, and consistent holes and waves. Many paddlers tend to stick to their favorite spot whether its on a river or at a park. Once they have it dialed in, they can throw any move they want. What Colin and John help us to realize at the Jackson clinic is that we need to make ourselves better boaters by dialing in the basics and then learning at as many locations as possible. This just makes you a more well rounded paddler.
The competition started on Saturday morning with the beginners. They compete at #4, a great righty spin and cartwheel spot. maneuvering here is fairly simple and the feature is one of the more friendly locations on the river. We also hold our women’s and Master’s competitions here. The goal of these classes is to encourage participation by all. It is how we continually improve the quantity and quality of freestyle kayakers in the midwest. Using the Hometown Throwdown Scoring, each competitor receives points for tricks as well as technical points for 180 degree rotations. The exciting part about this feature is that while the beginners have a great competition spot to showcase their basic moves, expert paddlers like john mcconville can throw loops, phonixes, splitwheels, and godzillas here!
1. Jessica Yurtinus 83points
2. Christa Gornjak 30points
3. Ahna Butt 21points
1. Neal Schroeter 22points
2. Dave Gustafson 20points
3. Craig Esposito 18points
After learning more maneuvering skills and advancing to cartwheels and loops, these guys move up to the intermediate competition at Little Drop. Little drop is a more powerful feature which makes loops go bigger and racking up ends easier. But setting up and maneuvering is much more difficult. Our intermediates are improving each year and in 2 days, Chauncey Blakeslee jumped from the beginner clinic to the intermediate, and learned cartwheels and loops to then take the title of the competition on Sunday.
The experts were really gunning it for John this year, the 5 time champ. And on Sunday’s finals John left the door open with a 111 point ride, something that was definitely beatable by both Jeremiah Kramcsz who has been taking tips from John all summer long and Aaron Schrader who has been dialing in superclean cartwheels and splits to both sides during practice and is the only expert paddler styling a wavesport in the Jackson dominant midwest. Unfortunately, the experience of competitng paid off for john while both Jeremiah and Aaron had one of their lowest scoring rides in the finals likely due to the exhaustion one encounters after boating at an intense level for 4 straight days.
The Team Competition and Boatercross were the usual adventures, however this year had a new game of fun for the Canoeists! 2 C1s and 3 OC1s competed in our first ever “Jam Session”. 8 minutes were put on the clock and the guys entered the feature throwing their best moves, when they flushed, the next guy was up. The judges scored each boat individually as it was in the feature. The swims, boat changing, and chaos of boat sharing was exactly the kind of thing one would expect at a Wausau Whitewater Event. We are all about the fun here in the midwest during competition.
OC1 Freestyle C1 Freestyle Boatercross
1. Glenn Felske 3points 1. Cody Achatz 10points 1. John McConville
2. Katelyn Filbrandt 1point 2. Seth Berger 3points 2. Jeremiah Kramaz
3. Adrian Ortiz
1. Chad Gorski/Jeremiah Kramaz/Ben Peters/Phil Lutey 132points
2. Matthew Cooper/Jacob Mabie/ David Lemke/ Tom Schrader 67points
3. Sarah Gray/Jim Jensen/Aaron Schrader/ Ashley Knutson 49points
*Thanks for all the Pictures Nora!
The prizes were better than ever before and we have many thanks to give for our sponsors! First, Jackson Kayak who not only provided a Jackson Rockstar, but supports the clinic each year by sending instructors. The local Redeye Microbrewery and restaurant! We all LOVE their beer and their food. Others include, Immersion Research, Werner Paddles, Mitchel Paddles, local paddling shops Divepoint, Midwest Mountaineering, Bear Paw, and Whitecap Kayak. Local Paddling Club, Rapids Riders! NRS was another big contributor this year, World kayak, Go Pro, Chacos, Vibram, Mountain Khakis. Everyone continues to tell us we have the best prizes out of any event in the country!
Again while everyone’s faces were covered with ear to ear smiles, we were brought back to moments of sadness that fell upon us this weekend. Shortly after winning the new Jackson Rockstar in the raffle and placing 2nd in the Intermediate Competition, Ryan Gore found out that his grandmother who was traveling home from the competition that day passed away in a car accident. And one of our beginner competitors, Jeremiah, lost a friend on Saturday afternoon. However, this weekend is not new to tragedy, in previous years fellow friends have lost loved ones including the Mangers father and grandmother, and my own grandmother just a year ago.
So as we look forward to this annual event each year, we also reflect and remember the years behind us. Showing my Grams pictures of each years competition and my awards as I started to win a few years ago were great moments we shared. I’ll continue to compete every year in her memory. And as we all look back and see how this sport and our love of it has progressed and spread to those around us, we see that the 80 participants this weekend is double that of 5 years ago and not only are there more paddlers but the competition is tougher at each level. More juniors competed this year than ever before and another dozen U23 boaters. This only means good things for the future of the sport!
Until next year…
Media Coverage Links
And…Look for a 30 minute TV Show about the event on Wisconsin Public Television in the next few months!
Thanks again for the Photos Nora!