Kayakers make a splash

Fat City Showdown attracts whitewater enthusiasts

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— Whitewater paddler Barry Kennon's journey brought him to Steamboat Springs Tuesday where he made a splash in the cold, fast moving waters of the Yampa River at the first Fat City Showdown.

"I'm pretty sure I made it into the finals round, so it was a pretty good showing," Kennon said on Tuesday afternoon. The finals were held later that evening.

Kennon was just one of nearly 40 whitewater paddlers who were competing in the first-time event.

The laid-back competition was just what the Louisiana man was looking for as he makes his way across the state in a white pickup truck covered with the Nattyshred.com (Kennon's own Web site) logo and packed full of Blue Ox Sports Drink. It's a trek Kennon is using to prepare for the World Whitewater Rodeo Championships, which will be held in Sorte, Spain in June.

"I'm pretty sure we will hang around for the river festival before hitting the road again," Kennon said.

In fact, the veteran kayaker will take in a stretch of whitewater rodeos before he jumps on a plane and heads off to Spain.

Kennon recently won the Immersion Research Triple Crown, which is the U.S. Team's selection event for the Worlds.

Kennon will join Chris Manderson and Luke Hopkins as the three C-1 (single canoe paddlers) named to the 38-person American team.

"It's not as popular as the kayaks," Kennon said. "But canoes are gaining some ground."

Kennon was in Steamboat this week hoping to collect an $850 paycheck for first place at the Fat City Showdown.

However, the 30-year-old who has paddled for 20 years said he is relatively new to the sport of whitewater rodeo. He was a member of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak team's slalom squads from 1993-1996. He retired from the slalom but recently found himself back in the seat of a whitewater rodeo boat.

"The rodeo boats are a lot smaller and because of my slalom experience I picked up the sport very quickly," Kennon said.

In fact, Kennon credited much of his recent success to a new Liquid Logic boat called the Session.

"It's the sickest boat that I've ever paddled," Kennon said. "It has really put me on top of the sport this season."

On Tuesday, Kennon was up against a childhood friend, Harry Field, who was also in Steamboat for the Fat Eddy's event.

"I'm here for the money," Field said. "This is pretty much a way of life for me from April through September."

Field was also competing in the C-1 class on Tuesday and said that the sport of river rodeo is quickly growing in the United States, and he expects this event to be one of the biggest in Colorado soon.

"I came to Steamboat last year (for the river festival) and I just had the best time," Field said. "The people here are great and it's just a lot of fun."

Field estimates that he travels nearly 30,000 miles every year in his van. He said he follows the water and the money to find the best events. Recently he had made sure that Steamboat is on his calendar.

He said he likes Steamboat because it's more laid back than other events in the state.

"You can roll into town, pay your money and compete that afternoon," Field said. "It's great."

The finals for the Fat City Showdown began at 9 p.m. Tuesday night. Please watch this week's Steamboat Today for complete results from the event.

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