Nick Troutman gets tricky while paddling during the Paddling Life Pro Invitational on Monday in Steamboat Springs. Troutman won this year’s title, the third year in a row he’s won at least a share of the title.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Nick Troutman gets tricky while paddling during the Paddling Life Pro Invitational on Monday in Steamboat Springs. Troutman won this year’s title, the third year in a row he’s won at least a share of the title.

Troutman wins 5th annual Paddling Life Pro Invitational in Steamboat

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Stephen Wright works the wave Monday during the 5th annual Paddling Life Pro Invitational in Steamboat Springs.

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Emily Jackson fights to stay in Charlie's Hole on Monday during the Paddling Life Pro Invitational in Steamboat Springs. She finished tied for the women's championship.

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Kayaker Ruth Gordon fights through the waves in Charlie's Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs during Monday's Paddling Life Pro Invitational kayak event. She tied for the women's title.

5th annual Paddling Life Pro Invitational results

Men

Name / Freestyle result / Creek result / Total score

1. Nick Troutman / 1 / 4 / 49

2. Sam Sutton  / 9 / 1 / 44

3. Stephen Wright / 2 / 7 / 41

4. Corey Volt / 3 / 3 / 40

4. Bradle Lauder / 8 / 2 / 40

6. Dan Piano / 6 / 6 / 34

6. Jason Craig / 4 / 8 / 34

8. Jeremy Laucks / 5 / 9 / 32

9. Ryan Lucan / 10 / 5 / 31

10.Adam Mayo / 7 / 10 / 39

Women

Name / Freestyle result / Creek result / Total score

1. Emily Jackson / 2 / 1 / 55

1. Ruth Gordon / 1 / 2 / 55

3. Sarah Hamilton / 3 / 3 / 40

— In some ways, it was just another Memorial Day on the Yampa River.

Some of the best kayakers in the world rode, flipped, twisted and spun in what they described as one of the best whitewater kayaking features they’ve encountered.

Nick Troutman won at least a share of the men’s title in the Paddling Life Pro Invitational kayaking competition for the third consecutive year, tearing up Charlie’s Hole and showing just why he’s the reigning freestyle world champion.

And in some ways, the day was entirely different. Australian Tanya Faux had to watch from the shore as her streak of three victories in the combined creek boating and freestyle event was broken.

She missed the event with an illness, and fellow world-class kayakers Ruth Gordon, of Ontario, Can­ada, and Emily Jackson, of Rock Island, Tenn., swooped in to tie for the women’s title.

“We had all the big names here, which was great,” event organizer Eugene Buchanan said. “The water levels cooperated as much as they could, and it was great.”

There was little surprise in Troutman’s victory. He dominated the C-hole, slamming down a series of air screw tricks in the midst of a bevy of other maneuvers. He saved his best for last and beat out top freestyle challenger and two-time event winner Stephen Wright, of Washington, D.C., thanks to a high-scoring final run in the hole.

Year in and year out, Wright lays down the biggest air tricks that leave the crowd gasping, but Troutman rode consistently Monday, finishing fourth in the morning’s creek race and first in the freestyle to win the overall title.

“It was really good. The wave was a bit higher than usual, so it was easier to do more wave tricks, but you could also flush easier,” said Troutman, a Canadian who also won outright last year and split the title two years ago. “I was able to stick a couple tricks on my last ride, and that pushed Stephen out.”

New Zealand’s Sam Sutton won the creek race, flying down the boulder-strewn Fish Creek course five seconds faster than anyone else and 12 seconds faster than Troutman. His freestyle deficiency — he was ninth out of 10 — meant that the day’s winner would be decided on the Yampa.

Wright finished third overall with a second-place freestyle ride and a seventh-place showing on the creek. Corey Volt and Bradle Lauder were tied for fourth, and Steamboat boater Dan Piano finished sixth, with sixth-place finishes in both events.

Local Adam Mayo was 10th on the men’s side, and Steamboat’s Sarah Hamilton was third among the women.

“This is one of my favorite events just because you get to do a combination of things and you do them in one day,” Troutman said. “It’s physically exhausting. It really makes the paddler have to be good at both aspects of the sport.”

Gordon’s day might have proven the most surprising. It wasn’t a shock that she finished where she did — she’s among the world’s best. It was in how she did it.

Faux always ran away from the competition in the creeking portion, then rode just well enough in the C-hole to hold off Jackson, a world champion at freestyle. With Faux out of the picture, Jackson won the creek race. Gordon was second but reeled off a crowd-pleasing air loop and a series of McNasty flips to upset Jackson in the freestyle competition.

“Until now, she has been undefeated in freestyle, so I was going in as the underdog,” Gordon said. “We had another competition on Saturday with a feature kind of like this, and that was really good practice. I didn’t beat her (in freestyle) there, so I had some built up angst.

“This was great out here. We had our world championships in Switzerland in August and this feature is very similar, maybe even better. We’re stoked to be out here.”

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