Steamboat Springs David Wallace and Betsy Frick met while kayaking.
“It was 1984,” Frick said with a smile Sunday. “That was our first date, a slalom race.”
But when the pair — now married 22 years — took to the Yampa River on Sunday, it wasn’t exactly like old times.
Local kayaking legend Barry Smith used his expertise to tear through the course set up for the annual kayak slalom Sunday as the Yampa River Festival thrived on a warm, sunny morning.
Smith had the fastest plastic boat time, and 17-year-old Luke Farny sliced through the water as if his boat had a motor, recording the fastest slalom boat time.
The event was more about fun on the river than it was a timed competition, however, and Wallace and Frick, the only competitors to tackle the course with just a two-person kayak, certainly had fun.
The couple had to muster all their water expertise to navigate a cumbersome two-person kayak through the gates set up at Dr. Rich Weiss Park.
It wasn’t easy.
“It’s so wide. If you go through sideways, you won’t both go through the gate,” Frick said. “You have to get it all lined up.”
Through teamwork, they started to figure it out.
Sunday’s course required racers to slip through about 10 gates. They could hit some while floating down the river, but come back up into the flow to hit others.
The tricky course left paddlers fighting with and against the powerful snowmelt-fed Yampa.
“You have to talk to each other — ‘How are we going through this one?’” Wallace said.
Both agreed it would have been much easier in a more traditional one-person kayak.
There, Sarah Hamilton proved the class of the women racers in plastic boats, and Hannah Kertesz was the fastest in a slalom boat.
Both are expected to take to the water again today as the Yampa River Festival floats into its final and perhaps largest event.
The sixth annual Paddling Life Pro Kayaking Invitational will cast some of the best kayakers in the world into local water. A creek race down Fish Creek is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. near the water treatment plant off Steamboat Boulevard. A freestyle competition will take place at 2 p.m. at the D-Hole on the Yampa River off 13th Street.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com