Steamboat Springs For much of Monday’s Paddling Life Pro Kayaking Invitational, it appeared nothing but the elements would win.
Fish Creek, sight of a kayaking creek race, the first part of the day’s two-part competition, was deemed high enough for competition but was still so low that several competitors found themselves stranded high and dry on rocks while others just barely avoided a similar fate.
“I did a 360 about 200 meters from the start,” Tanya Faux said. “That’s definitely not what you want to do out there. I spun around real quick, but that wasn’t Plan A.”
The D-Hole, filling in as the freestyle kayaking venue for the sick-this-season Charlie’s Hole, proved to be monstrously frustrating, casting even the world’s best boaters down the river after only a few seconds.
“The feature was pretty touchy,” world freestyle champ Nick Troutman said. “I probably took 20 practice runs and I stuck one move that entire time.”
It was those boaters — the very best — who won in the end, however, picking their way down a tricky creek with times still lightning fast and taming the D-Hole’s moody wave with high-flying tricks.
A fickle river tried its best Monday, but the kayakers won.
Dane Jackson edged out brother-in-law Troutman to win the men’s title. Faux, meanwhile, was again crowned the women’s champ after an illness snapped her streak of four consecutive victories last year.
“Steamboat’s so good to me, maybe I should move here,” Faux said with a laugh. “I really enjoy this event. The locals are my kind of people, and I really like that there’s two events in one day.”
Faux dominated both events, in large part because she was the only woman to solve the riddle that was Monday’s water.
She won the creek race with a time of 3 minutes, 19.42 seconds, which, despite her 360-degree mishap, was 13 seconds faster than second-place Emily Jackson. Jackson, too, had her difficulties, struggling to shake free of a high rock on the early part of the course.
Faux then won the freestyle competition, racking up 245 points to Jackson’s 140. The key: Faux was able to stay in the feature, stringing together tricks to rack up points.
Everyone else struggled to notch more than one or two point-scoring moves before being flushed.
“I stuck a loop in there, but I didn’t get it figured out enough to do well,” said Jackson, the reigning women’s world freestyle champion. “The feature was surgey, which means the foam pile would be there, then it would disappear. To throw a move, you surge up to the top then throw it. But here, when you’d surge up to the top, there was no way to stay on.”
The men suffered the same problem. Sam Sutton won the creek race with a time of 3:08.34. That was good enough for third overall, but the top two spots on the podium were decided at the D-Hole.
Dane Jackson and Troutman put on high-flying shows. A cool afternoon turned downright cold as they battled in the finals, hail bombarding a quickly thinning crowd. Those that remained, however, whooped loud as the tricks were executed.
Troutman won the duel, but he was sixth in the creek race. Jackson, 17 years old and competing in Steamboat for the first time since 2007, was third there to win the overall title.
“It just took practice. You had to know where to throw the tricks and how to throw them,” Jackson said.
A few others managed to figure it all out, including Steamboat’s Dan Piano, who made the freestyle finals, placing fourth in that segment. Combined with his 13th-place showing at the creek, he was eighth overall.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com