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The Trials of Trials!

By Elaine Campbell

We loaded up our brandy new (to us) RV and started for Reno on April 30th. Three and a half days and 9000 gallons of gas later, we were in the driveway of our very good friends Di and Ty, where we stayed on and off for the next ten days.


The Reno River Fest was an outstanding event. I got a chance to see some friends I met last year and met some great new people as well. The event started with the Open Competition on Friday, the Pro Competition followed on Saturday. I was extremely pleased to see how many women entered the open, which was won by Erin Clancy from Idaho. Both Erin and Diane earned a spot in the Pro event.


Though I got the ride that I wanted, I didn’t get scored on my McNasty or Phonix Monkey(both of which still need fine-tuning) and ended up 6th overall. Respectable, but definitely would have liked better. The competition was extremely stiff and included Ruth Gordon (current senior womens world champ), Emily Jackson (current junior womens world champ), Tanya Faux (Australia’s top female paddler and Australia’s Female Expeditionist of the Year) and Nikki Kelly (one of New Zealand’s top female paddlers). Also beating me was Erin Clancy, winner of the Open event. I’ll get you next time, Erin, great job!


Sunday we sat on the beach at Lake Tahoe, beautiful! Monday I dropped Jeff at the airport and headed to the Ogden Wave in Ogden Utah with my buddy Craig (Kleckner). The level was at the low end so it wasn’t overly dynamic but still wicked fun. While there I ran into our friend Colleen form the Dryway and her family. It was great to see them.


After two days, we left Ogden and drove to Glenwood Springs, CO to get some practice in on the wave before the event in Buena Vista. Had some nice days paddling on the wave at a great level.


We spent four days in Glenwood, then I headed to Buena Vista and Craig headed to Denver to spend some time with some friends. A few days later Craig picked up Jeff at the airport in Denver and brought him to Buena Vista. It was great to have the family back together again. The whitewater park in Buena Vista is an incredible place, with four or five play holes along the Arkansas, some great biking and running trails, restrooms, showers, pavilions and some camping areas, though camping is usually not allowed, apparently. We paddled in the top hole for a few days, then the competition was moved to the bottom hole due to the high river level. I lacked focus at this event, having my sights set on team trials, and had the honor of coming in last. Rough, but I got over it quickly.


Did some laundry and headed back to Glenwood for the big event.


Got the RV stuck in some BLM land in South Canyon. My good friend Billy-Bob and Craig worked quickly to get it out while Jeff walked around mumbling to himself about AAA not covering any off-road incidents. Spent the first few nights in the No Name rest stop with some local Rest-stop inhabitants who seemed friendly enough, conjuring images of the late Chris Farley and his “You’ll be living in a van, down by the river!” SNL skit. Come to think of it, he could have been referring to any number of competitors on the circuit…. EJ told us we could stay at the Community Center, though no one had told the community center. A quick call to the local police got everything settled and we were able to stay there the next few nights and use their showers ($4.00).


During the week leading up to trials, we would wake up at 5am, drive over to the wave and I’d get in the water by around 5:45 am. I don’t think I was the first one in the water any of the days. I was beaten by Dane a few days and local David Gorski most others.


Once the competition started we moved our Team Indecision Base-Camp to a parking lot a few hundred yards upstream of the wave, which was great. The Team included Matt, Stephanie and Sage along with their four dogs and their cat, Billy-Bob and his two dogs, Judd, Jeremy and occasionally Craig when he wasn’t surfing the floor of his parents hotel room. Also joining us were Mike, Alec, Hayden and Connor Vorhees from Idaho, all of whom we had spent time with and camped next to in Reno. Missing from Bas-Camp were Team Indecision members Jordan and Ned Puffenburger who were staying in a condo up in Vail.


During the week, we held some mock competitions between myself, Craig, Jordan(a young, extremely talented C1 paddler) and occasionally Billy-Bob when he decided to join in. We would tape everyones rides, then sit in the RV, watch the tapes and score the rides. This exercise proved invaluable for my final preparation.


On Friday, the day before the pre-lims, my plan was to take four competition rides with no warm up, as it would be on pre-lims day. These four rides did not go well at all for me. I started to panic a little bit about how I would fare in the pre-lims. I decided to stay in for a little while longer and work on Helixes and do some “soul-surfing”. By the time I got out I was feeling better and was again feeling good about my chances.


I took the rest of the day off and just relaxed.


US Team Trials Day 0


When they posted the heat sheets, I saw that I was to go first in the first heat. Nothing like jumping right in! I watched the Junior Womens pre-lims and a few heats of the Junior Mens pre-lims, then went to get my gear and my boat. I got down to the riverbank a few minutes before the end of the break between the junior mens and womens and got in my boat. I then realized (or was told) that I wasn’t wearing my competition bib, so Jeff had to run (in his flip-flops) back to the RV to get it and bring it back. He got it back to me just before they called my name for my first ride. The moment had come and I felt pretty good. I waited another 30-40 seconds after I got the thumbs up to start my ride, then I pushed off and peeled out. I hit the wave in about the spot I wanted to and established a front surf. Right away I started going through my routine: right clean spin, left clean spin, right roundhouse, left roundhouse. I think I tried for a back roundhouse/blunt but am not sure I got one. Almost immediately the 15 second horn blew, I couldn’t believe how fast my time was almost up. I knew I had time to throw another move and was feeling great based on the nickel and dime points I had already racked up. I blasted out to my right and climbed the pile on the right shoulder. Once there, I immediately felt some acceleration down the face of the wave towards my left. I put in a hard acceleration stroke, bounced on the green and threw my knees over my head for a Flipturn. As I felt it coming around, the stern grabbed green water and the bow came slamming down in front of me! Success! I couldn’t believe it! A huge roar went up from the massive crowd and the final horn blew a split-second later. Ride over, BOOM!


My next three rides where similar, though lacking the flip turn. I was confident enough that my first ride got me through to semi-finals so I just nickle-and-dime’d my other rides. In the pre-lims, I came in second overall behind Emily Jackson, who was already on the US Team on a by.


Semi-finals did not go as well: we only had two rides and the wave was pretty flushy. My nerves kicked in which didn’t help but somehow in my first ride I pulled enough points to get me through to finals.


Finals happened later in the afternoon and I was really feeling the pressure. We had three rides, best one counts. I was first, Adrienne second, Devon, Lauren, and Jesse. Emily was last but she was not competing for a spot. On my first ride the wave turned green and I flushed right through for a whopping zero points. I told myself that I still had two more rides and it’s all good. No one else had a good first ride (except maybe Emily) so I was quite relieved. My Second ride was not good either: a couple of small points then a flush. I was like “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! This is NOT going to happen! I’ve worked hard for two years to get to this point and I’m not going to screw this up.” I walked back up the eddy reminded myself that this is my last chance and to just get it done! My name was called for my final ride. Two years of work were coming down to 45 seconds! I pushed off the rocks and started to float downstream. Looking behind my right shoulder I kept saying over and over “Catch the Wave!”. I caught the wave (YES!) and started the routine that I’ve been practicing all week. Again, almost immediately, the 15 second warning horn blew. I couldn’t set up for a helix or flip turn and time was running out. I decided to try a back Pan-Am but missed it. Ride over, unsure of points. When I got to shore, people were cheering and I got the two thumbs up from Jeff. I still had to wait for four more rides (YIKES!), any one of which could have knocked me off with anything better than a 75, my last ride total. Adrienne was next. I’m not sure what she got but she was already ahead of me with an 85, so she was on. I was sweating and shaking. I couldn’t even watch the other three rides. Devon went, then Lauren and Jesse. Now we all just wait. I saw Christine Jackson with the results in her hand. She looked at Jeff and I and flashed two fingers: Second Place! Then the announcers told us that Emily came in first (again she was not competing for a spot). Out of the spot-earners, Adriene Levknecht was first, I was second, and Jesse Stone third. Jeff gave me a big hug while I may have shed a tear or two. It was crazy that I had just made the US Freestyle Kayak Team. All the hard work paid off and my dream came true.


Big ups to Emily, Adrienne and Jesse, my new teammates, and all the other women who came and tried out: Devon, Kat, Jamie, Lauren, Natalie, Nichole, Anna, Hannah, Megan and Kay. Huge thanks to all of the organizers and judges: Risa, Christine, Matt, Jimmy, Kelsy, Gary, Davis, and to my team manager, Bryan Kirk, who absolutely killed it in the competition, earned a spot on the US Mens team, came in first overall, then topped it off by winning a free airline ticket to Thun compliments of the Jacksons (and by the grace of Emily, whose name was drawn first but would not accept it).


Thanks to all my sponsors, family, and friends we are going to Thun, Switzerland in August!

Take Care,

Elaine Campbell

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Buena Vista Eddy

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Brook and Laya

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