by Elaine Campbell
Though I took 15th, you all took absolute, uncontested first place. The support I received from my family and friends was nothing short of incredible, and the other athletes are in awe of the great fans I have at home, which they should be. I’d like to send a special thanks out to Lynda (mother-in-law) and Marcy (sister-in-law) who flew over to buy me cheese and chocolates and cheer through sun and rain. Thanks to Phil, Allison, Mom, Dad and everyone who helped with the fundraiser and made the whole episode financially feasible. Thanks to Meg for keeping the other side of the pond informed on the goings-on in Thun. Thanks to everyone at the Harbors End Marina for their un-ending support and for keeping the boat bailed. Thanks to Craig for taking care of Brook and Laya, who I missed very much! Thanks to Jeremy, Brian, Mark and the rest of the squirt crowd for setting me up and giving me a chance at a new discipline. Thanks to Annie for being a great team manager and a tireless cheerleader (you too, Coral!). Thanks to T-Faux and Ruth for all the help with my paddling and the friendship. Thanks to my sponsors, Bryan and all the folks at Wave Sport for getting me a boat over here. Thanks to the academy, my producer, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, everyone at Atlantic records, the front office folks,….sorry, wrong speech.
Thanks to all!
Now, for a quick recap:
Prelims were Thursday. I was in the second heat. Four 45 second rides, best two combined count. The wave was decent, though I believe it improved through the day. My strategy was to play small-ball until I had 10 seconds remaining on the clock, then go for a Helix. I had stuck a decent Helix that morning in practice so I felt pretty good about it. I think nearly I hit them on both rides but failed to stick on the wave on either, so no points. My small-point moves were enough to get me through to quarter-finals, barely.
In QF on Friday, we (Jeff and I) decided to small-ball until 15 seconds remained, in order to leave more time to setup the Helix, since I felt I could have stuck them with a little more setup time. We also decided to go for bigger amplitude on the smaller moves, potentially increasing their point value (and risk of flushing). Unfortunately, I had a case of the flushies through the whole round. I completely missed the wave for one ride (QF’s is three rides, best two combined count) and flushed while setting up for a Helix on both my other rides. So instead of 135 seconds, I was probably on the wave a total of around 60 seconds or less. Still, I was able to improve my standing from 20th where I entered QF’s to 15th overall. So I feel like I was paddling very competitively, I just got some bad breaks and didn't paddle my best. I did manage to beat a former world champ and some other very formidable paddlers who have been competing at the Worlds for many years. So although I certainly would have liked to have hit those Helix’s and moved on to Semi’s, I am mostly happy with how I performed, outside of occasional moments where I want to break my paddle over Jeff’s head and feed my boat through a shredder.
I entered the squirt competition because there was a senior woman that couldn’t make it to the competition and the field would have been too short for the results to be official. This would have been devastating to the women that had been training for so long for this competition. I had sat in a squirt boat before but had never paddled one. Picture a fiberglass kayak that gets shrunk-wrapped around your legs, literally. They are designed to allow paddlers to “squirt” the ends underwater and also to get “downtime”, where you enter the current in such a way that you and the entire boat go completely under water for as long as possible, what’s known as a “Mystery Move”, because it’s a mystery why anyone would want to spend an undetermined amount of time underwater with a large sheet of fiberglass shrunk-wrapped to their legs. I borrowed Jeremy’s squirt boat, and I had to smear butter all over my legs just to squeeze them in (Jeremy has little chicken legs). Although I was technically new to squirting, I am a fairly skilled flatwater paddler and already knew how to do some of the moves (cartwheels/splitwheels/bow stalls/stern stalls/back rolls/etc) so it was not completely foreign to me, though I was accustomed to being able to feel below my waist when doing these tricks in my plastic boat. This is not allowed in a squirt competition, you must be numb from the bottom of your rib-cage down. In fact, when you finished your ride and got out of your boat, a Swiss woman named Edith would strike you on the toe with a ball-peen hammer to insure you were completely numb. If you flinched, you were disqualified. I ended up 6th out of 10, just below the cut for finals. My prelim score would have been good for 5th in the finals so I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing, from the waist up at least. I stuck to the squirt moves and didn’t really go for a mystery move since there was an extremely large swan in the water that seemed to get annoyed by them. Someone made the mistake of trying to scare the swan away from the entry stairs by smacking his boat on the water. Instead of scaring that swan away, two more rushed over from the opposite side of the river to see what was up, and the three swans proceeded to hiss and lick the butter off of the paddlers legs.
A few notes on Thun, Switzerland:
1. They don’t put cheese on their sandwiches here. This is not mentioned in any of the guide books, which is stupid. I asked for a Ham and Cheese sandwich, they brought me a Ham sandwich and a Cheese Sandwich. I managed.
2. AusFahrt means “exit”
3. The only way to get the check after eating in a restaurant is to get up and start walking out. Or running out.
4. Cancer does not exist here, and everyone over the age of six is legally obligated to smoke cigarettes in the face of an American (Canadians are also acceptable, though not French-Canadians, since they also smoke).
5. Swiss-German people eat very slowly, then make up the lost time while driving.
Otherwise, I would have to say that this must be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, no exaggeration. The Alps and the Lakes together make for breathtaking scenery. We’ve been staying at a condo in Lauterbrunnen, which is about 30 minutes from Thun by car. If you come to Switzerland, make sure you come to Lauterbrunnen, it’s amazing. The town sits on a glacier surrounded by impossibly huge granite walls from which spotlit waterfalls cascade continuously. The town is literally in the shadow of the Jungfrau, Switzerland's highest peak and what’s known as the “Top of Europe”. Every day hundreds of tourists come up by car bus and train just to see what sits outside our bedroom window. Incredible!
The Swiss people have been embarrassingly hospitable, almost all seem to speak near-perfect English which is good because the only German word I’ve learned Is “Exit”. The City of Thun is clean, well maintained and feels very safe, at least the sections I’ve frequented. The public transportation is a model for the world and the City of Thun is a great place to walk in or to sit and have coffee with incredible views all around.
Again, great thanks to all, and wish me luck in next worlds, which will be in Germany in 2011. I’ll have to tryout for the team again, only the winner of the Worlds gets a bye onto the next team.
View from our rental apt. in Lauternbrunen
Photos by: Jeff Campbell