Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2013 Freestyle Worlds

Canadian photo bomb!! Tyler Curtis in back, Haley Mills, Ruth Gordon, myself
Well, I didn't expect that one!! I spent the last two months at the NOC training for the Freestyle Worlds, hoping that I would at least make the first cut. I was not super consistent on my McNasty's or Phonix Monkeys but I was hoping to make a showing.

The opening ceremonies were amazing. Bryson City was bustling and the Worlds were beginning. The parade of countries was great and having 28 countries in Bryson City was pretty inspiring. It was the most "culture" that Bryson City has ever seen!!
My daddy and I zip lining at the NOC
After the opening ceremonies, the competition was in full force but the women did not compete until friday! I had four days to sit around, so my mom, her boyfriend, and my dad and I went zip lining at the new Nanatahala zip line. There is a 1/2 mile zip and I would highly encourage going if you get the chance. 
Going for a phonix monkey
Finally, friday came and I was hoping to show up to the party as a semi-finalist. That was the only goal that I had for Worlds. I was lucky to go into prelims the last person in the 5th heat, there were only 4 other competitors behind me. I knew immediately if I was in the semi-finals. For prelims the set up is 2, 45 second rides, both count. This is to show the judges consistency. I'm pretty well known for being consistent (the last three Green Races I have been within 1 second of the last). My first ride was not so hot, second one I brought the heat and I was sitting comfortably in 5th place, I ended up in 6th place going into semi-finals. 
Looping huge.
Semi-finals was held under the lights at 9 pm on saturday night. This made for a fantastic feeling when paddling into the feature. I had trained the night before under the lights with Tyler Curtis helping me out on my Phonix Monkeys and making sure that I was sticking my McNastys. I was already really happy with my showing so far but being under the lights was an amazing feeling. I also was blessed with the presence of Shannon Christy's parents. They were standing on river right, immediately above the feature. Semi-finals is 2 rides, 1 counts.

My first ride was frankly, crap, so I knew I had to step it up. I looked up and saw Shannon's parents in an embrace, praying. I'm not a praying woman but I do love my best friend. I spoke to Shannon, I told her to make me fly, make me agile, make me do my best. Shannon was there with me, sitting in the eddy with me. I was surrounded by love before my second ride. My second ride went the best that I could have asked. I got my highest ride ever, 410 points, but I was sitting in a very uncomfortable 3rd place. There was still another heat after me.
Finding out I made finals on my home river
I couldn't get out of my boat until I knew what was going to happen. I ferried across the river to watch the last 5 people go, I wasn't getting my hopes up as the next heat was very stacked, with two previous World Champions and a couple of women who have the talent to be World Champions. Pretty much everyones first rides sucked. I watched Courtney go, she scored less than a 400, Nina just couldn't get anything to stick in the hole, and Ruth couldn't get anything to go aerial. After the second rides, I was in 5th place. I had made finals. 

I started crying so uncontrollably. My whole family was watching me, Shannon's family was there, my friends were all in the stands. Shannon was with me.
Hugging Hitomi after making finals
I saw my dad, for those of you who know my father, he is very calm, doesn't get very excited. Dad jumped up and down and was hollering, he even picked me up!! My mom was also very excited along with my amazing boyfriend and Shane (the Liquid Logic designer, also known as "dad"). After getting a deluge of hugs and congratulations I finally made it across the river to see Shannon's parents.

Shannon's dad, he said this was the happiest he has been in months
Her parents are amazing people, they love unconditionally, they are caring and beautiful people. They make me understand why Shannon is an amazing soul. I am more than blessed to have them in my life. 

The next day was finals, after a pretty eventful loser party. I was heartbroken to watch Mathieu Dumoulin not make finals as I had money on him winning the whole thing. There were other disappointments also, as always at an event like this.

The finals are 3 rides, one counts. Its a spectacle to see that is for sure, anything can change at any moment. I was the first person to go, which kind of sucked but I was more than elated to be there. My first ride, not much, second ride, even less. I was hanging on the edge. Hitomi came out with am amazing ride and she was on top the whole heat. My third ride was better than any of them but still not my best. I was sitting in 3rd place. Anne Hubner came out with a great ride but I beat her out by 2 (!!!!) points. Katya also didn't have her best rides and I was in 3rd place. I knew I had gotten the bronze. Claire finally came out with one of her great rides that put her in the gold spot. 

Champagne celebration on the island!
After the rides, we paddled to the island and celebrated as the gold, silver, and bronze medalists in the whole world. It was an amazing feeling to have all of my support and love there with me. 
Interviewing for ESPN!
After the champagne celebration, I paddled to river left where I was met by some huge cameras and a really nice reporter. He laughed and said "I bet you didn't expect that!". He got that right!! I said at the Canoe and Kayak party in August that I hoped to podium at Worlds, I was kind of joking though!!
Sharing the podium with amazing women
I was honored to be able to share a podium with Claire O'hara and Hitomi Takaku. The feeling of seeing everyone from up there was pretty cool, guess that's what it feels like to be 6 feet tall!! Clearly, all of my hard work and dedication paid off, even if I only trained for Worlds for two months. Imagine what I could do if I trained harder/longer!!

Champagne, smile, medal...... PERFECT!!
So now, its back to the real world. Working for Greenville County as a Paramedic and being a housewife. I made a beautiful sushi dinner for my boyfriend last night! It is also two weeks until the Animal Race on the Upper Gauley, probably the most painful race I do every year. 

After the Gauley race, I head to the Sickline race to attempt to keep my "World Domination" going. Its a busy time in my life, trying to balance training, work, and being a good girlfriend. I am so lucky to have the support that I do. 

Kim and Lee Christy- for making my best friend and changing my life forever
My mom and dad- for the support and love
Shane Benedict and the whole Liquid Logic factory
Kokatat- for always keeping me warm and dry
Werner Paddles- for the family and the best paddles in the world
Shred Ready- for the amazing helmets
Jen-ai apparel- for keeping me cute off the water
Watershed Drybags- for keeping my phone dry!!
Jati Suits- for giving me fashion ;-)
G-form- for keeping my elbows happy
Surf Fur parkas- for windproof and waterproof parkas
The Nantahala Outdoor Center- for the support, friendships, and for putting on a great event

 I'm sorry if I have forgotten anyone, I am overwhelmed by the love that I am receiving right now. This year has truly been amazing, and its not over yet!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slowing it Down

I was hoping to be ending my three part series of my Middle Salmon trip pretty quickly, that did not happen. Only a few days after posting my second part of the series my best friend, Shannon Christy (and large part of my Salmon trip) died in a kayaking accident on the Potomac River. My world began to spin and suddenly my summer changed from being the best summer I have ever had in my life to hearing the worst news and feeling the most heartbroken that I have felt. 
Waking up every morning. 
Things happened pretty quickly, Snowy and I had to drive to the Potomac to get the Dagger van and also to see people at the memorial service. The next weekend I decided to hop a flight to Rhode Island to go deep sea fishing with my dad and sister, Shannons' memorial service was the next weekend, the weekend after that I suddenly showed up at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, and the next weekend I found myself in Michigan with my mom, sister, grandmother, and two aunts. Things never slowed down. When not grabbing flights, I was at the NOC training really hard for the quickly approaching Freestyle Worlds event.  
The last river trip with my best friend.
Every person grieves differently. Shannon was one of the very few girls who I have ever let get close to me. She knew me better than any other woman, she could read me like a book, I never got anything past her. We both taught each other a lot and we could always bounce ideas off of each other without fear of being judged. After three years with my boyfriend, Snowy was stoked to see me hanging out with another girl, everything was going so well. That didn't last long enough, there were a lot more things that Shannon and I wanted to do, have her be my maid of honor at my wedding, raise our kids together, and drive people nuts when we got old. We had a lot more adventures planned and we were always looking for new adventures.
The confluence of the Middle and Main Salmon
After my whirlwind month, sitting quietly is painful. I didn't cry very much that first month. I cry every day now, the smallest thing's set me off. A song that reminds me of her, a picture that I find, or even just looking at a red Mamba. The one positive thought that I have for all of this is that I have an angel on my shoulder all the time now. She keeps me safe, comfortable, and she reminds me to be happy, even in the hardest of times. 

God placed Shannon on this Earth as an angel, a ray of light that will never dim, even when we can't be with her physically, she is there spiritually. 

I will always love Shannon and I will never be able to replace her with anyone. I will tell my children of an angel who dropped onto my lap and caused me everlasting happiness. 

December 7 1989-July 11 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Middle Salmon Part 2

Shannon, tanning her legs, as kayakers, we have white legs!!
 After hiking up a mountain and surfing the crap out of the wave at Marble, I was beat. We slept under the stars that night and I woke up at one point to just see the true beauty of mother nature. The stars were out in a full force and all I could do was be in awe of them. I was so tired, I was only able to keep my eyes open for like 45 seconds but it was amazing. In the morning, Shannon and I heard that it was going to be a pretty easy day so we were happy to sit on the raft and be princessess again. 
River otters
 One of the things about rafting is, you can sleep and still make progress downstream! It was brilliant, we went like 6 miles and we slept the whole way. Along the way we did wake up to see these cute river otters having lunch on the side of the river. It was so cool to see wildlife. 
Campbell's Crew on the Middle Salmon
When we made it to camp that night we heard rumor of some awesome hot springs. It was the Loon hot springs, about a half mile up the creek. Since we had such a hard day of laying on the raft, instead of walking up there before dinner, we spent the afternoon plucking each others eyebrows and painting nails. Yep, I just said that. It was also tequila night for dinner and I definitely could not miss that!
Camp at Loon
 After dinner that night, the "young" crowd all rallied to the hot springs in the dark, using the light of the moon and the lightning storm going on. Luckily, I had the foresight of setting the tent up before we left camp that night... We had a great time at the hot springs, sipping on whiskey, loving on mother nature, and taking periodic dips in the freezing water of Loon Creek. It was a great way to spend a late afternoon with the girls. That night, we awoke to some very loud crashing and then sheets of torrential down pouring. A massive thunderstorm had rolled through, Shannon and I happily just rolled over and fell back to sleep, while listening to many people at camp struggling to put their tents up :-)
The first half of the day started off amazing and we were happy to be back on the river. It was cloudy and had cooled off considerably with the storms coming through. We didn't have very many people in the duckies and even the kayakers were a bit cold. 
My best friend.
When we stopped for lunch, the sun came out, the clouds broke, and we all stripped down to our bathing suits. I took off my drysuit and was running around in just a bikini top and some underwear for a while! 
A normal outfit for me
 Everyone was hoping this wasn't a "sucker hole" but no one wanted to talk about it. After lunch, I tied my boat up and got back in the raft with Tessa and Rachel for more "princes boating". That lasted for about four minutes when I noticed some very dark looming clouds ahead and I promptly found my drysuit to put on. 
Rafting in a hail storm, in June??!!!
 Literally 3 seconds after zipping my trusty drysuit all the way, we looked downstream to see a wall of water coming towards us. We thought it was water, really it was hail, and coming down hard! The wind picked up very quickly and suddenly we found ourselves hunkering in the middle of the river for warmth. It was pretty miserable, the only consolation was that I knew it would end at some point. 
Not a pretty sight
 This deluge of rain/hail made all of us pretty cold for the rest of the day. We got to camp at a reasonable time but we were all pretty beat from the cold weather. Shannon and I crashed out on our paco pads without even letting them blow up! We woke up to dinner being made and a whiskey tasting was going on, we can't miss that. We also got to witness home made tiramasu being made with some very nice chocolate and whiskey.

Waterfall in the gorge
At lunch time the next day we were able to stop at this amazing, sacred, place. It is a round "bowl" with water flowing out of the top of it, that comes from the bottom of a tree, and falls down to where the people are sitting in the picture above. The fall moves with the wind and, once again, it is truly magical to watch mother earth work what she can do.
 We also got to see our first pictographs of the trip in this same place. I can understand why the "Sheepeater" indians wanted to stay here so bad. It is green, lush, easy to hunt long horned sheep from,  there is fresh water, and easy river access. 
Dated up to 8,000 years old
I could have stayed here the rest of the day and been completely content. I also knew what was ahead, the Impassable Canyon. 
Entering the Impassable Canyon
I was paddling my play boat most of the day and I was so exited to surf some massive waves. As the day went on, more water entered into the river. I had been surfing all day long but I was looking forward to the Impassable Canyon the most. 

I'm going to leave it at that for now. I'm sitting next to the Nantahala River, finishing my coffee at Rivers End, about to go train for Worlds in freestyle. Time to go kayaking! Make sure to check back periodically for the last part to my Middle Salmon series. 

Happy kayaking!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Middle Fork of the Salmon part 1

Best airport ever
 So I was lucky enough to be invited on an all womens' trip on the Middle Salmon that had been put on by both Backcountry Babes and Canyons Rafting Company out of McCall Idaho. It was the first ever all womens trip, including women driving a boat called the "sweep boat", more about that later. My partner in crime, Shannon Christy, and I flew out of Denver sunday morning and landed happily in Boise, only to get on a four seater, gum package sized, airplane to get to McCall. We packed all of our stuff, kind of slept for a night, and then got back on the gum package sized airplane to fly to the put in of the Middle Salmon. 
Tessa Greer, rower extraordinare!
 We met the rest of our trip at the Boundary put-in. There would be 26 women on the trip with us, including all of the guides and safety kayakers. It was looking like it was going to be a great 6 day trip. The put in was bustling, between our trip putting on and all of the privates, there was little space to get on the water! It reminded me of the Gauley!
Craziness at the put-in
I immediately realized how beautiful this area was. The Middle Salmon area is the largest piece of land that is protected and untouched in the continental United States. Everyone got all packed up and we were briefed by the crew that would be taking us down the river for the next six days, five nights. We were finally off and I was happy as a clam in my bright pink Remix 59. Shannon and I were boofing every rock in sight and also marveling at what was surrounding us.
Sheepeater hot springs
 After paddling 14 miles we stopped at Fire Island, the first camp of our trip. We were all very happy to make the half mile treck up stream to the Sheep Eater Hot Springs even though it was already 85 degrees outside. After cooking in the hot springs for a while we came back to camp to find that there were crab cakes that had been made for us as appetizers! Yes, I said crab cakes, on the river. We also got a chance to play some bocce ball, until I lost my ball. We re-named the camp "Camp Blue Ball", there is still a blue bocce ball somewhere out there! Some clouds rolled in as the evening went on so Shannon and I decided to set up a tent. 
Morning yoga session to warm up
 The night was amazing, sleeping next to the river is so natural and we all slept like babies. In the morning we had eggs cooked to our liking and loads of fresh fruit. We had 20 miles of paddling in front of us and from what we heard there were going to be some big rapids. This trip was more about being with an amazing group of women than about running rapids, though that is fun too... I got to go "ducky" for the first time since I was 11 and I was stoked! 
Devon Barker-Hicks, so happy to have her with us!
 After lunch, Shannon and I heard the rapids slowed down pretty substantially so we opted to tie our kayaks to the raft and go "princess boating". We pretty much laid on the front of the raft, on a paco pad, and slept. It was the best way to go down a river ever. At one point, Shannon and I found ourselves clutching each other in the middle of the raft, literally kicking water away from us so we didn't get wet. This lead to hours of laughing and giggling between the three of us, Shannon, Tessa, and I. 
Just along for the ride
 Every corner that we turned was even more beautiful. 
The view from our post for most of the second day.
 We tried our hardest to stay away from the water and make sure we got a good tan on. I had to make sure my poor bald head didn't get burnt too!!
My best friend and I. Princess boating at it's best.
 We spent more time taking pictures of ourselves and laughing at each other than anything. It was a cool experience to turn over the reigns to someone else on the river and just be along for the ride, like a real tourist. We don't do that very often so it was an interesting perspective.
Tessa at one point told me to row. I'm no good. 
 Tessa gave me the chance to row the boat for a little bit, I was very terrible. It went against everything that I have ever known about kayaking, in fact, its the opposite. I was only behind the wheel for like 4 minutes  and I was happy to give Tessa back the power. 
Shannon and I stoked on surfing at Marble!
 After spending half of the day tanning and drinking beer we landed at the night two campsite, Marble left. I heard rumor there was a great surf wave here, the rumors were true! I was so excited to jump straight into my Biscuit and rally onto the water to get some surfing in!! It was the first real "wave" that I have surfed in years and it all came back to me very quickly. 
Camp is all the way at the bottom!
 After the evening surf session I decided to tackle the huge mountain that was behind us. I ran up it. It was hot, the sun was still very high in the sky, and I went for it. By the time I got to the top I was tired, broken, dirty, and very sweaty. The view from the top made up for all of the hard work that I had just put myself through. I felt like I could see for years up there! On the way down, I knew every step I took got me closer to a nice drink and some awesome food. 
Huge bull snake at camp
We also got the chance to share camp with this huge guy. Hes a big ole bull snake, harmless to humans, also known to eat rattle snakes, he was very welcome in our camp as Monica shows here! 

There are so many more pictures and more stories to come! Please keep checking back soon for more on this amazing trip!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

GoPro Mountain Games 2013

Entering the "Bird Bath"

 As always, the GoPro Mountain Games (formerly the Teva Mountain Games), starts off with a bang at Homestake Creek in Colorado. We are about 30 minutes outside of Vail in a town called Red Cliff and theres a roadside section of river that drops 450 feet per mile. Its an amazing stretch of whitewater and this year it actually had some water in it! My runs didn't go as well as I had hoped and I ended up in 3rd place behind Martina Wegman and Natalie Anderson.
Setting up for something huge!!
My mom and dad were at the Games this year so it was awesome to be able to see both of them for the weekend also. Going into the freestyle I was worried this year because it was a big cut for the females. We were also competing agains the juniors, who are better than most of us!! We cut 50%, from 12 to 6. I (luckily) ended up 6th!! We cut straight to finals for Saturday afternoon so most of Saturday I spent packing for Idaho and making sure I got my hair cut!

 As some of you know, I did a pretty massive fundraiser for First Descents. I wanted to raise awareness of the organization and at the same time do something that people would ask about.  I wanted to be able to give back what I was doing, so I decided to shave all of my hair off.

Check out my page, even though I made my goal, every dollar counts and if you have some change feel free to keep donating to this amazing cause. My page will stay open until the end of the year.


So, I shaved my head at the Games right before my finals run. I felt like I was at least 10 lbs lighter!

I then had to compete in finals in a stacked line up. Sage, Haley Mills, Courtney Kerin, Rowan Stuart, Emily Jackson, and myself. I revealed my new hair cut to the crowd and I got a huge, very empowering, cheer from everyone watching. 
Proud of Sage Donnely for having a great ride
 I knew it was going to be tight to get into 5th place, for the money so I had learned how to McNasty the day before the competition, with some help from Dustin Urban. I doubted that I would stick one in this feature, I was watching the men wash out trying them, but I didn't care. I had a relatively good ride and I decided to let it all hang out. I went for it, and stuck my first ever McNasty in competition. 
So stoked on sticking it!
 I didn't care that I ended up 5th place, I had done a move that no other women did in the competition and to me, that was winning. 

Huge huge loop!!!
This spot was also giving out some massive loops, which are my favorite thing to do! Always a fun move to stick.
 All in all, I was happy with where I ended up in the competition and I was happy that I learned a new move. The GoPro Mountain Games were great this year and I hope to be a part of them for many years to come. 

I also got the chance to meet the owner of Jati Suits, Burton Falk and he hooked Haley Mills and I up as the newest team members/ambassadors!!

Check out their suits online, they are super warm and so comfy I have been living in mine as of late. 

I also got to spend time with an amazing family during the weekend. My little buddy Campbell and his whole family, known to me as the Arizona Fan Club, this family comes up every year to watch the athletes at the Games. They are an inspiring family and also have an amazing story to tell. If you get a chance check them out on Facebook, Campbells Crew. 

Campbell and I 
A quick huge thanks to everyone who supports my habits!! Thanks for reading. I headed to Idaho the day after the GoPro Games for a big adventure. See what it was coming up next!!!!
Special thanks to the photos: Campbells Crew, my mom, Stephanie Viselli, and Phillip Robert
Burton and my new Jati Suit