Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver National Championships

First Timer’s Perspective – I Loved it! When I found out from Tom Blue that this year’s ACA Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver National Championships were going to be on the Nantahala, I jumped on the idea. I love racing wildwater in a decked canoe and this would be my chance this year to compete in a national level event. And I relished the idea of racing in open canoe nationals in the F-14 class (the class with the fastest allowable specifications) to see how I stack up in the sport. After all, I have done hundreds of runs down the Nanty in wildwater (decked) canoes and I got my start paddling in an open canoe. If only it was that simple For starters, it was hard really hard finding an F-14 boat. Fortunately, Allen Hedden volunteered to let me borrow his fiberglass We-no-nah Jenson. At first I was reluctant to borrow it. After all, it was a fiberglass lay up that I knew was bound to be heavy. And I knew what that meant from all of my wildwater racing experience. Every pound is a handicap and if the weight difference turned out to be more that 10-15 pounds, it could equate to a handicap that could keep me off the podium. Ultimately, Allen’s boat turned out to be the best option I could come up with and I was grateful to have it. After all, it was my ticket to get to race against our nations best in WWOC, so I went for it and outfitted it as best as I could for DR racing and raced with what ended up being a 20-30 pound handicap. The rules for WWOC DR racing seem to be somewhat overwhelming for new racers. I had asked a lot of questions leading up to the event and by race week I figured I had made all of the outfitting changes that I needed to make to the boat as race-worthy as possible. The only detail I missed was that my bow air bag exceeded the length of the 36” deck plate but I was lucky enough to be able to swap it out for the min-bag in the bow of my rec canoe. Then there are the 2 classifications of boats: F14 (the narrower faster boats where width must be at least 14.375% of the length) like the We-no-nah Jenson and the new design from Savage, and F16 (where the width must be at least 16+% of the length). These rules are strictly enforced and they DQ’d Chris Osment’s boat for being too skinny (as he had pulled his boat in at the gunnels to the point where it made it too skinny at the water line). My completely stock glass Wenonah turned out to have the opposite challenge; the manufacturer had pushed out the gunnels by several inches in this glass version over their race models and this made the boat wider at the gunnels and at water line, but at that point I was just happy to see that it passed. I found WWOC DR racing at the national level to be very similar to Wildwater Nationals. The sports are about the same size and both have some great folks in them. And like wildwater, WWOC has a number of really good athletes in the sport. For example, Jeff Owen, who is a high school science teacher in Maine and has a paddling program for his students, is also a many time national champion in multiple classes. Jeff was the overall winner both days in the two races I participated in (the OC-1 sprint and the top to bottom DR race). The Havens family, who I have known for several years, was there in full force raking up the medals. Zach was the National Champion in the F16 class and his parents As a result of the dimensional rules and the need for speed, the new F-14 C-1s have hulls similar to wildwater C-1s. They have decked as much of the boat as possible.
Jeff Owens’s Savage Boatworks OC-1 really demonstrates this. The first 3 feet of the boat are fully enclosed with carbon fiber. In addition, Savage has engineered the wing to be behind the paddler so that the boat is narrow for the full length of the stoke. The boat felt very similar to a Tip-Top C-1 with perhaps a bit more glide (because it is longer). And like Wildwater, a competitive C-1 is in the 25 pound range. But it’s not all about the boat. It’s about the skill set it takes to race OC as well as the thrill of competition and I was delighted to get to lay it all out there. I have not spent enough time in the boat at race pace to figure out how far I can push the boat into waves without taking on water. Candidly, I figure I did about as well as I possibly could have in the “sprint”. I ran the OC line on the right bank through Ferebee and pretty much ran my regular wildwater lines from there. It worked well, everything clicked, and I was 3rd overall. The top 3 finishers overall were: 1) Jeff Owens – 6:53 - Overall Winner – Overall National Champion 2) Zach Havens – 7:06 – 19-39 Age Group National Champion 3) John Pinyerd – 7:08 – Masters Age Group National Champion Link to all sprint results: The buzz on my second day of racing was over who was going to be the overall winner in the 8 mile Down River race. It was a match up between Jeff Owens, who has won several national titles in a row, and many time National Champion Dave Benner, whose canoe racing skills are legendary. Although I was pretty close in the “sprints” I quickly pooh-poohed on any talk of me besting them figuring that eight miles is a really long race for me, and the heavy boat would be an even bigger factor at this length. I also know I still have some details to iron out on what waves I can take on in open boat racing. And during the race I found I was over thinking the lines and I hurt myself at times by not easing off in the rapids and doing whatever it took to stay on a perfect line and remembering to always do the little tricks like leaning the boat away from the breaking waves.. Ultimately, I was glad to have finished as well as I did. The top 3 finishers overall were: 1) Jeff Owens – 52:02 – Overall Winner – Overall National Champion 2) David Benner – 53:34 – Masters Age Group National Champion 3) John Pinyerd – 55:00 – Second in Age group; 3rd overall Link to Down River Results: The buzz going into to the last day of racing (a day which I mistakenly opted out of racing and foolishly placed a higher priority on work) was how well Jeff and Dave would do teamed up in an OC-2. There was even talk of them doing the entire top Nanty in less than 50 minutes. I knew that kind of talk was just that, and they ultimately raced the course in 53:06 (which bested Dave’s individual time by about 30 seconds). Link to all Awards and Results: It was nice to see friends like the Osments there and Gabriella Schlidt (who won her F16 sprint age group). But I would love see more folks there! I would to do this again and have a couple dozen other SE racers with us. Seriously, when it was all said and done, this was a hoot!!!! And the question in the back of my mind between now and then will be…. Gee, I wonder how many medals we could all win if we all went for it? And how well I can do if I get the most competitive boat on the planet and train like I was going to a world championship? It’s those kinds of questions that have me racing for 3 decades and I hope to do this again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011 Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival, Lanier Olympic Venue, Gainesville, GA

September 10, 2011

Wow, the new race boats that we used at the festival “are not your fathers Oldsmobile.” They are more like a Porsche. They are lighter, faster, narrower and much tippier than the boats we used last year. I personally saw 3 flip and swims and I’m sure there were several more. Heck had a couple of us not thrown in low braces, I figure we would have flipped the KSU boat on our first outing.

I’m delighted to say that I had a “boat load of fun” at the annual Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival. Evelyn Orenbuch did a nice job of fielding a team and a terrific job of pulling it together.

Also, many thanks go to Gerri Lumsden at Porsche for arranging sponsorship for us. Yes, you are reading this correctly, Porsche paid our entry fee and provided very cool looking Porsche hats and Patagonia capilene shirts. So I was delighted to get to race for the Porsche Dragons!!!

In some respects, this year was a real eye opener for me into the world of Dragon Boat Racing. Ev really knows her stuff when it comes to this sport, and since there were just a handful of use who had raced DB before, I figured that the best thing I could do was to play the role of a support person (along with her husband, Stuart).

Ultimately, that boiled down to me play the role of “stroke” in the right position for the KSU and Porsche Draggons. What a blast!!! Sure there was a little pressure not to daydream, and a couple times I felt myself getting a little self conscience about it, but after a couple heats I had it figured out. I also how to wedge myself in and get a solid push with my feet, and change up my stroke enough so I did not bump top hands.

What I figured out along the way (from getting to race in a real race boat) is that DB racing is a real sport and a huge sport worldwide. I had figured this out last year, but having a real drummer (i.e. someone who really understands the sport and can communicate with the “strokes”) makes a world of difference. Our drummer made a huge difference in our last two races.

The new race boats got me excited about racing in this sport. I even daydreamed that if we were to round up 20+ hard core racers, a dedicated drummer, train on a semi-regular basis, get a sponsor to help, we could have a darn good team.

OK, now that’s really dreaming.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NOC Canoe Club Challenge – Round 3 – August 13th

Round III of the NOC Canoe Club Challenge was even more fun because it included the classic South Eastern US Whitewater Championships Downriver Race. I am blessed to be able to get to race yet another time. This year I was really lucky as Lynn had surgery two days before, but was very much in favor of me going to the race. I felt doubly lucky to get to stick around for the slalom in the afternoon.

On a personal level, the top to bottom downriver race was a little crazy since I was in a composite race boat and given my concerns about my shoulder. There

multiple groups of rafts ahead of us and passing them was challenging at times. It seemed like every time I would start picking it up I would have to back off and take an alternative line through the raft minefields.

Kurt, Tierney, and Haley all had very solid times and given the lack of competition, I easily won my umpteenth Charlie Patton Award for being the fastest canoe of any kind down the river. Ultimately my time was ok (given the longer course this year) and I felt like I beat everyone that I should have and lost to everyone that should have beat me (except for perhaps Bern). Most importantly, I
beat Bearn Collins, who got pushed off line by a raft and flipped. I’ll take it. I won a beer off it and have taken the lead in the beer cup award.

Here’s the link to the article:

Racing at the club/regional level has the tendency to make a good racer feel like
Superman, and good equipment helps. Allen and Gabby were nice enough to offer me a choice of boats and I felt like Gabby’s Outrage was
a good choice for me. I really love that boat as it’s narrow enough for me to race it like a C-1 and it handles quite well. Ultimately I ended up with first in OC-1.

In the slalom C-1 event, I paddled my Cascade, which is a nice “creek boat” but

feels like a pig to me. Since I had to get back home to Lynn, I did two quick C-1 runs and headed back to ATL. I was a little surprised to hear that I won given the fact that there was were some pretty solid racers there, including a former member of the Yugoslavian Junior Slalom Team who happened to be racing a Bat Max. It looks lime my strategy to just run as wide open as I could though the course paid off.

Ultimately GCA won the Slalom and the Canoe Club Challenge and the Atlanta Whitewater Club won the downriver event. In my mind, this was more like a tie, with the real winners being everyone who participated and the NOC for coming up with such a cool event.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

NOC's Canoe Club Challenge - July 16th

NOC's Canoe Club Challenge (CCC)was an absolute blast.

Initially, I felt compelled to race because of my involvement with the GCA and the NOC in working together to continue the "Southeastern Whitewater Championships" Downriver race as a CCC event at the grand finale on August 13th. I had no idea just how much fun it was going to be.

Roger Nott did a good job organizing our timers for the July 16th event, so all I really needed to do is show up and race for the GCA. If you know Roger, you know he has an incredible respect for racers both past and present. True to form, he had
reserved the number "1" bib for me. Of course, I did not think anything about it until Chris Hipgrave started ragging on me, and then I realized what a neat gesture it really was.

Kudo's go to Allen Hedden, my racing partner in OC-2 at the Southeasterns's 25 years ago for asking me to race OC-2 with him. We won in OC-2 then and we won again this year in spite of more than a couple gray hairs between us. It is absolutely how amazing just how quickly we clicked and after just run or two we were really dialed in order to beat some formidable competition like Team Popp.

Allen provided all 3 of the boats I paddled: the OC-2 we paddled together, an OC-1, and a Gyromax C-1. Wow, what a joy as Allen does a terrific job outfitting his boats which really helps my paddling skills. They are amazingly comfortable while feeling like they "fit like a glove".

The coolest thing of the weekend is that Allen and I tied in our OC-1 races. I
think it's only fitting as he supplied the boats and my motivation for getting in the OC-1. From what I could tell, Allen who has better open canoe skills had crisper, tighter lines, while I was able to stay in the game by pushing the boat a little faster.

It was also fun to paddle a Gyromax again, 20+ years or so after I sold mine in order to help buy another race boat. While I did not figure anyone could beat me in a decked C-1, I was starting to wonder as it was the last event I did for the day as time (and my energy) were starting to run out. But my runs were solid and I won, with Roger Nott (who did very well) finishing second.

Ultimately, I did about all I could to help "Uncle GCA" win the CCC as I completed 13 runs and won the 3 classes I raced in. I am blessed to be able to still do things like this and thrilled that none of my parts fell off.

Here are the results by class:

The results organized by Team are at:

The CCC website link is:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

USA Nationals, Salida CO, Our Trip to the “Heart of the Rockies” - June 2011

USA NATIONALS SALIDA/FIBARK CO (is this my last big race?):
I am just happy to be able to be competing. My shoulder has not held up to the rigors of whitewater training/racing, perhaps due in part to the rocky rivers of the Eastern US. So getting to go to Nationals again was a joy and an honor.

2011 was a banner year for snowfall in the “fourteener” region of the Arkansas river basin. River flows were a romping 3000+ CFS when we got there and grew to 3500ish later in the week.

As a result, the Sprint Course was a romping stomping solid and continuous big Class III that took about a minute.

For me, it felt like a minute long wresting match, but apparently I am my own worst critic as the video and pictures that I reviewed showed that my form was very solid on race day.

All those years of training and coaching I have given over the years have apparently helped ingrain the correct form when it counts.

While I was all geared up to do the Sprint on Thursday afternoon and the Classic at 5PM on Friday, the good Lord had a different plan.

Our day on Thursday started off with a call at 3:35 stating that Harold (Lynn’s Dad) had died. So we begin our day planning our return to ATL and Birmingham AL for the funeral (see the Tribute to Harold Mask below). Ultimately what worked out best was to fly out of DEN to ATL on Friday a.m., so once the arrangements were made we headed off to Salida to help Ed Loeffel with organizing the event. A second but lower priority was to do my best (in my old “No Name” C-1 that I borrowed back from Denny Adams).

I was reminded again why I love Wildwater. The 10+ mph current made you feel like you were flying down as you tried to hammer down an awesome, continuous, big surging Class III and right through the middle of town. But it is also the camaraderie that makes our sport special. Wildwater is a small close knit sport where we still try and help each other with technique, lines, and even sharing boats. When Lisa Adams asked if she could share boats with me 10 minutes before the first race, I was happy to help out as my old “No Name” is now technically her boat.

I was quite happy with my Sprint runs on Thursday and I stacked up quite well against the kayaks and was second to Tom Wier our top C-1. While I was hopeful that at least one of the younger up and comer’s would beat me, they still have their work cut out for them, and I finished second.

When the organizer heard of Harold’s death and that I had to leave after the Sprint race, they allowed me to take my classic run (with Terry Smith doing the timing). In spite of feeling a bit tired from the sprints, and feeling downright arm weary, I decided to go for it and knock out my “classic” distance race along with Colton Popp. WOW, that was one of the hardest races I had ever done. It was brutal, as I started out the race on brisk pace only to run out gas 4 minutes into the rate due to the thin air at 7000 feet. After getting really sloppy, I was forced to slow it down and try and try and let my oxygen debt catch up with me. What would have taken a couple minutes back east took twice as long but I was gradually able to start properly driving the boat and pick the pace back up.

But when it was all said and done, the FIBArk Whitewater Festival is one of the coolest paddling events on the planet. I am just glad I got to be a part of in (although it was abbreviated) and finish both of my Nationals run.

Will this be my last Nationals level whitewater race? Probably. I need to focus on my shoulder, and if I get it fixed I will more than likely become a flatwater and all around fitness guy.

As we typically do, when USA Nationals are in a garden spot on the planet, Lynn and I try to turn it into an outdoor adventure trip.

This year was no exception as the Salida/Buena Vista/Chaffee County CO area is well known as the “Heart of the Rockies.”

It started with the SUV we rented (we got an incredible deal from Alamo).

While the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee does not have as much clearance as the older models, and is not quite as nimble due to the elimination of the lower gear range, it did work well for what we needed it for and it got a solid 25+ mpg. Armed with 4WD, we were able to get to the trailheads we needed without fear.

Being prepared is key to hiking in CO. I typically pack twice as much water as needed, a light weight jacket, and an extra base layer or two (and we like Patagonia’s products for this).

For day hikes I normally wear shorts and the full height Keen Targee II boots and Lynn likes the lower cut Keen Targee’s (but wears long pants).

Dark glasses are essential as you never know when you are going to cross a snowfield.

Since the snow was still present above 11,000 some of the trails that we normally do were off limits. As a result, we hit several of the trailheads we love that were less affected such as Denny’s Creek/Browns Cabin (west of BV), Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area (NE of BV/Elephant Rock), and trails around the Saint Elmo area.

WOW, what a great adventure. The combination of getting to view some incredible mountain scenery and wildlife was just downright inspirational.

Depending on how everything goes, Lynn and I may try to return in mid-September during peak leaf change.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Tribute to Harold “Paw-Paw” Mask (1933-2011)

While Lynn and I had figured on having a combination of a Colorado adventure trip and USA Nationals, we ended up having to cut it short to return home for her dad's funeral and to help. Harold’s death was the reason that Lynn and I jetted back home during the middle of our Nationals.

I am going to miss my father-in-law Harold Mask who passed away on June 16. In many respects he was like a second father to me, especially given that my own father died more than 20 years earlier.

Paw-Paw (as Lynn and I and the grandkids all called him) would fill a room with his personality and his laughter. His outgoing nature made him a natural for sales and during his career he had an unblemished reputation as very honest and fair Sales Director/VP that would always go the extra mile for his customers.

He dearly loved his wife Gayle (of 58 years, who he married when he was 20 and now survives him). He also loved his family, his friends, his work, traveling and animals. He had an incredible way of communicating with both dogs and cats. And last but not least, Paw-Paw loved the Lord.

While we hate to say goodbye, we know that Harold is in a much better place now, as his suffering in this life has ended. It is perhaps appropriate to state what Christians of faith like him believe about death (as summed up by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8):

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because those that believe in Him belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed them from the power of death. Christ lives within you believers, so even though your body will die, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. This is because the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Yet while we may suffer now in this life, this is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. We wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Those that believe in Christ were given this hope when we were saved.

Can anything ever separate a believer from Christ’s love? Of course not. Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us unconditionally. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lyons Outdoor Games June 11, 2011

Lyons Colorado is a really cool outdoor town about half way between Boulder and Estes Park. I was delighted when my travel schedule allowed me to race in this year's Wildwater Race. The race course is awesome for wildwater racing and training.

Since I am really focusing on ensuring my trucking operation is running well these days I opted for a night flight that ended up being a late night flight to Denver with midnight arrival in Boulder. Oh well, so I got 5-6 hours of sleep, jumped in a Tip Top C-1 that Denny Adams provided, and did a test run of the course with Race Master Jeremy Rodgers early Sat a.m.

The race course from the Apple Valley Bridge to Black Bear Hole is continuous Class 2 and has a half dozen class 3ish rapids. Our race took us right through the Lyons Whitewater Park (which has been enhanced by Scott Shiply) during peak Outdoor Games spectatorship.

Jeremy Rodgers did a great job of organizing the event and the winners got some great swag. Olympian Scott Shiply led the Kayak field followed by Gary Lacy. Team Dawson, led by coach Lisa Adams, showed up in force and everyone did quit well. Spencer Huff, an up and coming star in the Jr ranks really showed me something and I think he will rapidly improve with more time in the boat and coaching.

I was the fastest canoe down the river and stacked up well on a personal level. On a personal note, the Tip Top felt incredibly stable to me compared to the tippy Bala I normally paddle, and this is a factor I will strongly consider as I back away from paddling on a regular basis (due to my shoulder issues).

All in all, this was a great course, a great event, and a great time. I hope to see more of you there next year.


Monday, March 28, 2011

US OPEN - Nantahala River - March 26-27

US OPEN - Nantahala River - March 26-27
New Faces for our Sport and a new Personal Record for me!!!

The NOC always puts on a great race and this weekend was no exception. I have also come to love the Format of the US Open (although I think we could improve on Patton's Run as a sprint course).

We had several new racers at the event. I am extremely impressed with Rick Thompson and Fransheka Barretto who both did quite well in their first race. It was great to see some new Juniors at the event which also served as the East Junior Team Trails.
For results see:
For Jr Team Selection see:
Rick Thompson's Pics:

On a personal level I had mixed results. My left shoulder (yep the one I injured, had surgery on, and rehabbed, perhaps only to put another tear in? is acting up). So I held back in Sprint race through Patton's run. Candidly I hate Patton's as it is primarily shoulder ripping shallow gravel bar followed by a shallow rapid with tendon ripping consequences. So I held back an turned in a what may be a life time slow against the top kayaks (who have a huge advantage because they can plane up across the shallows).

Sunday was different. My training took over and I set a PERSONAL RECORD of 11:55 in the Classic Race. I have never broken 12:00 before and my time in 2006 (a banner year for me) was 12:20. In spite of my concerns on my shoulder, I had made up my mind to try and lay it out there in deeper water where I was not worried about hitting rock with my paddle tip. The weather cooperated and the river went up two-three inches which really helped in the shallows too.

Back to reality... I will be getting my shoulder looked at tomorrow by Dr Crag Weil. I would hate to give up the sport I love... but heck, I could learn to paddle flatwater in an Epic V-12 K-1 if I had too.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Glacier Breaker – February 26-27

Glacier Breaker – February 26-27

Wow, the Glacier Breaker weekend was better than ever. Of course Chris Hipgrave, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and the Nantahala Racing Club always do a terrific job of hosting and running their races. A neat addition is the G.B. is permanently being changed to a two day format that includes Sprints, a Classic, and the opportunity to train with folks on Saturday afternoon.

I was thrilled to see several new racers at the GB (see the results). Bartosz did a great job of piggy backing on with me (and Bailey) to warm up and get in some practice runs.

It was great to see the team members (and prospective team members) that attended the advanced training camp on Thursday and Friday. Chris Norbury has been serving as our head coach and his efforts are really appreciated. His video review and his advanced coaching techniques are just downright awesome (although please be forewarned, should you have the opportunity to get his coaching, don’t let his direct and seemingly caustic style of pointing out your weaknesses scare you, he is really trying to help you improve)!

In K-1, Andrew McEwan looked really smooth and is still very fast. Chris Hipgrave is still quite a machine as he ran the races which made it difficult for him to warm up, and yet he still turned in solid results. I was also impressed by Tom Wier who continues to seem to develop even in this “off year” for him.

On a personal level, I’m just happy to be alive and kicking!!! And heck, my positive attitude and a solid love of sport seem to be helping my paddling. I barely even thought of my shoulder and felt solid most of the time in whitewater!!!! My focus on my stroke over the winter and my flatwater training really helped me in the flats.

And of course in the all important “beer cup” series, I lead my racing buddy Bern Collins by a hair.

See the complete results at:

Chute the Hooch Training Camp – January 15-16, 2011

Chute the Hooch Training Camp – January 15-16, 2011

Wow what a blast. The CTH Training Camp is always a special time because it’s a chance for advanced racers to get back into the swing of things for the year, and for new racers to try out the sport. I was so impressed by the amount of enthusiasm from everyone that attended the whole camp and time trial.
My shoulder felt solid and the video review showed my stroke has really improved. For video see: YouTube Video (by Bartosz Ilkowski)
For an article and complete results see:
Also see: Links:
• Race Results:
• Article on by Rick Thompson
• Photos (by Rick Thompson)