An Impressive Win at the Teva Games Downriver Race

Written by Jeremy Rodgers
Created Date: Monday, 13 June 2011 00:00

Teva Games 2011....Leading the Coup d'état....DART-Nuun-SportMulti / KEEN Wildwater Paddler Wins the Teva Games Bud Light Downriver Race

"A coup d'état (English: /ˌkuːdeɪˈtɑː/, French: [ku deta]; plural: coups d'état)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government,[1][2][3] usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either civil or military."

So my close paddling friends have long known my angst with any race that doesn't let the river decide what water craft is best suited for any given race. Teva Games, held annually in Vail, Colorado hosting over 40,000 spectators was such a race. Combine this with my roots as an Eco Challenge competitor, where wit and strategic treachery within the letter of the rules is not only allowed but simply held in sacred regard.

Dagger Kayaks was a major sponsor of the Teva Games event in it's humble beginnings a decade ago so Dagger sponsored athletes, who hands down are some of the best creek boaters in the world, naturally lobbied the event to exclude downriver racers like myself who race in 15 foot carbon kevlar kayaks made for pure speed and grace on swift moving violent whitewater. The 2 simple rules remain the same today and kayaks 1) must be 12 foot or less in length 2) must be made of plastic. While I'm usually in Europe the month of June racing in wildwater events, this summer I chose to stay and race domestically opening up an opportunity for my coup d'etat at Teva Games against over 200 of the best whitewater paddlers in the US and abroad with an impressive prize purse big enough to justify the hassle factor.

So I called up my boys from Boulder Boatwerks and told them of my plan to take a 15 foot plastic Wavehopper (made for training but we race in carbon versions) wildwater kayak and have it cut down to 12 feet and rewelded. These good ole boys (Andy and Steve), who specialize in plastic dorry boat design/welding, went above in beyond to reconfigure this mutant wildwater kayak for no other reason than they agree...let the river decide what kayak a paddler can keep upright, not some sponsor who's athletes want everyone paddling the same boat they are contractually bound to paddle:)

So my mutant kayak was exactly race specifications and 100% legit, 12 foot long and same weight as the Dagger Green, the gold standard racing kayak for this race but more stable and wider than my tippy wildwater kayak. The difference is that wildwater kayaks are extremely narrow and tippy which most creek boaters find unpalatable over distance. Creek boats are made to make big 15 foot waterfall drops, not hammer at a supraanerobic intensity for 15+ minutes in class 3-4 whitewater.

So Heather and I show up race morning trying to stay under the radar of all the world class creek boaters who are looking for a paycheck. Legendary extreme kayaker Tao Berman was particularly enthusiastic to hear about this mutant kayak which I particularly appreciated considering he knew what I was up to and it wasn't helping him pay his travel expenses:) I think he sincerely appreciated my message....LET THE RIVER AND PADDLER DECIDE WHAT KAYAK THEY CAN KEEP UPRIGHT.

So, with the rumbling in the creek boater camp underway, I pulled into the start eddy and waited for the laser eye and clock to give me the thumbs up followed by what was possibly my best technical race I've ever paddled. Downriver racing is embodied by the art of reading the swiftwater and with the help of standout US wildwater paddlers Andy Corra, Andrew McEwan, Gary Lacy, and Shane Sigle over the last year, this day I painted perhaps my masterpiece. Specifically, connecting the dots between the fastest moving water and avoiding every minute wave hit that translates to friction.The Colorado snow pack is almost 200% of normal in most river basins following a massive snow season so the rivers are raging out of their banks making wave hits and navigating rapids even more exciting this year. I set my Garmin 305 heart rate/pace monitor to it's usual screen, revved it up till the heart rate zone data field read "painful", then settled into a rhythm with my "forward focus" mantra chiming in my head.

With a brisk 17 minutes, 30 seconds registering as I pass the laser eye at the finish at Covered Bridge in Vail Village, the reality of what just happened set in. A coup d'etat had indeed taking place with my time besting the next paddlers, Kiwi Mike Dawson and Americans Issac Levinson and Tao Berman by nearly 20 seconds. Hats off to these guys who I've followed for years on the extreme kayaking scene...they simply rule the class 5 creeks.

We'll see what this outstanding outdoor mountain festival and arguably biggest whitewater race in the US does next year on this long going debate of should racers be forced by the rules to paddle a Dagger Green like boat or can they paddle any plastic boat they can keep upright. Either way, Teva Games remains the best organized world class event in the US whitewater paddling circuit and I respect their decision. I also respect the hard work and talent demonstrated by all the Dagger athletes and especially Tao Berman's congeniality pre-race which reminds me what this sport is all about...."let's go boat'n"!

Next up next weekend, Lyons Outdoor Games and US Wildwater Nationals.

I still can't believe it but I may miss racing next weekend after a freak injury walking Mazzy, our rock star cattle dog on her new elastic leash back to the Ultimate Multisport Van. Mazzy, while perfect in so many ways, loves to chase cars and darted after an oncoming car in Vail Village. Not being used to the new elastic leash, I let her get too close and reacted by tugging her out of harms way. Even in my agile Keen flippety flops:) , I went over a landscaping wall and landed on a metal post right to the ribs and kidney. Seriously Tao, put away the vodoo doll as I was just guys own Teva Games:) Xrays tomorrow morning and rib belt and shallow inspiration till then!

Shout out to past teammates Travis Macy and Gretchen Reeves who both found their way to the podium in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge where they not only paddled but mountain and road biked up Vail Pass followed by a 10k trail race! Junior US wildwater paddler from Durango, CO Cully Brown also represented well in the Downriver race with a 7th place finish in an outstanding 150 some senior paddler field. Look out for this "kid" in 2 years...I'm retiring to avoid him I think:)