Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Youts are taking off.

This year the Youth group gathers paddlers of various skill levels.  The most advanced paddlers have been working on their strength and stamina while our greener kayakers have been developing their attaining skills, boat control and polishing their roll. 

Overall, everybody made some great progress.  Over time, the less experienced Youts have started to make some more tricky attainments, brave the hairy ferry below MD chute and even conquer the river right attainment move of MD chute, which guards the so coveted Mather Gorge.  All are showing great perseverance and even a touch of stubbornness that definitely paid off --right Alex and Reed? :)--  

Austin, psyched after a nice combat roll.

A good day for Christian, after making the Hairy Ferry below MD chute.  Way to go!

Even if the Potomac can sometimes be intimidating for some of the Youts, everybody is trying very hard to work on their skills.

That is that is the Youts attitude!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Time With The New Team is Flying By!!

It has already been over three weeks since we started our new season of Cheat Training and the Youts are already showing some progress.  The new comers are starting to get used to their long boats and everybody is getting in shape.

Our third Thursday of training was the most memorable so far.  The weather was nice, Daylight Savings Time was finally over and the Youts brought their A-game.

Ready to rock!

 After a few edging drills coached by Pablo, everybody paddled really hard in two relay races.  The competition between the two teams was fierce but friendly and the Youts showed both competitive spirit and sportsmanship.  Later on, we attained and worked around Maryland Chute.  The most advanced boaters paddled up river, listening to the call of the glossy Rocky Island waves.  Everybody else pushed their limits and took on the many challenges the river offers below the chute.

I saw Reed working as hard as he could to make a pretty difficult attainment move and I was pleased to see his effort rewarded. 
Alex tried that same move so hard and so many times, I thought his arms were going to fall off.  He only missed it by the skin of a tooth and I have no doubt that he will get it next time. 

Christian made the hard ferry below the chute and Austin came very close to making it too. 
Christian and Alex
Austin after his MD chute breakthrough

 Everybody showed some great spirit and perseverance and at the end of the day, the Youts were all smiles, and I was thrilled to see that everybody in the team showed a great attitude. 

Stephanie, the "Rolling Queen" in action


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Catching Up on our Outs and Abouts

Since the beginning of March, we have been training twice a week and the Youts are getting back in the "attaining saddle".  The Youth program veterans, Taylor, Will, George, Liam and Ben are stronger than ever and paddling well. Kira is getting better and better and fast acquiring great boat control.  As of Justin, he just got a new toy: a brand new Wavehopper, that he already took out for a few spins.  I just love seeing them all make progress.

All of these achievements were of course laced with much fun, trash talking, forgotten shoes (right Liam and Ben?) and other pieces of gear...etc.  After all, that is the Youts we are talking about!
Of course, I suspect Liam "forgot" his shoes to get the opportunity to wear my super cute pink Crocs. 

Liam sporting some mighty cute Crocs (Sandrine's, that is... )

Getting ready to rock!

 Since the beginning of the season, the Potomac has been holding between 4 and 5 feet.  This made for some challenging attainments.  But nothing could stop the Youts from making it to Wet Bottom and a few of them even attained up past it despite the challenging water levels.

At the same time, our own "Georgio" (a.k.a George Boss) has been keeping himself busy with a lot of paddling and a brand new blog: Big Left Boof or BLB.  Go check it out and follow his paddling adventures.  Also give him a little "Like" on Facebook to support his undertaking.

George, Taylor and Will at Wet Bottom putting a plug in for George's BLB

 Fast forward...

April 6 was our first trip down the Cheat.  Will, Liam, Taylor, Ben and Kira tackled the river at the friendly level of 3 feet.  This was a first time and big step up for Kira who had never paddled anything as big as the Cheat at 3 feet.  She aced her run, had a ton of fun and made it to the take out with a big big smile! :D

After two run of the Cheat, Will and Ben had to refuel with some nutritious food, which in Youts terms mean: CHIPS!!! Yeah... that's how they roll! :)

So far the season has been good and everybody is paddling very well. Fun crew and fun time on the water!

Stay tuned for the next page on the run down the Kitzmiller!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cheat Race Day by Barb

This year, most of the Youts made it to the Cheat race: Liam, Ben, George, Will and Thomas competed and did very well. The results of the race can be found here.

Thomas, Sandrine, Tom, Georgio, Liam, Ben and ... we are missing Will who could not be very far.

We also had an honorary team member joining us this year.  Barb, Ben's Mom, tagged along in the Little Gray Van to fully experience the Cheat Race fun.  Barb nicely took the time to write about her experience so here is her account:

"Ben did not complain about his Mom cramping his style. She rode up in the van ride up to the race. 

Mom learned many things:

1.  It’s a long ride for six minutes of viewing.

2.  The road to the take out is especially scary in someone else’s vehicle.

3.  Mom needs to learn how to be calm like the kayakers:

Mom was too scared to drive LGV* back up the road so she waited for someone to rescue her. Tom and Sandrine noticed Mom and the boys waiting for rescue and graciously got off the shuttle bus, leaving their paddles behind. 

After the shuttle bus dropped everyone off at the put in, it drove away with Tom and Sandrine’s paddles on it.  So, once those of us in LGV got back to the put in, Tom and  Sandrine had to find their boats: which had been dropped off in one direction and their paddles: which had been driven off in another direction.

Meanwhile Mom felt guilty and responsible for the lost paddles: if she could have just driven LGV up the horrible road Sandrine and Tom would not have been separated from their paddles.  So Mom fretted while Tom and Sandrine found their paddles.  Mom should just learn to chill and be calm like the Kayakers."

(*) For those of you who would not be acquainted with Tom's now legendary vehicle, LGV is the Little Gray Van."

I also think that Barb ended up driving LGV home while everybody else was snoring in the van after a full day. :) And yes, this was a bit of a chaotic day but I am not sure I know any kayaker who would mind a little chaos once in a while.

The Cheat Race is always a great cap to the end of the Spring paddling season and I know I always feel a little pinch in the heart at the thought that the fun weekly training with the Youts are over.  But this year again, I had a fun time with this great group and I am already looking forward to next year!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Saturday April 21: Wavehopping on the North Branch of the Po

This weekend marked the second water release of the Bloomington dam, on the North Branch of the Potomac.  Upon Tom's advice, the Wavehoppers headed to Barnum, WV to train on this classic Wildwater run.  The Cheat being too low to be run in our boats, the timing was perfect.

After getting only slightly lost, Sandrine met with Thomas and George before heading to the take out.  There, they found some familiar faces: the LAKS Cheat Lite group, lead by Hollie, was also there to enjoy this nice Class II/III run.

The team geared up for their first "classic wildwater run" and Thomas drove us and our pile of Wavehoppers to the put-in.

There we met again with Hollie, who was very familiar with this river and gave us a few pointers about where to put-in. She also introduced us to Kurt Smithgall, who paddles on the US Wildwater team.  He was there for the day, doing loops on the upper part of the run and biking his own shuttle.  Kurt nicely offered to show us the lines on this short section.  We carried up about a half mile, put on and... tried to keep up with him while he was "taking it easy".  We left him at the end of this top section and finished the run by ourselves, paddling steadily and constantly.

At the take out, after refueling with our favorite healthy food (Yes, that includes Pringles) and a deep reflection on the most efficient ways to run shuttle, we found a nice crew of gentlemen who agreed to take Thomas back up to his car.  How could they not when Thomas looked like this:

Thomas most convincing look to find a shuttle ride.

We shuttled for a second run and waited for Kurt to be back to the put in to start our second run with him.  In the meantime, the guys decided a little rest was in order and what is more comfy than a Wavehopper for a nap??
A bed of nails is George's second favorite for a power nap.

We started our second run as soon as Kurt came back.  After a few miles, Kurt, who was paddling at a "leisurely pace" dropped out of sight.  We paddled paddled paddled! So hard that we finally caught up with him (Yes we did!!)... OK, OK, we found him in an eddy, where he stopped to do a little wave surfing, so what? 

Overall, this run was different from anything we had paddled so far: continuous class II/III with no major rapids, allowing for regular pacing and continuous paddling. We all had a good time on what was our first classic wildwater training.  Thanks Tom for encouraging us to do this! :)


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Saturday, April 7: First Trip on the Cheat

Only Taylor and Ben made it to the first trip to the Cheat.  The river was level was around 2 feet, which was perfect to introduce Taylor to the canyon.  After the past Cheat Training Season during which the levels remained around 4-5 feet, Ben, now a veteran, found this level to be child's play.

At the put-in, while waiting for shuttle to be setup, the guys did not remain idle.  After Ben struck an engaging group conversion on Zombie apocalypse, they decided to use their talent to build a raft from sticks and ... trash(?)... well... let's say: from what they could find on the spot.  And ain't that a fine looking boat!?


Not sure if the goal was to have the raft follow us all the way down the river but the journey of the so carefully hand-crafted craft ended up being short-lived.

Everything went well as we made our way down the river and Taylor had a few opportunities to show us his bombproof roll.  He even took a little "ding" in the face without flinching.  Way to go!

This was a gorgeous sunny day on the Cheat and we all enjoyed a great day of paddling together.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

March 31st: Team LAKS Red Mo Race Mission

On Friday March 31st, Ben, George, Taylor, Thomas, Will and Sandrine gathered at the LAKs office before heading to Grassflat, PA to compete in the Red Mo Race.  



This 7-mile race was organized on class II/III Moshannon Creek. It was open to crafts of all sorts and shapes, from stand-up paddle boards to canoes, rec boats, sea kayaks and, of course, wildwater boats.  This was going to be the first race of the year for all of us and also the first race ever for Taylor and for the new LAKS wildwater team.  Taylor and Ben were to compete in long boats whereas Will, Thomas, Geroge and Sandrine would paddle their Wavehoppers.

Team LAKS about to take the road

After our Atlanta adventure and the scares that  Tom's Little Gray Van had given us about a month before, LGV had spent some quality time at the repair shop and we were all hoping that our drive to Pennsylvania would be a breeze.  Ben, Will and Sandrine would drive in the van while George, Taylor and Thomas would drive in George's car. 

We were moving along, making headway towards our destination.  Time was flying by in the Little Gray Van where Ben, Will and Sandrine were chatting along, while listening to some dubstep, rap and other good tunes, all courtesy of DJ/copilot Will.  While Sandrine was driving, Ben and Will had the arduous task to keep the music going.  This was no easy undertaking because of the defective cassette-tape adapter.  Ben's role was to hold the cable in some awkward position that would keep the device working and Will ensured the "vocal backup".  He had to sing and "fill the blanks" every time the music would be interrupted.  Both did an excellent job and their team work kept the music going for most of the time.  Will even outdid himself by "guiding" all of us on a nocturnal scenic tour of some obscure areas of Pennsylvania.  :))

After a few wrong turns and about three hours on the road, the rain started and... the van stopped...  Despite the time spent in repair, LGV's tolerance for rain had not improved.  We were forced to stop multiple times.  George, Thomas and Taylor were following us closely and patiently in case LGV would give up completely.  If we were to make it to our destination, this was going to be a long trip.  And long it was! Instead of arriving at our motel around 10:30 or 11 as expected, we made it to Nowhere, PA (also known as Kylertown) at 1:30 am.  After the van gave us all these difficulties, you would think that nothing else could have gone go wrong! Well, think again! For a while we really thought that we were going to be forced to camp in the rainy cold:
First, we could not find our motel.  When we finally found it,  the office was closed. We drove to a gas station nearby to inquire about this slight problem and managed to get the name of the "key keeper".  We looked for the man who would give us access to a warm, dry and comfortable bedroom.  He turned out to be a "she" but this was the least of our worries. The nice lady checked us in and gave us our oh so coveted key!!   In the meantime, our team fashionista decided to throw in a little "gas station fashion show".

We were more than ready to get in our room and finally get some rest when we found out that the key would not unlock the door.  It is only after about 5 or 10 minutes of discussion about the fact that the room number could be a 6 or a 9 that Will, by some miracle, managed to open the door. Yay Will! Our hero!!


    The room was finally ours! Hooray! But... it could accommodate 5 people and it was the six of us there.  How were we going to make this slumber party work?
    The guys generously offered the cot to Sandrine (How sweet was that?!). First problem solved.


    The next question was to decide who was going to sleep on the floor.  After lengthy deliberations and a few rock-paper-scissors games, Ben ended up on the carpet.


    At this point (passed 2 am), we decided that getting up at 5:30 or 6 am to do a practice run to figure out the race course was out of the question.  We were going to "wing it".

     The next morning, after a copious breakfast, we headed to the race put-in to register and get ready to race.  Everybody seemed pretty pumped-up and ready to paddle hard and give their best.

    And who forgot his shoes and borrowed Thomas flip-flops? 

    We won't tell...Ahem...

    Strategy or trash talk meeting ?

    The river turned out to be extremely low and the short section we could see from the put-in looked very shallow.  We did not know what to expect for the rest of the course. 
    The slowest crafts were scheduled to leave first, so we patiently waited for our turn to launch.  After a solid hour wait, we all cheered on as Ben and Taylor started their race. The Wavehoppers were in the two last heats, with other wildwater boats.  

    The race turned out to be extremely scrapy.  The river was so low that it was difficult to get any glide out of our boats.  Another challenge was to pass the slower competitors who had launched before we did.  

    Despite the less than ideal conditions, the members of Team LAKS poured all they had into the race and ended up with honorable rankings.

    In particular, Ben placed third in the Men K1 category!!

    Taylor ranked fourth behind Ben and the Wavehoppers (placed in a separate category) proved to be competitive as well.  The complete race results are available here.

    Despite a few mishaps and less than ideal race conditions, this was a fun time and a good opportunity for Team LAKS to cut their teeth on a first local race.