Wednesday, July 22, 2009

China

China, lol, I got a call from Ron Burke a couple months ago asking me if I wanted to go to China for a raft race. "sure.... what's the details" well the details were very slim. With a week and a half before the competition I bought two tickets to Chengdu, China. We filled our visa papers last minute, and the day of before our departure I received a phone call saying that the visas will not go threw in time. So we decide to do what any good raft guide would and wing it. We headed to denver and got to the ticket desk and the ticketing agent wants to see our visas, we don't have. She books us just to L.A. and tells us it will be up to the next ticketing agent if we can continue, so we wing it. When we arrive in L.A. we get the official shut down, "they will send you straight back to the states if you don't have a visa". So we spend the night in L.A. go to the Chinese consulate early in the morning expedite the process and have our visas in hand by 2 p.m.. We head back to the air port catch the flight, and 12 hours latter land in beijing.

Ron finding the Chinese equivalent of red bull

Immediately hop on another flight and get to Chengdu.

Ron getting off the plane in Chengdu

Ron and I had almost no expectations of the event and staff, and were given an amazingly warm welcome. They picked us up at the air port took us out to an extravagant lunch, drop us off at our plush hotel, (located just into the hills surrounding Dujiangyan).

Our palace of a hotel

We were really hoping to be able to practice on the course, but practice was concluded that morning and we were to hop on a bus for some sight seeing. We were taken to the birth place of religion or at least that is what the sign said, all in all it was a beautiful area tucked right in the side of the mountains.











That night we had dinner, and I passed out after 3-days of traveling. The next morning we ate breakfast hoped on the bus and headed to the race venue. When we arrived we started to get the feeling this was going to be a big thing. A huge stage tons of people milling around and 5 star treatment. We went down got a quick glimpse of the river and got dressed.
The opening ceremony, wow, we had a few thousand pictures taken of us, there was cute girls with signs depicting each country the racers where from, there was a speech by the mayer, fireworks, canons, more photos, a gymnast act, a dance act, and all this was to start our little raft race.

We jumped back in the bus, 5 teams from other countries the Netherlands, Australia, Check Republic, Great Britain, and Ron and I representing the USA. There was also 6 teams representing different club groups in China. When we got to the put all the silly stories the other teams were saying came true. The rafts themselves were 8 foot long with tiny diameter tubes, no thwarts, tiny bailing holes, and no way to stay in the boat for that matter. The boats where designed to sit in the middle, on the pads that where attached to the floor and holding onto the handles on the top of the out side tube. It looked as if we where going to race in Wal Mart boats. The river itself was very odd it had been seriously altered. A damn above and below where we were to raft and the hole river basin looked like it had been dredged again and again. The rapids where simply really step gravel bars, that where definitely changing as we spoke. There were signs along the way that read (sit down and hold the handles) super funny. Ron and I jammed ourselves nearly shoulder to shoulder in the boat instantly took on two inches of water and started the race never seeing the course before. We where doing well for a while but managed to slide into a rocky shelf and Ron flopped out of the boat into three inches of water. Ron pushed himself off the bottom and back in the raft, and we took back off down threw some fun little rapids that actually felt rather large do to the fact we where in such a tiny goofy boat. The boat was easy to turn and even easier to fill to the brim with water that took minutes to slowly drain out threw the tinny drain holes. We paddled hard, and when we got to the finnish line there was a 1000 people cheering for us. We had a proper huge awards ceremony.

The international table

Then back on the bus into town for some sight seeing and to get some very traditional food.
When we arrived at dinner we were told there was going to be a beer contest, being a bunch of rafters there was little hesitation on agreeing. The part we didn't see coming is that the Chinese don't really drink beer they take shots of it. Big bottles were dolled out along with 3-oz glasses, fill the glass cheers the people around you and shoot the beer, then do it again and again and again. After the first 20 minutes most of the international teams were all starting to get drunk and then came the food, Our interpreter told us it was all the best parts. Pig tail, duck neck, intestine, liver, frog, Eal, and that was the stuff we could figure out. Sure am glad we had an endless supply of beer shots to get my inhibitions calmed.
Chengdu, After the post race activities and a nasty hangover we headed to Chengdu a city of 13-million, (that is bigger then new york) and we stayed right down town. We had two days to travel, see the Pandas, drink beer, flirt with Chinese girls, get lost, and most importantly try not to eat any more pig tail.

Shopping in Chengdu



The Panda exhibit


Down town Chengdu





We took a peek in the paper the day after the race and found some articles, we weren't able to translate



24 hours latter back in Granite CO getting ready for another commercial trip.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Race summery

An early season contest summery.

So rafting season has officially took over my life again..... But I have snuck away from AVA to get some competitions in. First off was Teva games, Homestake creek race starts off the weekend, this is the epitome of a step manky little creek. It starts with a man made plywood slide to auto boof into the creek. Paddle like hell threw the shallow mank that leads to a very manky rapid tons of potential to get pinned, and no direct line. Then it eases right into a series of 6 foot ledges and then the finnish line heck of a fun course with lots of places to make and loose time. I had two good practice laps and my timed run put me smack dab in the middle of the heat, not bad for the level of competition at this event.






There was also a mellow down river race that was held in Gore creek just East of Vail. There was very limited information on what boats where available to race, and my glass boat was turned down. So I jumped in the Habitat and charged hard for 20 minutes or so right back down to the international bridge to check out the freestyle event, and by god the boys where going huge. You really have to give the town and the designer credit the hole is damn good for being on a 400 cfs creek.









I also was able to catch some of the mountain bike trials races, this was pretty cool to see. They set up a difficult course and then rode it head to head incredibly fast, these guys really are talented.


LOL then the mud run, three 1 kilometer laps with a big mud pit in the middle some of these shots where just amazing. The amount of people that came out without shoes and covered from head to toe in mud was just hysterical.


Next up was the 8-ball races, I competed in both the raft and kayak devisions. These events draw a huge crowd, The kayak event starts 6 people head to head down the little class 2 Gore creek, and then there is 6-8 guys down stream in there boats with the sole duty to nocking you off your line by all means necessary. Bumping smashing paddle clacking mayhem. I managed to make the semi finals in the kayak devision and took a huge hit at the bottom hole to get bumped out of the finals. The finals where absolutely amazing, all the competitors where basically on top of each other along with 8 other people dolling-out tremendous hits. It was an amazing Photo finnish.


The raft side of things was equally entertaining, I didn't even have a partner at the beginning of the day. I talked to a couple of the other competitors and asked if there was any odd men out.... 10 minutes latter I get a call, "go over and sign a wavier I got you a partner". With no idea who I was paddling with I signed my wavier. I ran back over to the competition venue met my partner, who ends up being a total bad ass, and is representing Canoe and Kayak magazine. We got a practice lap in, we were working well together in the boat. Our practice lap felt great. The competition started with the rafts three wide launching off the beach, We had a great start getting out in the pole position. We came threw the gates and styled our way threw the first heat. Second heat went exactly the same pole position and supper smooth threw the gates..... On to finals, in the finals was two boats from the mens national team (Behind the 8 ball) and us a rag tag duo put together minutes before the race, the start felt great but the 8-ball guys teamed up on us and after allot of bumping grinding and a little laughing we found ourselves in last place. As we came into the two lower gates we saw the first boat miss a gate and have to come back up the eddy to try to get to the gate again, as they where paddling back up the eddy the second place team slipped in right in front of them blocking them from the gate. This was our chance, we did the exact same thing, slid in between the gate and the second place boat styled the gate zipped to the other gate and started laughing uncontrollable as we passed threw the finnish line in first place. A gold meddle, not what I was expecting when I signed up with a random guy moments before the race.



The next weekend brought me down to Durango for Animus river days, or as I like to call it Animus Fest. As soon as I got into town I drove over to 4 Corners River Sports and met up with Tony and the boys, We shared some stories and it was down to the play hole for a little surfing, the hole wasn't that good and again..... I don't really like to play boat. So the session was quick and we Headed into town for a couple drinks. The next morning we headed up to Valllicito, This run gets described as the best mile of white water in the state, I would totally agree. The water level was a little low but Tony said that it would be a great level for my first run. As I have stated before I love running things blind. Tony knowing this and with a huge grin and a small chuckle said, "you don't get to scout". I intern had a huge smile, Tony also gave me some of the best beta, "start left driving right and hit your boof". That was all I got for beta for entrance, a goofy lead in into a 15-ft boof that lands right next to a cave. I landed with a huge smile and knew the rest of the mile was going to be amazing, we routed threw the run with the regular tid bits of beta "hit your boof", "follow me", " go left". This run really is an amazing piece of white water in a fantastic gorge.
That afternoon I jumped in my long fiberglass boat (a 1970s relic) and did the down river race threw town, 10 minutes in my legs had gone totally numb and I paddled the last 20 minutes wondering if I had legs or for that matter how much water was in the boat. the boat held up great and my time sucked, it was still a ton of fun. We also paddled in the floating parade threw town, the parade is as much dress up hooligan activities as you can handle. On to the freestyle contest and again I sat and watched as some of the paddlers still where able to get some decent tricks, in a water deprived hole. Animus Fest rules.

Back to Granite CO for my home event, FIBARK, and most importantly the Pine Creek race. It is amazing the water level always manages to be at an absolutely terrifying level for this event. The pine creek hole is notorious for handing out some stiff beatings. Wes and I walked straight across for the rafting shop put on and paddled 2 minutes down to the start of the course, we looked at each other for a second and the unanimous "lets just bomb it" came out of our mouths. I turned and paddled into the hardest rapid on the Arkansas at the hardest possible level, the waves and holes leading up to the main move where huge but I held my line got down to the big hole tried to go left and was hung up in the eddy fence, and got spun. The hole was 10 feet behind me and sure as shit I went into it got a quick roll in time to see Wes come right in with me. We tandem surfed for a few seconds and amazingly, both got flushed out of the hole on the same surge.
This wasn't making my confidence grow, but it was time to get my time trial in. I had a great start, got down to one of the first big laterals got turned back wards and had to stay backwards threw the next lateral burning some time, I charged hard into the S move, and had a really smooth line around the hole. Triple drop went smooth and I styled the boof into the eddy at the finnish line. All in all it put me in 10th position for the head to heads. The head to heads are a 4 man mass start, Launching off the eroding bank 4 wide can be really messy, but by the time you are in the heat of the rapid every one usually has a little space. I had a solid first heat and managed to zip passed the hole to put myself in the top 16. From there I had a stacked bracket, I flew past the hole in third place only a few feet away from second and as we came to the final boof, I nailed it and flew into the eddy got one huge stroke and a photo finnish. Actually I was denied the pass into the next round initially but upon further video review I got the word that I had made the pass by an inch or so. Top 8 O.K. this is where I just got blown out, I had a ruff start and came across the line in a distant 3rd.

This is home for the summer, Gold Camp a defunct kids camp that is now our rafting companies operations post.




We've gone plaid, again.
Well I got a first decent last year on a rather funny drop, this thing is the spill way to clear creek reservoir, and only runs on very rear occasions. I don't know if they were doing work on the normal outflow or what but, the reservoir was allowed to crest over the spill way and we got to go huck our self's off it once again. We showed up the first day with three kayaks, a Hyside mini me, two inter-tubes, and a paco pad. I dove into the mini me and fired it right up with a huge boof, landed drug the raft up and being ultra giddy, grabbed one of the inter-tubes and ran back to the top. I sat down in the tube and thought this is a really bad idea, and pushed off.

The speed you pick up in this drop is absurd and having my unprotected butt an inch off the concrete was definitely unnerving right up to the point that I double hand boofed the lip flew threw the air and came up hysterically laughing.

At this point it was game on, the Mini Me made a couple more R1 descents and then another guide climbed on a Paco Pad and very hesitantly pushed off. He looked pretty sketchy on the way to the lip but flew head first off the drop and came up with a huge smile.

Now the rules were definitely off everyone was crying laughing and we decided to go off it in the Mini Me with two of us, this went great and then to up the ante once more. R3 thats right I actually got to guide a boat off this thing,


I don't think I have done anything this foolish sense last gauley season. I was sitting on-top of a double stack of rafts asking for forward strokes so then when we crashed into dildo rock it would be even worse...... Any ways we flew down the in-ramp going exceedingly fast and we all hit our boof strokes, maybe even too good. The boat was nose up flying threw the air, and when it landed the front two guys tried to hold there ground but got tossed towards the rear of the boat. Me sitting in the far back didn't help this, and we performed a very slow totally vertical back flip.

Well that was a little long winded, but check out the next installment from China.
Pictures and write up by Chris Baer