Kids and Kayaking

Archive for July, 2010

2010 Junior Olympic Ends with Freestyle Competition

closing post by embedded journalists TeamPopp

On Sunday we ended the 2010 Junior Olympics with the freestyle competition staged on the Nantahala Wave. Some of the slalomists and other kids had headed home early that morning for the long drives or flights home, but we still had a lively group of about 20 kids rocking out on the wave in playboats!

Experienced and beginner playboaters tried their hand at the tumultuous wave, fighting difficult eddy lines to put in as many tricks as possible in 60 seconds. Each kid’s best ride was used in the final scoring, and most kids seemed satisfied with the day’s work. Finally, an award was given for the person with the most overall points (over the four main Junior Olympic events) and it was a tie between Sage Donnelly and Chelsea Bornemann.

Sage showing the junior olympians the fun of taking time out for some freestyle

Sage showing the junior olympic contenders the fun of taking time out for some freestyle

Sage Donnelly dominated the cub-cadet division, even racking up points to beat many of the older competitors. At 9 years old, Sage was doing complex moves like loops, ripping up the hole in her tiny orange Shooting Star like a pro.  She is on the Jackson Kayak regional kayak team and travels around competing in events and training with her many friends around the country.  Sage has been kayaking on her own since she was 7, and has been on the water with her parents since the age of 3. Her dad, Matthew Donnelly, is her biggest fan and paddling partner, a perfect example of parenting, always by her side helping her and cheering her on.

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Junior Olympic Paddlers Join the Local Cup Challenge

Team Popp reporting on Saturday’s Junior Olympic Events/Camp Cup Challenge

This Saturday we had a break from Junior Olympic events but we saw great participation in a local slalom race held by the NOC at the gates. Big kids (like the parents!) and the junior olympians all raced together on teams to rack up overall points by completing the course up to 5 times for any class.

Team Popp won the day’s races with a mighty 31 points, claiming some of the fastest times despite team members participating in multiple classes. The winner of the “Cup” will be determined by next month’s race, and Team Popp hopes to rack up even more points by including more paddlers doing more runs even faster!!

After a celebratory “banquet” at Relia’s in the evening, the Junior Olympians grouped together by the gates again to hand out awards from the week’s events, and to honor the volunteers and parents who helped make this year’s Junior Olympics a success. Kids ran about, writing down their new friends’ phone numbers and email addresses as they realized that their great week of paddling was coming to an end.

Proud Junior Olympic boaters on the podium

Proud Junior Olympic boaters on the podium

On Sunday the Nantahala Wave will host the final Junior Olympic event, the freestyle competition, where experienced and beginner playboaters will give the crowd a great show!

See you guys on the water!!!

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CHampionship Slalom Race the event of the Junior Olympics!

brought to you by Team Popp

Friday’s Championship Slalom races has proved to be the biggest event yet at the Junior Olympics! The 40+ competitors were cheered on by spectators lined all the way from the bridge at Slow Joe’s to the end of the course above Worser Wesser. Many kids raced multiple classes, so the day was long and tiring, but the excitement of the competition was enough to keep the smiles going all day!

2010 Junior Olympic qualifiers on the Nantahala

2010 Junior Olympic qualifiers on the Nantahala

The real challenge of today’s race was that it was a longer course (16 gates) than some of the younger kids were used to… upstream gates like gate 9, below the Nantahala Wave, caused several flips and a few swims, and some kids were passed by others as more time was spent trying to avoid missing any gates.

17-year-old Charlie Kieft raced in the C1 and C2 classes today; as he sped through the gates with the grace of an experienced racer, the orange blur of his helmet was the only thing more striking than his speed. The past few years of his career as a canoe racer has been quite eventful. His spot on the Junior US Wildwater Team took him to the Junior World Championships in Buochs, Switzerland in 2009. His up-and-coming slalom career is setting him on the fast track to the Olympics in 2016, which he aspires to compete in after several years of intensive training.

Saturday’s NOC Camp Cup slalom races take place at the gates, and Sunday’s freestyle competition will be an exciting day on the Nantahala Wave for all!

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Junior Olympic Contenders Honing their Freestyle Moves

Half an hour before the water reached the bottom of the Nantahala, there were several kids bobbing around in the shallow eddies teaching and learning flatwater tricks. The Junior Olympics held a freestyle clinic today in which several of the more experienced kids took the others out in groups and ran them through edging drills, back deck rolls, and eddy squirts. The wave at Slow Joe’s was the next step for some groups, where surfing and carving skills were the focus.

Junior Olympic contenders cross training with some freestyle

Junior Olympic contenders cross training with some freestyle

After each group was comfortable and ready to tackle something more challenging, they headed down to the Nantahala Wave to work on more advanced playboating moves. Kids waited in the eddies for their turn to try surfing, spinning, and for some, looping as they were cheered on by local experts, parents, and spectators. The colorful plastic boats were a fun change from the glass slalom boats the kids used previously this week, and everyone had big smiles, no matter how experienced they were.

We surfed over to watch our good friend Lauren Burress as she was teaching the girls how to get in and out of the hole.  Lauren competed at the Freestyle Team Trials this year in Missoula, Montana, and earned the number one spot for 2011′s junior US freestyle team. At merely 14 years old, she has been dominating the junior girls freestyle events for the past couple of years, throwing awesome loops and other tricks in her little pink Jackson Star. She has enjoyed the other events, especially slalom and the boatercross, and though she currently isn’t pursuing an Olympic career in slalom, she would love to see freestyle made into an Olympic sport. If you see the blur of pink rocking out in the hole this Sunday for the freestyle competition, be sure to cheer on Lauren as she dominates in her favorite sport!

Lauren working with the slalom boaters on some freestyle moves

Lauren working with the slalom boaters on some freestyle moves

Friday’s event is the Championship slalom, starting at Slow Joe’s and ending above Worser Wesser. It promises to be a great day of racing, as we will be joined by a few of the junior US slalomists, fresh from the Slalom Junior World Championships in Foix, France. See you on the water!

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International Competitors at the Junior Olympics

Yours truly, Selena and Haley Popp, interviewed our international guests today here at the Junior Olympics.

We have Canadians and Australians joining the rest of us Americans in the races and events this week. Our ears went to the sweetly accented voices of four Australian boater chicks as they chattered together, playfully fighting and teasing one another by the river.

The Aussie Team coming together for the 2010 Junior Olympics

The Aussie Team coming together for the 2010 Junior Olympics

The girls (from left to right) are Grace, Annie, Krystal, and Eliza. They go to different schools but all train together on the same slalom whitewater course with their coach. The girls traveled to Disneyworld and to the Charlotte slalom course before coming to the Junior Olympics here at the Nantahala. Despite the 18 hour time difference, these cute but strong girls are always smiling and bursting with energy, zipping around the slalom gates faster than you’d expect 14-16 year old girls to do.

Team Aussie training for the Junior Olympics on the Nantahala

Team Aussie training for the Junior Olympics on the Nantahala

If you see one of these girls on the water, whether its slalom or all the other events they enter, be sure to cheer them on… GOOOO AUSSIES!

This morning we all headed up to Surfer’s Rapid to do a classic wildwater “race” which was held unofficially and posted as a training run. The Aussies put on at the Ledges with Bryson, Selena, and Haley (all yours truly) to warm up down to the start line. Team Popp kicked off with a mass start because we had the fastest boats, and when we crossed the finish line we headed on down to take out and watch our friends go by as well. Today was a great day for all, as we reflected sitting together munching post-race ice cream at Slow Joe’s Cafe.

Thursday’s event is a freestyle clinic, followed by the Championship slalom races Friday, and more slalom and freestyle this weekend! See you on the water!

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Kayaking’s Junior Olympic Contenders: Brynn Benson Feature

Team Popp Reporting Live from the Nantahala

At today’s Junior Olympic sprint races, we came up and close with cadet superstar Brynn Benson and learned that she is one cool boater chick! Her goals include placing very well (hopefully winning) at the JO’s because she comes into these races as the cadet girls slalom national champion.

Bryn Benson-one of the junior super stars

Brynn Benson-one of the junior super stars

Of her previous paddling experience, she admits, “I started slalom only a little more than a year ago,” but we weren’t surprised to find out she would have made the junior US slalom team this year if only she was a year older! She raced at the US team trials in Wausau, Wisconsin; she finished 3rd against girls quite a bit older than her.

Brynn looks ahead to the next four years, when she qualifies as a junior and can race in Europe with other up-and-coming slalomists from around the country. She also has “dreams of becoming a real Olympic athlete one day”!

Brynn raced against our very own Selena Popp today in the head to head sprint event. Each of the 40+ competitors had a first individual run in which they were timed to choose the positions for the next heat. In the second run, 2 or 3 competitors from the same class with the closest original times raced head to head to determine the final places. Everyone raced fast and we saw some great crashes and some close finishes!
After the head to head sprint we switched out of our glass boats into plastic boats for the more gnarly boatercross, in which competitors were given a mass start within their class, creating mass chaos and carnage throughout the course. The racers were required to maneuver through two upstream slalom gates; missing one gate brought disqualification. Coming through the Nantahala Wave, we saw racers crash, flip, miss eddies, and accidentally knock each other down… it was a great spectator event and exciting for the kids! :)

Bryn training on the Nantahala ruring Junior Olympics

Brynn training on the Nantahala ruring Junior Olympics

Stay tuned for the rest of this week’s excited Junior Olympic Events, right here on the Nantahala River!

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Nantahala Community Kids’ Perspective on Kayaking

Kids and Kayaking: From their own perspective!!

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Kids Kayak Camp A Blast

The 6th annual Endless River Adventures Kids Camp was such fun!!  We started out with sixteen participants for the first two days–with only Harrison holding up the men’s camp end of things for the first two days.

Kids Kayak Camp was a blast for all fourteen girls and Harrison

Kids Kayak Camp was a blast for all fourteen girls and Harrison

We worked on paddling skills, rescue skills (for the time that the kids would be chasing their parents’ boats on the river), surfing, river running and gate work. After a morning of flat water work and slalom gates, the camp finished with a session at the actual gates on the Nantahala.

Honing technique with slalom gates

Honing technique with slalom gates

Thanks everyone for such a great kids camp!!

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Team Popp Reporting Live from the 2010 Junior Olympics

The Popp team will be reporting live all week at the Junior Olympics

The Popp team will be reporting live all week at the Junior Olympics

We have “embedded” journalists who will be reporting live for us all week from the 2010 junior olympics being held on the Nantahala River!  Haley, Selena and Bryson will be sharing live reports about the events, the celebrities attending, the goals of future Olympic hopefuls and more!

Reporting on the Scene: Day One:

The Junior Olympic Festival kicked off with a “Fun” slalom race at the Nantahala Wave today. Kids from all over the country, and even places like Australia or Canada, met up and tried their skills at the gates. The turnout for the first day was lower than what we’ll see later this week, but we still had about 30 kids waiting anxiously at the start line.

It was really cool to see so many kids racing all together; we’ve never seen that many all in one race! It was really low key and felt fun to just try running the gates over and over as best as we could. The atmosphere was fun, and the spectators cheered us on; the further along the race went, everyone’s runs seemed to improve!

It was a great afternoon full of laughs as we hadn’t really run the course yet; Haley ended up getting lost in the middle of the course, and Selena was at a loss for where the finish line was… Bryson rocked the gates in Endless River’s new Fluid Donza, a plastic slalom boat that we’ve found is great for beginners.

Later this week we’ll have fun events like freestyle, wildwater racing, and the championship slalom race.
This Monday, everyone will be hitting up the surrounding rivers for a chill day of fun, but the rest of the week will be busy, so look for those kids and cheer them on!!

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