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 freestyleJunior 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 movesLauren 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!