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race or meet 2 days
2004 Gull River Open Canoe Slalom Race
Saturday, September 11, 2004 to Sunday, September 12, 2004
length: 0.4km, 2 days

organizer: Beth Kennedy
participants: Bonnie Bliss, Caroline Owen, Chris Mack, Glenn Meinzer, Michael Sims, Nicole Mack, Peter Farr, Sean Farr, Stephen Farr, Mike Marr, Many others

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So there I was, sitting in an eddy half-way down the Gull River, watching the next paddler whistle by me after cleaning gates 6 and 7. Me... I had just blown a fairly simple peel-out, completely missed the next three gates, boofed sideways, totally out of control, over the midstream boulder then bailed out in the first eddy I could reach. So went my second run in the 2004 Gull River Open Canoe Slalom Race. My first run had not been so exciting; I actually made it down the course, relatively dry, upright and intact. On the way I had at least made a stab at most of the gates.

Last year, while watching this very race as a spectator for the third year in a row, I turned to my sons and said “next year I am going to enter”, and enter I did with the encouragement and help of my friends. My wife (a non-paddler who puts up with my addiction) and kids, Cline, Bonnie, Dianne and Glenn and many others encouraged me whenever I began to waffle. Chris lead me down the river, hopping from eddy to eddy and then told me at the bottom I had just run the course. All of them told me “encouraging” stories about their first race (“yeah, the first time I only made four gates and wiped out at the bottom”.) Even so, right up to race morning I was still undecided although I had already laid down my entry fee and vest #36 hung in my tent all night. After breakfast I wandered down to the course start, the section just below White Horse Falls that I had never paddled before, and communed with the water. I decided it was a now or never situation and went back for my canoe.

When I got back I found the start jammed with canoes and paddlers. I joined the colourful lineup to inch my way to the start, dragging my boat behind me. I don't think I talked much (if at all). If I did I have no recollection of anything I said. I got closer and closer and eventually I was in my boat with some guy hanging onto the stern grab loop. I got the attention of the starter and warned him that I was probably the slowest boat on the river today and perhaps he might want to give me a little room before letting the next paddler go. He looked over and said, “in that case, how about starting now?” and without any more ado he began counting backwards from 25!

I dug in and headed toward the current at the base of the falls, reminding myself to tilt downstream. My plan at this point was to get close enough to gate 1 to make it look like I was trying, then miss gate two and try to get into Cave Eddy where gate 3 (and the part of the course I had actually practised) awaited. Nothing ever goes as planned, at least when I paddle, that is. A video my elder son took showed me later that I actually went through both gates 1 and 2 without a touch and dropped cleanly into the eddy! The next move was my favourite in the middle section: out of the river-right eddy, ferry across the current and drop through gate 4 into the river-left eddy where upstream gate 5 was hanging.

The rest or the course was a blur. I missed my share of gates but at least made a stab at most of them. By the time I hit the eddy below the Lovers Bridge, about half way down the course I was still upright but almost out of steam. Cline was sitting on a rock there shouting “more energy – you're doing fine”. With that encouragement (“more energy” indeed!) I hit the current again and missed the next two gates – only four more to go! Before I knew it I was through gate 18 and crossing the finish line. Gold medals could wait – I had run the course without doing my oft-repeated imitation of river debris. I was thrilled.

The first thing I heard from my friends was, “so, are you going to do your second run now or later?”. I pointed out that I had already achieved my personal goal and had no intention of messing with “success”. Ha!

After lunch I decided that I would get full value from my $12 entry fee and try to better my first run so I headed back to the put in to do it again. This time I enjoyed the shuffle to the start. I was feeling cocky. This time I was going to try to get through at least some of those gates without a touch... Enough said; I don't want to talk about it.

So what did I get out of it? A great time, lots of camaraderie and fun, a feeling of accomplishment (I finished dead last, with 260+ seconds of penalties, but I finished!) I met more great people and widened my paddling horizon even further. I saw some amazing paddling and even dared to compare my lines to theirs. Will I be back next year? You bet! Thanks Beth and everyone else who sponsored and organized this great event.

More pics at: http://www.ctapyx.net/nodotkidding/gull0904.htm" target="_blank" target="_new">http://www.ctapyx.net/nodotkidding/gull0904.htm>

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