Slave River Paddlefest

As part of our ongoing coverage of this year's trip to the Slave river (see our previous posts: week 1, week 2, the wood video, and a whole stack of posts from 2009 mixed in here and here), here are a bunch of photos related to paddlefest.

Paddlefest this year was a whole heap of awesome. I spent a lot of time during the actual events working at the Introduction to Awesome booth; rides in the duo kayak for $15. I tried to give them a little taste of whitewater - literally - by splashing it into their faces at high speed while surfing. Customers had to weigh less than me, and they didn't get to use a paddle. I didn't want them to have any power to fight against my decisions about the lines. Unfortunately, we didn't get any photos of me paddling with clients, but we did get a couple shots of our practice run through cassette, as well as a bunch of random tomfoolery.

From Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

John and Julian line up the raft surf at upper Rollercoaster. Slave 2011

John gets ready to paddle Kirsten's kids through the whirlpools. Slave 2011

The kids win big at the raffle. Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

Feeding the fire ceremony before starting the main series of events. Slave 2011

Getting ready to start the pool toy "race". Slave 2011

Pool toy race in full swing. Slave 2011

Natalie looping just after the end of the pro rodeo. Slave 2011

After a big gaggle of confusing events over the weekend (several rodeos, a race through Avalanche, the most epic beachball battle yet, etc.) the water finally dropped to the perfect level for Sweet Spot, and it was time for the Edge King comp.

The Edge King event is now my favorite event, and it's exactly what paddlefest has been missing until now. Most of the events in paddlefest take place at the playground, so that they are easily accessible on foot. The Edge King is a big wave competition, on whatever feature happens to be good at the time. It's an event that really takes advantage of what the Slave has to offer. I can't wait to see how awesome it is next year.

A couple competitors looking rugged before the comp starts. Slave 2011

The format was a relaxed jam session, with heats of 5 paddlers spending 40 minutes surfing Sweet Spot. I had a distinct advantage in the Element, since it was fast enough to catch the wave more consistently, stay on the wave longer, and throw even bigger moves. We all had a blast.

John spots his bounce. Slave 2011

Huge bonus on the roundhouse! Slave 2011

From Slave 2011

The one disadvantage to paddling a composite ocean surf kayak in the river is that it's not really designed to handle rocks. Halfway through prelims, I blew the ferry but thought I could save it, and I ended up getting washed straight over the rock island just downstream of the wave. I cringed and screamed, but the damage wasn't really all that bad.

Nooooooo! Not the rocks! Slave 2011

Natalie threw this move just after her heat was over. Slave 2011

After prelims, there was a tie for fifth place. Sweet Spot was a little rowdy that day, and both the two paddlers who tied were a little apprehensive about getting back in. They decided to break the tie with some rock-paper-scissors. Loser had to get back in the water.

Jenn and Mitch face off for the tiebreaker. Slave 2011

Unfortunately, they tied at rock-paper-scissors, so they both ended up paddling in finals.

From Slave 2011

We even had some spectators, despite the fact that Sweet Spot is all the way on the far side of the river.

From Slave 2011

Before we left, a couple of the boys from Aquabatics decided to fire up Molly's Nipple. I ran it once at a similar level back in 2005, and swam like a fish. This year, I was not feeling it at all, but it was great to watch them step it up. I shot video, so I don't have any stills of it, but I will put in a link to any sort of video that they put together.

At the last minute, before the competition started, we decided that whoever won would have to take a ceremonial surf in the Edge itself right after the competition, despite the fact that the Edge was a massive sticky hole, and not a good wave at all at those levels.

From Slave 2011

Fortunately, the Element saved my ass again, since it was fast enough to surf back out of the edge with minimal injuries.

From Slave 2011

Did I mention that I won?

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