The first World Cup in the Series was in Rock Island, TN and it was, hands down, the most organized competition we’ve ever competed at! There were 3 days of competition and each day there was water only during a certain number of hours, so everything had to run smoothly to get all the events in and it was as perfect as could ever be hoped for. To simply be here at this event is crazy exciting, there is so much adrenaline, so much excitement, and, for us, so much unknown!! For example, we weren’t even aware that IFC and USACK had different rules for the tricks that the competitors throw down. It wasn’t until the boys paddled with Emily Jackson and she informed them of the fact that McNasty’s had to be aerial and Phonix’s had to be vertical that we even looked at the IFC Rules!! Guess what? It’s 45 second rides as opposed to the USACK 60 seconds!! And, just today, we found out that if you are not linking moves you must front surf for 2 seconds — or something like that. And, just so you know, IFC scoring is much tougher — not that that’s a bad thing at all, there is really no room for interpretation, which I actually might prefer, maybe. The judges even have to sit at a specific angle — 45 degrees, I think.?! And then Rock Island itself is absolutely stunning … when you get past the fact that snakes are lurking under every rock. I didn’t actually get over that fact, but I did find myself staring in amazement at the falls and the scenery and the people only to realize I was missing Grady or Brody’s ride! So many different languages, I even engaged some Irish Paddlers in conversation just so I could hear their accents! Love them!! But you know what else? I love Southern Accents too! We’ve already decided that we’ll be coming back this winter, probably November or December for a few months … it’s not only an awesome feature, but, like Dan said, probably one of the best training spots we’ve seen so far!! And it has a little something in the way of waves and holes for our little paddlers, Cardy and Maddy!
The first day of the competition Grady and Brody were so stoked. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, there was electricity in the air. They weren’t competing on Friday because there were 51+ Pro Men and they were breaking into Quarter Finals and that took all day, but they were on an adrenaline high simply being around so many amazing paddlers! They met tons of people, hung out with guys from other countries, and even met some cute Junior Girls!! :) The next day, Saturday, the Junior Men competed first. I was more nervous than either Grady or Brody. They were pumped. Kady and I were freaking out! There were 16 Junior Men at this competition and they were cutting to 10. Each had 2 rides and both counted. Both Grady and Brody were in the second heat along with 3 other amazing paddlers — in fact, the heats were all stacked. Grady’s first ride was, well, not so great, he flushed early and the wave was very hard to attain after a flush, it probably took a good 15 seconds to paddle back into the feature and you had to paddle behind and under a waterfall. The second ride Grady threw down was awesome – it consisted of an air blunt, a huge loop, a right Space Godzilla and a Helix — he never flushed! Both of Brody’s rides were consistent and in each he threw a huge air blunt and a loop … that kid can bounce. He struggled huge getting back into the Eddy, his boat is so bloody tiny … in fact, it is the ONLY Jackson Shooting Star in the entire competition … that coming out from under the falls proved to be impossible, the force of the water hit his boat and it was game over!
But, not to worry, they both made it to the semi-finals, scheduled for later in the afternoon. After a lunch packed with protein and carbs, and absolutely no rest, but instead a hike and hours in the sun, they gathered their gear and sprinted to the feature. In Semi-Finals, it was two rides, best counts. Both Grady and Brody’s rides diminished some, but Grady managed to secure the 4th place spot in finals and Brody was knocked out placing 8th. In all reality, he’s the youngest paddler out there and both he and Grady are the most inexperienced, so the mere fact that they are remotely competitive is incredible!! I know I keep saying this, but it needs to be said often … this is their 3rd year paddling and only their 2nd year in freestyle … they’ve certainly come a long way in a very short period of time!! I’m super proud of them!! You know, I think it may have something to do with the fact that they truly love to paddle.
Finals on Sunday were awesome, if not brutal! Each competitor got 3 rides, best ride counts! Everyone showed up with their game faces on and everyone appeared to struggle to some degree or another. Be it flushing, rushing, strict scoring, whatever … the scores were pretty low — I think 185 was the winning ride. It was super close and in the end it came down to perfection in the completed tricks. Grady walked away in 5th- his best ride was his last (typical) and it was in the last .10 seconds of the ride! ( He kills me! I’ve asked him to take pity on me and just throw the ride of a lifetime first! ha ha!! ) He flushed and paddled as hard as he could back into the feature and right before the buzzer, he plugged for a loop and linked to a Space Godzilla. He was extremely psyched to place 5th amongst the World’s best Junior Men in probably the hardest feature of the Series!
Now we are at the Pigeon River and we’re gifted with an unscheduled dam release! The water is running today! How lucky are we? The boys compete again on Wednesday. The rides are guaranteed to be bigger … and the scoring? If only we can figure out all the rules!! :) I think the game plan here, for Grady and Brody, is to throw every trick they can and then if there is still time left on the clock, start throwing them again in hopes that something gets scored in each ride!!!