The weather might have been a bit on the chilly side, but that didn’t stop some of the world’s best kayakers from putting on a sizzling show at the sixth annual Paddling Life Invitational on Monday, May 30, in Steamboat Springs, Colo. And in an event sponsored by Chaco Sandals, Rhino Racks, Rocky Mountain Remedies and Steamboat in the Summertime, it was 17-year-old Dane Jackson, in his first pro-category debut, out-dueled Nick Troutman to take top honors in the combo creek/freestyle extravaganza, with Australia’s Tanya Faux besting Emily Jackson to nab the top spot for the women…
With record snowpack refusing to come down, a brief warm spell the day before the event brought levels up to a runnable flow on Fish Creek for the downriver race. Come Monday morning, it was deemed high enough for competition but still low enough that several competitors found themselves stalled by rocks en route.
“I did a 360 about 200 meters from the start,” says women’s winner Tanya Faux. “That’s definitely not what you want to do out there. I spun around real quick, but that wasn’t Plan A.”
With the river rising to nearly 3,500 cfs, the D-Hole downtown on the Yampa River proved challenging as well. “The feature was pretty touchy,” admits world freestyle champ Nick Troutman of the crashing wave-hole.
The best of the best were still able to rise to the top, however, staying in the hole with high-flying tricks and picking their way down a tricky creek.
In the end, Dane Jackson edged out brother-in-law Troutman to win the men’s title. Faux, meanwhile, was again crowned the women’s champ after an illness snapped her streak of four consecutive victories last year.
“Steamboat’s so good to me, maybe I should move here,” Faux says. “I really enjoy this event. The locals are my kind of people, and I really like that there’s two events in one day.”
Faux won the creek race with a time of 3 minutes, 19.42 seconds, which, despite her 360-degree mishap, was 13 seconds faster than second-place Emily Jackson. Jackson, too, had her difficulties, struggling to shake free of a high rock on the early part of the course. Faux then won the freestyle competition, racking up 245 points to Jackson’s 140.
“I stuck a loop in there, but I didn’t get it figured out enough to do well,” says Jackson, the reigning women’s world freestyle champion. “The feature was surgey; the foam pile would be there, then it would disappear.”
New Zealand’s Sam Sutton won the creek race with a time of 3:08.34. That was good enough for third overall, but the top two spots on the podium were decided at the D-Hole.
Dane Jackson and Troutman put on high-flying shows. A cool afternoon turned downright cold as they battled in the finals, but the competition heated up with massive entry moves and gigantic loops.
Troutman won the duel, but he was sixth in the creek race. Jackson, 17 years old and competing in Steamboat for the first time since 2007, was third there to win the overall title.
“It just took practice. You had to know where to throw the tricks and how to throw them,” Jackson says.
A few others managed to figure it all out, including Steamboat’s Dan Piano, who made the freestyle finals, placing fourth in that segment. Combined with his 13th-place showing at the creek, he finished eighth overall.
“All in all, it was a great event,” says organizer Eugene Buchanan. “High water in the freestyle event, low water in the creek, testing a little bit of everything. I think it helped ready everybody for the Teva Games.”
1. Tanya Faux Creek time: 3:19:42 (1); Freestyle finish: 1
2. Emily Jackson Creek time: 3:32:10 (2); Freestyle finish: 2
3. Ruth Ebens Creek time: 3:34:16 (3); Freestyle finish: 5; Devon Barker Creek time: 4:05:79 (5); Freestyle finish: 3
4. Sarah Hamilton Creek time: 3:42:07 (4); Freestyle finish: 4
1. Dane Jackson Creek time: 3:15:19 (3); Freestyle finish: 1
2. Nick Troutman Creek time: 3:21:03 (6); Freestyle finish: 2
3. Sam Sutton Creek time: 3:08:34 (1); Freestyle finish: 7
4. Bryan Kirk Creek time: 3:16:56 (4); Freestyle finish: 3
5. Brendan Bayley Creek time: 3:14:83 (2); Freestyle finish: 9