Of the eight different sports and 23 disciples at TMG, the kayak competitions ring loud on our radar. Pros and amateurs battle each other and the rapids in any combination of three timed races and one style competition. These are the hottest competitors in the country…except when they’re in the water: Gore Creek is a steamy 34 degrees.
The Pro Kayak Freestyle competition—a.k.a. the Whitewater Rodeo—features some real cowboys. Yeehaw! Competitors have two one-minute rounds to nail as many flips, cartwheels, and insane moves as they can in Vail’s Whitewater Park. The riders with the highest combined score for style and difficulty advance to the semi-finals. From there, five men and three women head to the finals where they each take three runs, but only their highest scoring run is counted. Not flipping your boat is usually the first goal, but in this case it pays to get your hair wet.
If you want to see sheer athleticism and true grit, keep an eye out for Dustin Urban. Three-time winner of the TMG Pro Kayak Freestyle, Urban flip-flops on the water like a King Salmon. After graduating cum laude from Princeton with a political science degree, he became a student of the river and member of the US Freestyle Kayak team.
The Jacksons aren’t your typical American family—mom, dad, and two kids residing in an RV and following their professional kayaking careers—but they take the cake for raddest clan around. Three of the four Jacksons are competing in the Games this year. Father, ringleader and four-time Pro Kayak Freestyle World champ, Eric Jackson, is a legend at the Games. Not only is he an Olympic paddler and seasoned TMG competitor, he raised two of the most talked about kayakers in the sport, Dane and Emily. Watch for Eric in the Steep Creek Championship and the Pro Kayak Freestyle.
At only 19 Dane can’t legally booze but has 15 years of kayaking experience under his life vest and a 3rd place medal from the 2011 TMG Pro Kayak Freestyle. He’s a member of the Junior USA Freestyle Team and if you’ve seen him paddle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHkcIsLXUf0) you know he spends more time upside down than right-side up. It’s surprising he’s still intact.
The Queen of the Slipstream, Emily Jackson, is anything but shy. There’s no river she won’t descend and no trick she won’t try, which is probably why she’s in the running to represent the US Canoe/Kayak team in the 2012 Olympics. Both a slalom and freestyle athlete, she raked no. 1 at the Women’s U.S. Slalom and the Women’s World Freestyle Championships in 2009. She also snagged first place at the TMG Pro Kayak Freestyle competition seven years in a row.
When and Where:
When: Friday, June 1 at 1 p.m. (qualifier); Saturday, June 2 at 11 a.m. (semi-finals); Saturday June 2 at 4:15 p.m. (finals).
Where: Vail Whitewater Park
8 Ball Kayak Sprint
When: Sunday, June 3 at 10:15 a.m. (qualifier); Sunday, June 3 at 4 p.m. (finals)
Where: Whitewater Park in Vail Village
Down River Kayak Sprint
When: Saturday, June 2 at 8 a.m.
Where: East Vail Put-in and finish at covered bridge in Vail Village