Sunday, September 25, 2016

Falling Creek Camp Kayaking Programme

My adventures then moved east as I reunited with Jez and the kids and team at Falling Creek Camp for four epic weeks of whitewater.

Reunited with my Hubby
(photo by Kevin Pelinski)

Starting in Columbus, Georgia we all grabbed freestyle kayaks and hammocks and set about a freestyle development camp in the middle of this funky town. With water every evening we started the day with classroom based goal setting and video review sessions in town, Breaking down the fundamentals of the sport and allowing maximum progression at the park.

Starting the day with a classroom session

Coaching Billy
Loading up for something big
The sunsets as we surf
Checking out the local bomb squad kit

The kids were amazing hitting sweet moves and just being fired up about boating the whole time. Not only did they get world class coaching from me and Jez. They got to meet, hang out and paddle with freestyle phenomenons Tom Dolle, Hunter Katich and Bennett Smith. It really was an inspirational week. Supported by the local community who chowed true southern hospitality going above and beyond to make us feel welcomed the whole week long.

Falling Creek Camp Columbus Big Skeeta Crew
Gnar Trip, West Virginia

The adventure then moved North to West Virginia for 3 days of big water play. Again all the kids grabbed play boats and hammocks and wore themselves out with hours and hours of flat water freestyle between each and every rapid along the New River. The levels were prefect (we caught it on the way down after the huge flood disaster only a matter of days before). Led by KP, myself and Ben each day the kids grew more confident, learning how to read and run the huge big water, a different style to their usual steep North East low volume creek runs. As well as exploring concepts and learning how to lead and be an active member of a whitewater paddling team. Then every evening reflecting on the days adventures around a camp stove / camp fire whilst playing monopoly deal and listening to the river flowing by in the distance. A true West Virginian kayaking adventure.

The iconic New River Bridge
Modelling rapids and lines
Hitting lines
Scouting lines
Little Shredder Holden Dewey hits the lines

Lunch stop
Marshmallows over the campfire to finish the day

Falling Creek Camp End of Session Campfire

Back at base long enough to pack and repack. I got to experience the FCC end of session campfire. It was amazing seeing the commaradary between all the boys young and old. As all their achievements over the 4 week camp were celebrated and the camps ethos and values set the basis for a reflection of the weeks gone past and the adventures and experiences that all the boys had shared. Then all the campers we're wished a safe, happy and successful year until next summers FCC. As the candle lit campfire came to an end. It was time to say goodbye and it was very clear in the faces of all the boys how important this camp experience is in their lives. Especially for those campers who were in their last year and who (some after 10+ years of camp) would be about to embark on a different and often unknown adventure next summer.

Candlelit campfire overlooking the lake
Huck Ottawa

But like all good adventures they don't always end and for 15 lucky FCC campers there adventures continued this time with an 8 day expedition to the incredible Ottawa river.

Feeling at home in the Ottawa river wilderness
Every year Falling Creek Camp run paddling expeditions around the world. This years trips were to Ecuador and Canada. Which meant I got to spend an entire week coaching the kids with Jez, KP and the rest of the team. Based out of Wilderness tOurs we had another big water freestyle adventure planned. Levels were perfect so we mixed up fun downriver play with some epic garb sessions. The kids couldn't get enough time on the water. They were so fired up to paddle and learn new tricks. Seeing their progression over just 3 weeks was huge. The kids growing in confidence and skill not only the water but also off.
Sat in smoothie eddy about to run the main
The kids see McCoys rapid for the first time

Looking back the river flips another paddler
Reflecting on yesterday run and preparing for todays

Blasting down Coliseum in style

Tearing it up on Garb
Lunchtime session
The kids in their element
But the week went to fast and it seemed as soon as it had started it came to an end. An epic 'lost keys' morning and we eventually had all the kids on flights. Exhausted but with so many amazing memories and stories to tell everyone back home.

Thank you Jez and KP for the amazing photos and video.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kelly's Academy 2016

Young Maverick celebrates nailing his first roll
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

From complete beginner to rolling and surfing in less than a week. That is the typical progress of a kid on the Kelly's Academy. A unique blend of world class kayakers as coaches, super low ratios, the best equipment available and a fantastic river with an amazing white water park allows the local kids who live near the Kelly's White Water Park to make huge progression in the sport in a super short time frame. Not only that they get to chose to take part, they chose to kayak, stand up paddle board or surf and already have to complete a number of pre requisites including a meeting with the local of police for a water and river safety talk and swim lessons, prior to coming on the course. This means that these kids really want to be there and really want to learn which is perfect as the Academy is available to them for free to help develop the community and to make a real connection between the community and the park.

The Academy means so much to the whole town

Kids learning river safety (Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

Megan wasn't so keen on kayaking but loved river surf
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

Everywhere you look theres kids safely playing in the park
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

The kids progression is so fast its insane
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

Everyone comes out to cheer on and support the kids
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

For the last 3 summers I have been incredibly lucky to head up this programme. Coaching alongside Clay Wright, Alec Voorhees and Hayden Voorhees. I have been able to spend a full 3 amazing weeks each summer teaching, mentoring and inspiring the local kids and giving them the best possible introduction to the sport. The kids can attend anywhere from 1 – 3 weeks worth of sessions each summer at the park a really unique and special opportunity for local kids from these tiny country towns.

Loving life on the river
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

An inspirational team of instructors work with the local kids
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

Maverick lines up for the big drop careful supervised by Hayden
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

Just chilling
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

One kid 'River', who lives only half an hours drive from the park started with us as a complete beginner 3 years ago. In the 3 years he has attended he has completed 9 weeks of free kayak coaching becoming a very proficient paddler with a solid white water roll. Paddling every chance he could River really made the most of the opportunity available to him sometimes coming to two sessions each day. Now 15, he has taken the step outside of the Academy to become a part of the local kayak community, this year taking the skills he has learnt on Academy to go with other local paddlers to explore the other amazing rivers around. Attending academy again this summer he not only further progressed his skills but also used his experience to help encourage the other kids who were much more new to the sport. In the evenings after class he also practiced for, entered and won a hometown throw down freestyle kayak event. To me River is one perfect example of how important the academy is and how much it means to the local community and kids. It gives them not only the opportunity to grow into amazing paddlers with a healthy respect and understanding of the river but also helps them grow personally helping them develop confidence and life skills through a sport they love and experience an exciting and different lifestyle and outlook on life.

River in his element in his kayak
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

In celebration of his commitment, passion and attitude and recognising and wanting to support his potential to progress even further in the sport River has been invited back next summer not only as a kid on the Academy but also as a trainee instructor. He will work alongside us and learn what it takes to be an instructor on the academy team.

The instructor team perfect role models for the kids
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

We have a number of talented youngster who help with the Academy
inspiring the kids and sharing their love for the river
(Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography)

But if thats not enough to make this weeks an awesome part of my years there is so much more outside of class we get to hang out with the rest of the Academy team and the local adventure community and explore and take part in so many of the other amazing activities on offer in the area. From kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and surfing at the park, to paddling the famous Payette and Salmon river local white water runs. To wake surfing and chilling on the boats on the huge cascade lake, to mountain biking, fat biking and ATV'ing around Tamarack resort. To picking Huckleberry's and eating ice cream, to driving up into the mountains into the snow. To cooking BBQ's, eating local cuisine (from local spring water to elk steaks, antelope burgers and bear salami), watching huge fireworks displays over the lake to sitting back chilling and watching blockbuster movies at the incredible Roxy cinema in town. It really is a non stop adventure action packed 3 week summer destination in an absolutely amazing place.

Watching the fireworks above the lake

Wake surfing every chance we get

Josh flys of the wake

Awesome adventure with amazing people in a beautiful location
Anthony cooks up some local cuisine donated by Woody who's kids are on the Academy

Fat Tire biking through the woods

Huckleberry picking from an ATV

Cable car up

Mountain Biking back down

I would highly recommend anyone who hasn't been yet to go. The features at the park are World Class. Stephen Wright set a world record there in 2014. Then there is the perfect beginner and intermediate play boating feature with massive eddy service right in the middle of the park. I've seen many paddlers including 12 year old Kellogg kids hit mcnastys, space godzillas, lunars and tricky wu;s and hundreds of paddlers safely tak their first ever surfs there and hit loops and spins. The park is free and theres loads of space to park and camp onsite. Plus so many other experiences and activities around everywhere. You have to go and if you have already been i'll see you there again next summer.

One of many incredible sunsets

Thank you to everyone who shared this summer in Idaho with me and especially to Mark and Kristina Pickard for allowing me this incredible opportunity to be involved. Bring on Kelly's Academy 2017. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TBT - Lyons Outdoor Games

Generally when a disaster hits a town the community comes together to help everyone through and the Lyons festival was a true testament to this. Set in the heart of Colorado on what is left of the awesome freestyle feature, amidst an array of construction developments, the town of Lyons is recovering from massive floods only a year or so ago. But regardless of the struggles the community have faced as a result of the river over the last 12 months, the whole vibe of the event was unreal as the whole community came out to support all the athletes who had come in to compete in their small town for the weekend.

The 2015 Colorado Floods
The clean up is still going on
Huge amounts of damage to the local area

The current feature a cool but little hole is still pretty good but definitely suits the smaller paddlers. It was a battle for us bigger athletes, difficult for us to just to stay in the feature on landing the big tricks. But it really allowing the kids at this event to shine. One of my highlights of the weekend had to be watching the young ones throw big air trick after trick, showcasing how good the next generation of our sport is and how multi generational this sport can be.

Young Maddy Kellogg prepares for her run

It was also great to paddle for the first time in along time with my good friend and fellow competitor Maria Lindgren from Sweden, and too meet her husband and baby daughter Miranda, and to compete for the first time since the world championships finals with the awesome Emily Jackson, who was pregnant once again. 

Nailing an entry move

Linking some cartwheel ends

I arrived the day before the event and got in some practice before passing out early. I had every intention of entering the slalom the morning before the freestyle but the joys of jet lag saw me sleep through my heats walking up just in time to compete in the freestyle. Luckily my training session and new energy payed off as I managed to put together and land enough tricks to make a good ride and finish the event in first place. A super fun competition and start to my 2016 US tour.

Taking the podium with these awesome ladies

A huge thanks you to Kevin Parker for organising the event, to Amy and Tegan for hosting me at last minute and helping me overcome my jet lag and to Scott Shipley for lending me a slalom boat although I didn't use it as I slept through the whole event.

Scott showing his years of training and experience to win the Slalom