During the months of May and June, there is a kayak event every weekend in a different town in Colorado. The rivers in Colorado are also super cold in the spring because of high runoff from the snowmelt, I could never imagine not having a Kokatat dry suit and the warmest Kokatat fleece to keep me warm and dry during this circuit!
The Golden Games in Golden, CO kicks off the tour, and is one of the most fun events of the year! The whitewater feature on Clear Creek can be shallow and flushy making it a bit challenging to stick your tricks. I managed first place in the women’s freestyle event which was a great way to start off the Colorado tour. There is also The Screaming ¼ Mile Creek Race, which was so much fun because our friend, Hojo, built an awesome starting ramp that launched you into the water right at the top of the first hole. I was stoked to finish second in the race for the women’s division!
The following weekend we head to the CKS PaddleFest in Buena Vista, CO. This is a great event that is fun for the whole family. They have kayak and SUP demo’s, clinics and a really fun freestyle competition on the Arkansas River. It’s definitely my favorite play hole in Colorado. Each year I can count on getting my personal best ride here; I added 120 points to my best ride, bumping my new high score up to 420 points! This also put me in second place in the Junior Women’s freestyle class. I was only 30 points short of first place!
There are also many rivers around Buena Vista. My older brothers, Grady and Brody, and two friends got the chance to run Lake Creek, which is a solid class 5+. I helped set safety for the 4 of them. Just watching each of them run it made me super nervous but they all had great lines and had a blast. I got a personal first descent on Pine Creek, while my younger brother Cardy ran the Numbers for the first time. I absolutely love the adrenaline rush of running a new river!
Lyons Outdoor Games and Animas River Days are next up on the circuit. Unfortunately they are on the same weekend and on opposite ends of the state. Outdoor Games is in Lyons, CO and Animas River Days is in Durango, CO. We chose Lyons Outdoor Games, but who knows, maybe next time we will go to Durango. The Lyons whitewater feature on the St. Vrain River is another challenging wave. It’s very flushy, but with the help of other paddlers, we built a rock wall to help funnel water to make it more retentive. I placed first in the Junior Women’s Freestyle competition.
Next is GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, CO. It’s the biggest event in Colorado and draws athletes from around the world, almost quadrupling the number of competitors compared to the other events. There are so many different events in a variety of outdoor sports, so it’s fun for everyone whether you are participating or a spectator. I competed in the Pro Women’s Freestyle Kayak event and was stoked to make it to semi-finals, and then to finish in 6th place! It’s really a rush to get to compete against the world’s best kayakers, to have a huge crowd cheering you on, and to get so close to making finals.
After the Mountain Games is FIBArk in Salida, CO, right near Buena Vista. The water level on the Arkansas River was great, making the Salida boat ramp feature a big wave/hole. We were all able to do a variety of tricks, with almost every trick on the score sheet being thrown. I really enjoyed the fun new competition format called the Jam Sesh! Basically, it’s just like you are boating with your friends; we got about 20 mins to throw down as many tricks as we could and when we flushed off it was the next person’s turn. I placed third in Pro Women!
With the higher water, we got some more laps on Pine Creek and Numbers on the Arkansas River. Boating with 7 plus people, carnage is inevitable. On Pine Creek everyone started getting bunched up. I got spun out right above Pine Creek Hole, dropping into it backwards with a friend, Patrick Sheehan. We both surfed it for a while, then I plugged the bow of my Jackson Kayak Zen into the green water, which flipped me end over end almost into a front loop, then spitting me out. It was actually pretty awesome!
The following weekend brought us to Gunnison, CO for the Gunnison River Festival. This is such a fun Hometown Throwdown event! The goal at this event is to throw your biggest tricks to make the crowd go crazy. They have a novice category and an advanced category, with no separate categories for men and women. I came in 4th in the advanced category behind 3 of my brothers, Kenny, Dally and Brody. My three younger siblings, Cardy, Maddy and Rowdy, swept the novice category.
While in Gunnison we hit up Oh Be Joyful Creek in nearby Crested Butte. It was crazy fun! Everyone had really good lines and the water level was perfect!!!
That’s it for the Colorado Circuit. I can hardly wait till May to do it all again this year! Hope to see you on the water.