Local paddlers still making waves | AspenTimes.com

Local paddlers still making waves

Steve Benson

Ali Wade and Hanna Farrar are back on the international kayaking radar as both have qualified for the 2005 World Canoe Freestyle Championships in Australia in January. Over a year ago, the duo, coming up through the Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s (CRMS) kayak program, placed in the top five in the junior division of the Whitewater Freestyle Kayak World Championships on the Mur River in Graz, Austria. And last summer, Wade won the pre-Worlds, held in Australia. Their performances further enhanced the Roaring Fork Valley’s reputation as a global kayaking hub, and their friendly rivalry seemed destined to intensify. But then in August, shortly after graduating from CRMS, Wade turned 18 and her amateur status went down the drain. Farrar is still 17, and a senior at CRMS. If Wade wanted to continue competing, she had to do so as a pro. Her last event as a junior was the FIBArk (First In Boating on the Arkansas River) competition in Salida in June, which she won handily. “One of the pro females came up to me [at FIBArk] and said, ‘You should come compete with us and stop sandbagging the competition,'” Wade said over the summer. “It made me feel bad a bit, but maybe she just wants to beat me.” Wade entered her next event as a pro, over a month before her amateur status ended, and proved she wasn’t just sandbagging the competition with a victory over the pros on the Green River in Wyoming. Wade was pleased with her win, but not satisfied. “There are some areas where I still need to get better,” she said. “For instance, in New York those [pro] girls were more consistent with any spot, they could paddle well anywhere in a wider range of places.” New York was the site of this year’s U.S. freestyle kayak team trials – held in August – and Wade surprisingly didn’t make the cut. “It was a bad week for me, I don’t really know what it was but it was pretty bad,” she said. “It was one of the worst weeks of kayaking ever, I was just off my game I guess.” It was a better week for Farrar. Her second-place finish in the junior division solidified one of the two spots on the team and a trip to Australia. “I’m definitely stoked,” Farrar said. “This is my last year as a junior to make the team, I’m really happy.” But Wade wasn’t left out in the cold. In September, shortly after her disappointing performance in New York, Wade got redemption on the Gauley River in West Virginia, site of the squirt boat team trails. Squirt boating is the ballet of kayaking, with graceful tricks in calm water. Wade said she was attracted to the discipline the first time she saw it in Austria, and she’s been hooked ever since. “I thought it looked really, really cool,” Wade said. “So I talked to the best female squirt boater in the world and she hooked me up with a boat.”I love it, it’s awesome.” The day before the trials in West Virginia, Wade learned how to do a mystery move – which is basically submerging the boat to the bottom of the river and holding it under for as long as possible. “It’s the coolest trick ever,” Wade said. “I had one that lasted eight seconds … it felt like it was a minute or two.” With that move, Wade secured a spot on the squirt boat team, and a sponsor – Jackson Kayak. In January she’ll be returning to Australia, but this time as a pro, and a squirt boater. Reeling in a sponsorship, especially one the caliber of Jackson Kayak – the founder, Eric Jackson, is one of the best kayakers in the world – was huge for Wade. After graduating from CRMS, she battled with decisions that would effect her immediate future. She wondered if she could compete as a pro, and if college should wait. “[A sponsorship] was one of my main goals for taking the year off,” she said. “Now, there might be a future in it for me.” And her mom, Heidi Wade, is also relieved. “She’s taking the year off so I’m glad she got a spot here,” she said. “If she hadn’t, she might be thinking she should have gone to college.” Farrar finds herself treading over the same ground that was occupied by Wade a year ago. She’s been competing well at the junior level, and she’s focused on a victory in Australia. But she’s also well aware of what the future holds. “Over the summer I pretty much tried to compete with the pro women a lot,” she said. “I wanted to see how I compared against [them] and get a gauge for where I’d be next year.” She placed fourth in her first pro freestyle kayaking event in Oregon, which is promising for a debut. But she’s hesitant to put all of her eggs in one basket. “I definitely want to compete pro and keep competing as long as I can, but I also want to go to college,” she said. “I’m trying to get into Dartmouth, and I’m trying to make myself realize I might have to not put so much time into kayaking and more time into school.” Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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