Wade paddles to third in kayak World’s
Amateur or pro, freestyle or squirt boat – it doesn’t make a difference to Ali Wade, the 18-year-old kayak guru from Carbondale who has shown that she can compete at both levels, in both disciplines. Last month in Penrith, Australia, Wade placed third in the World Freestyle Kayak Championships squirt boating division, a discipline she took up less than a year ago. Last January, she won the junior Pre-World Championship of freestyle kayaking. And last summer, shortly after turning 18 and losing her amateur status, Wade won her first event as a pro in a freestyle competition on the Green River in Wyoming. Wade was poised to explode on the professional freestyle scene in the World Championships last month. But in the U.S. freestyle kayak team trials in August – which acted as a qualifier for the Worlds – Wade had an unusually rough time and 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 at the time. “It was one of the worst weeks of kayaking ever, I was just off my game I guess.” So Wade, determined to make it to the Worlds in Australia – as much a vacation as a competition – entered the squirt boat trials less than a month later. Squirt boating is like the ballet of kayaking, with smooth and technical tricks performed in calm water. The day before the trials, Wade learned a mystery move, which consists of submerging your boat fully under water for as long as possible. “Your boat is spinning with the currents and through the currents where the calm water meets the moving water,” Wade said. “You’re spinning the entire time, and using your paddle to keep yourself spinning.” Wade impressed the judges and secured a trip to the Worlds with a mystery move that she held for eight seconds – “It seems like a lot longer when you’re down there,” she said. She also corralled a sponsor in Jackson Kayak. But the squirt boating discipline was still new to her, and when she headed to Australia last month, her expectations weren’t high. “I was looking at it more as a vacation,” said Wade, who’s spending her first winter as a member of the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol. “I was surprised for sure, I hadn’t paddled at all since October, I’d just been skiing and working.” Fellow American Deb O’Keefe, and Motoko Ishida, from Japan, took first and second, respectively. Wade plans to finish out the season at Aspen Mountain before refocusing her energy on kayaking. While squirt boating has become a new passion, her true love is still freestyle. She plans to compete as a pro in both disciplines this summer.”I’m hoping to do a little more traveling this summer for freestyle and squirt boating,” she said. As for goals, Wade usually just goes with the flow. But if she continues to perform as she has in the past, expect big things from her this summer. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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