Women rock and roll at Teva games
RED CLIFF- Tanya Faux said it’s important to her to keep time with the men when it comes to extreme kayaking.Had she been racing in the men’s field Thursday, her time would have put her among the top 15 boaters.As it was, the 28-year-old Aussie edged her friend, mentor and Teva Games reigning champion, Nikki Kelly, for the victory in the women’s extreme race at Homestake Creek near Red Cliff.Faux put down two runs in a total of 4 minutes, 8.13 seconds. She shaved more than 10 seconds off her first-run time, which bumped her ahead of Kelly, who held an 8-second lead after one run. “I had three places where I made mistakes in my first run, and I knew that if I could get all three clean on the second, I could still be competitive,” Faux said. “I’m super, super excited. It’s always good to compare against the men and know you’re up there with them.”
Kelly was less than two seconds behind Faux. After what Kelly said was an invalid disqualification Thursday in the Paddlecross event for missing a gate that she said she hit, Kelly felt strong about both her runs on Homestake. “I’m just glad I could have two clean runs out here today,” said the 30-year-old from New Zealand. “Because sometimes when something negative happens, it’s easy to just let it all go into a downward spiral.”Filled largely with Class V rapids, Homestake Creek was running around 49 cubic feet per second Thursday and required more than just brute strength.”This course isn’t just about muscling it and being really strong and fit,” Kelly said. “It’s about finessing it. You’re wanting to paddle fast, and you’re wanting to spot your lines and look where you want to go. You have to be quite loose in the hips because you’re actually going to jump off some rocks to put you where you want to go.”Ten women started the race, but only seven made it into the finals. First-time Teva racer Tiya McNabb from Alabama was eliminated after the first round when she spun around on some rapids midway through the course and was pitched into a precarious sideways position with only her paddle, which she speared into the creek bottom, keeping her from overturning.”I didn’t take a good correctional stroke,” McNabb said. “My arms were already burning and I was so out of breath. It’s hard once you mess up like that to shake it. It was poor judgment. It was a preventable situation.”
Another Teva newcomer, Valerie Bertrand from Quebec, managed to finish third Thursday in 4:40.29. She said the creek was something she would never find in eastern Canada and, while the drops weren’t intimidating , the pinball-like rapids at the beginning of the creek were enough to keep her heart racing.”You’ve really got to be on the ball,” Bertrand said. “You just keep bouncing from one rock to another. If you miss one line, chances are you’ll also miss the line that follows. And there’s not many lines to choose from. Race lines, there’s one or two. Screw-up lines … there’s way too many.”The largest culprit in most racer’s “screw-up” lines involved the Sunshine Rock, a drop from a slanted rock that pitched a strong current directly into a deep pool and another rock. The majority of competitors, both men and women, got sucked into the rapid with the back of their boat. Most stalled at least a little bit, while some eddied out completely, and a handful of others capsized.”That’s the hardest rapid on the run,” said fourth-place finisher Robin Betz. “You have to set it up right at the top.”Paddlers incorporated several small, rapid strokes in order to situate their boats during the split second they had between hitting the rock at the top of the Sunshine drop and avoiding the one at the bottom.”You have to have your boat exactly at the right angle with the exact stroke to make that line,” said Christie Glissmeyer, who eddied out and almost got pinned at the Sunshine Rock on her final run. “Luckily I was able to wash off and roll up before I slowed down too much.”
Most of the women in the sparse field commented on how they wished more women would enter extreme races. Some, like Faux, who ended up with 10 bloody knuckles, understand the inclination to opt out.”As a female, I think if you go in this race, you have to accept the fact that you’re possibly going to hurt yourself,” Faux said. “Not everyone wants to take that risk, and that’s respectable. But the injuries you get here aren’t going to be life-threatening. You cut up your hands and might get something like a broken forearm, but there’s so much safety that if you get pinned, people are going to be on you right away.”The biggest obstacles reside largely in one’s head, Bertrand said.”I’d like to see a bigger field, but a lot of people will back off and say, ‘No way. I don’t want to die,'” Bertrand said. “People see the consequences more than they see the clean lines.”Letting go of the potential dangers is the secret to paddling through mental rocks and drops along with the real things.”If you’ve already had a really frightening experience on a river, to accept the fact that you could go upside-down and get pinned on this is horrible,” Faux said. “I’ve had a few ugly experiences, but I tend to get rid of them. This might be a technical, hard river, but you have to believe in yourself that you can still do it.”
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