This last week has been a rapid whirlwind of kayaking in the final build up toward stage one of the UNLEASHED competition. After the water level came down a little we were able to get back onto the Ruins wave in Ottawa. Last year I had a real love hate relationship with Ruins wave. As in I mostly Loved not going there and Hated getting beat down in the reactionary wave whilst surfing out onto the wave, which happened often. But this year I was making a real effort to improve there and after a few LONG days paddling there I was finally starting to feel a bit more consistent although after three days on the trot paddling there by Friday I felt exhausted.
So Friday we took it fairly easy as it was the final day before the start of the competition, just a few quick surfs and then back to the Ottawa Valley where the athlete meeting/opening party would be held at Whitewater Brewery. I spent Friday afternoon mostly napping and trying to get my energy back in time for the first competition which was rumoured to be Saturday.
Friday night all the athletes gathered for the opening notes and information from UNLEASHED event organisers. Bren Orton, Adrian Mattern, Kalob Grady and Dane Jackson are the brains behind the event and their goal is to create the biggest event in Whitewater kayaking. They outlined the rough layout for the event, a four stage competition taking place over the next 10 days. The four events will be a Biggest Trick event, Boater-X, 10 Trick Big wave and a Giant Slalom. The goal for each event is to be visually stunning and showcase the high end of kayaking. Stage one would be held on Saturday at Noon on Ruins Wave Ottawa. I had pretty mixed feelings about attending a competition on my nemesis wave, but was a little more optimistic after the last week of paddling there. The other stages were still to be confirmed as to when and where as the organisers were waiting on water levels to be best. This time of year the rivers fluctuate a lot so I thought that was pretty savvy on their part. We enjoyed cold beers at Whitewater Brewery for a while after the meeting and spent time catching up with all the old friends who were just arriving. We also confirmed the last wild Card athlete Arthur Paulus, who just arrived from France a couple of days before.
Saturday morning our crew made good time, getting up and heading out to get started on the hour and a bit drive to the wave. Our TruckLifeTour family has doubled in size for the duration of the event as we took on Darby McAdams and Jordan Slaughter and somehow managed to fit all of our stuff and kayaks into Brooke’s relatively small Tacoma. Luckily they have pretty short legs and after we dumped a bunch of Brooke’s climbing gear and spare clothes and shoes we were able to squeeze in the two new girls pretty easily. Anyway, we made it to the morning meeting on time (Event organisers Adrian, Bren and Kalob were all late) and the details of the event were outlined. Two 2 hour Jam sessions half the competitors in one and half in the other. I was set to go in the first set.
Now let me give you a little important background on the Ruins Wave. It is a huge wave in the middle of the river, formed by an old logging mill. It is a tricky to catch wave, Super fast, quite steep, quite green, guarded by a big reactionary wave hole to surf across and with a small eddy to catch if you miss the wave. If you miss the eddy you are ‘going on tour’ and this involves paddling back to shore, hustling back up the bike path and ferrying back out to the wave. Usually a Tour takes around 25-30 mins, so if you had 4 tours you might only have 4 rides in 2 hours.
Heat one started out fast and frantic, Dane Jackson and Devyn Scott were destroying our heat, a few others had good rides and early tours. Brooke had a great first couple of rides and then took a tour. I was having a very frustrating first 40 mins. Every time I surfed across the reactionary I would just get denied from entering the wave. BUT I had managed to stay in the eddy every time. I had 18 attempts to catch the wave in the first 40 mins and every one had been unsuccessful. I had gone all the way through an emotional rollercoaster of frustration, anger, annoyance, apathy and finally on attempt number 19 I caught the wave. I have surfed here on a number of occasions but I haven't ever experienced such a long period of not catching the wave. I managed to secure a few tricks during my rides in the next hour but by the end of 2 hours, 2 tours and countless times entering the wave from the eddy, (or attempting too) I felt exhausted. I headed back out to watch the second heat throw down. 2 hours later and everyone looked as broken as I felt. I was so happy to eat some Poutine then drive home and go to sleep.
Waking up and getting moving Sunday morning was not easy task. I felt like I had been in a boxing match the day before but luckily the full TruckLifeTour family managed to pull together and get moving in the direction of the Rouge river where the Stage 2 boater-X would be held on Monday. I will probably roll up the Monday race into next weeks update or do a mid week update with the Boater-X run down. Because right now I am way too tired after a stacked day of racing.
Keep an eye on the Instagram @seth_ashworth for more regular updates. Things are heating up here and every river seems to be on its way to flood stage. Good times ahead.