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Hard heads hit Homestake

The conversation must have focused on the 45 kayakers traversing the water’s surface, hitting the drops and banging their way around the rocks during the Paddler Magazine Extreme Creek Kayak Race.

For the majority of the race, the shouts of encouragement from spectators, the occasional skirmish between newly-acquainted dogs and the other sounds from the road above the creek were drowned out by the peaceful roar of the waters below. Bursts of applause challenged the roar of the rapids each time a competitor rolled up from beneath the whitewater surface of the homestretch.

“These guys are amped up,” said spectator and kayaking-enthusiast Ben Grizzle of East Vail. “They’re just charging it (the river.)”



Shannon Carroll paddled her way into first in the women’s division with a time of 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Following close behind were Nikki Kelly – 2:23 – in second and Karyn Roy in third – 2:31.

Pat Keller, 16, from Asheville, N.C., won the men’s division by more than four seconds with a time of 1:59.



Keller, who has been kayaking professionally since he was 12, recently returned from the Kayaking World Championships in Austria with a second place in the Junior Men’s Division.

“I felt pretty good about my run,” said Keller. “I took good lines, but I ran into some rough spots at the bottom. I thought it might be good enough for the top five, but I never thought I’d win. So

I’m pretty excited.”

Keller will be competing in the Pro Rodeo and the 8-Ball Sprint and he hopes to be as prepared for these events as he was for Thursday’s race.

“You gotta know the course well,” he said. “You have to visualize the lines a couple of nights before.

“Right before the race, I down a couple of Red Bulls and some energy bars, and then I have a couple friends stand next to me and we yell at each other.”

Tao Berman and Fred Coriell tied for second with times of 2:03.85, and Steve Fisher placed fourth with a time of 2:05.

The racers emerged from the rough waters undefeated.

“I actually like this discipline more than freestyle,” said Jimmy Blakeney of the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team. “This race is so much fun and it’s challenging. It’s just burlier.”

The course was extremely intimidating, but those who rode the creek made it truly impressive.


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