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Women in canoe seeking Olympic status


How to get faster ... faster Outrigger, East Coast style Phatwater friendly

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inside Women in canoe (sprint and slalom) are making real progress to earn medal status as an Olympic sport thanks to women like Pam Boteler, special contributor this issue


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U.S. slalom canoe racer Hailey Thompson Photo by Michael Thompson

Think outrigger racing can only be found in Hawaii and California? Think again. Associate editor, Stephen Mahelona gives us a brief glimps into outrigger racing on the East Coast and Florida. Read how clubs are putting out top quality paddlers and fast teams.

Check out this first-hand account of the ICF World Marathon Championships by one of America’s top marathon paddlers, Abel Hastings. The U.S. team took 10 athletes to Portugal for the championships. A good sign for the sport’s future, according to Hastings. photo by Marcel Laruens

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More Inside How to get faster ... faster

Five-time U.S. Marathon Team member and MIT genious Abel Hastings gives the inside scoop on interval training for paddlers and even shares an example 6

How NOT to race

Ultra-marathon veteran and contributor to Canoe & Kayak Racing Joe Mann tells the first-hand tale of how not to prepare for and run a 9

Hemmens couple set new record for Phatwater Kayak Challenge

Patrick and DeAnne Hemmens set the course racord for this annual tussle on the Mississippi River and make a few new friends in the 16

Canoe & Kayak Racing Canoe & Kayak Racing is a bimonthly electronic magazine containing news, articles and features about events, paddlers, training, race results and other information about canoe and kayak racing in the United States. CKR seeks to promote canoe and kayak racing with editorial and promotional content designed to inform, educate and motivate beginners and experienced paddlers of all ages. Each issue will cover a wide range of editorial and promotional content from tips and how to articles to race reports and feature stories. CKR regularly accepts by-lined editorial submissions with the right of final editing for style, tone, length and voice. Editorial and graphical content may not be used in any form, printed or digital, without permission of the editor with attribution. CKR is posted bimonthly at Editor: Dan Grubbs Contributors this issue: Dan Grubbs, editor Stephen Mahelona, associate editor Joe Mann, contributor Abel Hastings, contributor Pam Boteler, contributor

Cover: (right) Hannah Menke at the start of a women’s C1 heat at the 2009 World Sprint Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, photo by William Menke; (left) Hailey Thompson negotiatates the slalom course and the whitewater in her slalom canoe, photo by John Thompson. 4

DeAnne Hemmens, contributor

Canoe & Kayak Racing 1221 Pheasant Ct. Liberty, Missouri 64068 816-729-4422 CKR’s Facebook profile

From the Editor for manufacturers, good for retailers, good for clubs. And, it’s a very green sport as I don’t know of a single paddler whose appreciation for, and protection of, the environment hasn’t grown.

As the cooler months here in the northern hemisphere are upon us, I’m given to contemplation of the future of racing in the U.S. I’m more than encourage by many things I’ve observed in the last year. One of these things is the advancement of women in canoe. We’re happy to provide readers with a feature story about Olympic-style canoe racing, both sprint and slalom, by Pam Boteler, probably the most influential driving force in the effort to have women’s canoe reach full medal status at the ICF and Olympic level. As a woman employing the high-kneel style of canoe racing, Pam’s passion is clearly evident to anyone who has even had a short conversation with her. With Pam at the wheel, I’m confident women’s canoe will soon be a medal sport at the Olympics. Also encouraging is the growing number of races organized at the grassroots level. No matter the discipline, there are hundreds of races of nearly infinite format. Here, here! I say. These events help expose more people to paddlesports and elevate the level of compeition as new athletes take up the challenge and begin training seriously. This is good for us all. It’s good

Not only are there more events in which to compete, the established races seem to be enjoying solid support from the paddling communities. I’ve read many reports of racing having record participation. Registrations in races from Hawai’i to Maine, from Texas to Minnesota have increased. Yes, 2009 will turn out to be, dare I say, watershed year for racing. But, as pleased as I am about the growth in the sport, I admit I’m more excited about the fact that racers of different disciplines are entering different kinds of events. This well illustrated in our story about the Phatwater Kayak Challenge written by DeAnne Hemmens of Ocean Paddlesports. Along with her husband, Patrick, the Hemmens brought their tandem surfski from the waves of the Pacific Ocean to the flat, wide water of the Mississippi River. Not only did they enjoy the different paddling conditions and distance, they ended up setting the course record. Congratulations to the Hemmens ... we hope to see you more often in the landlocked Midwest. And it was two masked, tights-wearing USCA paddlers who surprised many people by paddling their pro boat down the Missouri River to third place in a 340-mile ultra-marathon event at which many of their paddling colleagues scoffed. These luchadores, Wally Werderich and Nick Josefick, broke down a barrier and made hundreds of new paddling friends in the process. They’ve promised a return

engagement to the small cult following they’ve created by their fun and welcomed antics backed up by stellar racing skills. Another significant event in the last two months was the resignation of David Yarborough and installment of Joe Jacobi as executive director of USA Canoe/Kayak. This created a lot of buzz in the U.S. sprint and whitewater communities. I’ve received numerous communications explaning how they felt this was needed to propel this governing body forward into the future. Personally, I won’t call it an indictment of the past, but in the words of one USACK board member, I choose to look forward. The swell of support for Joe after the annoucement is a good indication that many are hopeful for positive growth leading to international success. I’m also encouraged by the degree to which the national paddling community is willing to share best practices, lessons learned and even sophisticated research. Along those lines, U.S. marathon star, Abel Hastings shares his expertise about interval training. His insights can help many of us, as he puts it, get faster ... faster. Finally, as racing of all forms grows, associate editor, Stephen Mahalona, gives us a brief snapshot into the outrigger communities of the eastern states and Florida. Racing six-man outriggers has grown dramatically in places you wouldn’t expect. It’s been a good year, yet I expect 2010 will be an even better one for paddlesports. Dan “Osprey” Grubbs 5

Looking to catch that paddler you’ve been chasing for two years? Interval training is just the ticket.

How to get faster - faster! by Abel Hastings No matter who you are you probably like the idea of going fast. Maybe it’s the idea of winning a race or just knowing your body is working and working well. But whatever your reason, you just finished that 10 kilometer training loop of yours six seconds quicker than last week – and there is a smile on your face. Improved speed in your boat is the result of all the fun (and yes, a little pain) you can have doing interval training. Well-planned interval training is the cornerstone to any training program to get faster, faster.

What are intervals Before jumping into it, let’s review three important definitions. • Aerobic exercise - Energy output can be physically matched by an input of oxygen (from breathing). In essence, this means that a person’s respiration rate can physically keep up with their muscles’ need for oxygen. • Anaerobic exercise - Respiration rate can no longer keep up with our muscles’ need for oxygen. Our body responds to anaerobic exercise by switching to another chemical reaction to provide energy to the muscles, called the lactic acid system. • Anaerobic threshold - The heart rate, at which the body begins to switch from aerobic to anaerobic exercise. In reality, this switch isn’t an all or nothing change. The body actually does both anaerobic and aerobic at the same time, gradually increasing to more anaerobic as the body’s inability to match oxygen to output increases. Now, back to answering the question of what intervals are. Interval training is exercise that varies in intensity and includes segments of aerobic and segments of partially anaerobic exercise.

Why intervals Interval training has some specific results which I feel are well-suited to paddling, including, cardiovascular and muscular growth, speed-technique and mental toughness. Interval training has been shown to have a significant effect on the cardiovascular system, specifically heart stroke volume, which is the amount of blood the heart can pump in one beat. A higher stroke volume means your heart works


less to supply a given blood flow.

photo by Marcel Laurens

Interval training also tends to build muscles. Stronger muscles mean more power. Because boat speed rises and falls with each stroke, boat speed has a strong connection to muscular strength. Interval training helps build what I term speedtechnique. In my opinion, various boats speeds require slightly different techniques. At high speeds I often find myself focusing on technique elements that are not applicable at lower speeds. Interval training, with its forays into higher speeds, requires that we pay attention to these new elements and develop them. The result: a smoother technique at high speeds, helping us stay at high speed longer. Finally, interval training builds, and requires, mental toughness. When I began training I foolishly thought that training would become less painful as I got better. In fact, the reality is that training becomes more painful as we get stronger. We end up becoming more capable of handling the right kind, and the right level of pain for a longer time. I feel that this mental toughness is best built by experience.

How and how many In my opinion, interval training is a highly personal type of training, therefore I won’t specifically tell you how many or how much. But, I can give you some guidelines. Regardless of whether you work with a coach or by yourself, the development of an interval training plan requires that you are highly engaged in the development of the plan itself. If you work with a coach make sure they are working with you and not just handing you a stock training plan. You also need to be willing to listen to your body and take note of physiological cues. When starting off, many athletes end up over training because they are so used to different workouts, such as a 90 minute slog-fest, that a 50 minute workout appears short. Interval workouts are typically short and painful but require more time to recover.

How Each interval should raise your heart rate to a level above your anaerobic threshold. Many people sense when they transition from aerobic to anaerobic exercise by their breathing. Respirations go from deep and steady breaths to rapid breaths. Interval lengths should span a spectrum from one minute to five minutes. A one minute interval is just barely enough for your heart rate to level off at an anaerobic level, five minutes is about as long as most athletes can maintain a heart rate above their anaerobic threshold without dipping down. I aim to make the one minute intervals 100% anaerobic and at a very high heart rate while the five minute intervals are at a lower heart rate and may include some aerobic metabolism and some anaerobic metabolism.

How many How many intervals an athlete can perform is largely dependent on the athlete. As you get stronger you’ll be able to do more intervals, but the general rule of thumb is that you should do intervals only as long as you can maintain high quality anaerobic intervals. I judge this by a mixture of speed and heart rate. If I can no longer get my heart rate above the anaerobic threshold, I stop. If my speed goes down significantly, I stop. You need to be willing to listen to your body before, during and after the workout. Avoid overtraining by doing just a few intervals in a short workout and work your way up. Evaluate your recovery level before you get on the water. Get your body ready for a high quality workout. Observe your technique, speed and heart rate during the workout. And after the workout, keep a close watch on how you feel and how long it takes to recover from the workout. Your recovery will determine how often you’re able to do intervals. Many high level athletes may only do intervals once or twice a week.

Give yourself feedback

Find Your Anaerobic Threshold Determine your Anaerobic Threshold with a Conconi Test (see sample graph below). This test requires slowly and steadily increasing exercise output while measuring heart rate. To do this test you’ll need both a recording heart rate monitor and a GPS: Choose a deep, straight and protected route. The more consistent the water the better. 1. Begin with a 15 minute warm-up 2. After the warm-up, begin paddling at a very easy speed (about 25% below your warm up pace) 3. At each minute increase your speed by a small increment. (I use a GPS set to display pace/km and I increase my speed by 5sec/km at each minute) 4. Continue increasing your speed each minute until you can no longer match the required speed. 5. Cool-down and stretch 6. Download data from both the GPS and the heart rate monitor. 7. Plot the data with speed on the x-axis and heart rate on the y-axis beginning with the minute after your warm-up 8. The data should form a straight and upward sloping line at low speeds and should break from a straight line at higher speed by trending towards a steeper slope. This breakpoint is your anaerobic threshold.

Feedback during interval training is necessary and can often take the form of high tech gadgets. I use both a heart rate monitor and a GPS for feedback on how my workout is progressing. The heart monitor tells me if my intervals cross the anaerobic threshold and by how much and tells me if my rest periods between intervals are adequate. The GPS gives me feedback about my speed, and thereby, feedback on my technique and exhaustion level. Using the combination of heart rate and speed also allows for objective technique evaluation. As technique improves you will be able to maintain a given heart rate and improve your speed. I also like to set up my interval workouts such that I have the same objective measurement in both the 7

early and late portions of the intervals to help gauge the workout and how tired I’m becoming. Many GPS units have a built-in auto lap feature that can alert you to the time required to cover a particular distance. The example workout (at right or below) includes this element for a 500 meter interval in the beginning and the end of the workout. Remember to use the heart monitor to gauge your intervals and your rest periods. The rest periods should be long enough for your heart rate to return to a comfortable level and allow the next interval to be high quality. If you don’t allow yourself to rest enough between intervals, your interval intensity will go down until you can no longer elevate your heart rate to an anaerobic level.

Focus on technique Technique is especially important during interval workouts. I have mentioned it a few times, but its importance cannot be overstated. The whole workout, including warm-up, intervals, rest periods and cool-down should include good technique. Ideally, the technique will differ from highspeed power technique during the intervals to low-speed, smoothness technique, but the emphasis on technique remains. This is especially true as you get tired. As we get tired, our technique goes down, which in turn means that paddling at a given speed is more exhausting, which saps our energy that much faster. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken by practicing good technique.

Now that you know some of the basic elements to interval training the real learning can begin. Allow each workout to guide the next by showing you what was too much or too little, how long you need to recover in rest periods and days between interval workouts, as well as how you can measure your progress. I have learned these practices of interval training from years of reading, trial and error, listening to my body and swapping ideas with other athletes. I encourage you to do the same. If you do, I think you’ll find yourself achieving the ultimate goal of getting faster, faster. Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Mayor’s Cup Web site; used with permission.

Example workout: This workout works well if you use a GPS that features an auto-lap that can be set to 500m. This feature allows automatic measurement of the intervals. This helps evaluate your exhaustion level throughout the workout. Expect your first 500m to be faster than your last. Your goal should be to minimize this speed decrease without slowing the first interval. 1. 2000m warm-up 2. 500m interval followed by 250m easy recovery (auto-measured interval) 3. 250m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 4. 250m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 5. 1000m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 6. 250m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 7. 250m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 8. 1000m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 9. 250m interval followed by 250m easy recovery 10. 250m interval followed by 500m easy recovery (note long recovery) 11. 500m interval followed by 250m easy recovery (auto-measured interval) 12. Minimum of 1000m cool-down Total workout is about 10 kilometers A similar workout can be done by switching the distances for time.

How NOT to race Lessons learned from the inaugural Laredo RioFest I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t going to race. I had been out of town for the entire week prior, and when I returned home to San Antonio, I came down with a cold. I was hoping it would clear up, but as the week went on, and the inaugural Bi-National Riofest in Laredo, Texas, got closer, I was still tired and congested. Thursday night, 36 hours before the race, my cold began to lift and I started feeling better. However, I still was in no shape to race. Then the phone rang. It was Richard Steppe from Dallas, a proven racer with tons of experience. Steppe had won countless races, and was the builder and owner of the legendary Steppe Missile, one of the fastest tandem unlimited boats in Texas. “Joe, it’s Richard. Want to race together in Laredo?” I warned him that I wasn’t prepared and that I hadn’t trained at all. He scoffed and said, “Some of my best races have been after a lack of training. I’ll see you tomorrow night.” Little did we know, this would not be one of our best races. The Laredo Riofest on Oct. 17 was the first race of its kind. Judges from the U.S. Canoe Association and their Mexican counterparts organized the event to bring the cultures of the U.S. and Mexico closer together. The race was 33 miles on the Rio Grande River and was a promoted by the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo during a two-day festival to celebrate healthy living, the environment and the waterway that the two border cities share. The plan was that Steppe would leave Dallas shortly after work on Friday, pick me up in San Antonio, and we’d arrive in Laredo around 11 p.m. Plenty of time to get some sleep and

be ready for the 8:30 a.m. race start. Just south of Dallas, Interstate 35 was shut down and Steppe didn’t get to my house until after midnight. We made it to Laredo around 4:00 a.m. I thought he knew where to go, and he thought I knew where to go. We drove around Laredo until we found a hotel with lots of kayaks on rooftops in the parking lot. We recognized a few cars, so we pulled into a spot, got the sleeping bags out, and slept in the bed of my truck for two hours. The race start was unusual to be sure. Because the starting line was literally on an international border, there were several police officers and border guards. But even in the presence of badges, the atmosphere was as relaxed as a race start usually is. The Mexican sun was out strong and a light breeze was the perfect complement to the 85 degree temperature. Boats were being staged based on category so that the bulk of the racers would finish around the same time. Solos went first, followed by tandems and then the multiman boats. We started off strong in the tandem race, holding a solid second place for the first half of the race. After about two hours, the lack of sleep and fatigue from my cold earlier in the week started to creep up and we just couldn’t hold the pace. We had to back off and the first- place boat slowly pulled away from sight. Not long after, the river changed. What started as a very flat and peaceful river mutated to one with ripples and high chop around almost every curve. The Steppe Missile is fast, but only has about three inches of freeboard. We began taking on water. The bilge pumps were running, but somehow, one of the battery packs came

by Joe Mann dislodged, and in an attempt to replace it, it slipped overboard. With only one bilge pump working, water continued to pour in until we were forced to pull over and dump our boat. So we did – on the Mexican side. I realized at that moment, as I was dumping the boat out, that we technically had just crossed the border illegally. We got back in determined to make up lost ground (or water in this case). It was not to be however. We ended up having to stop and dump the boat seven times, adding at least 20 minutes to our total time. The finish line was set up great to handle the volume of boats and people. It accompanied the healthy living festival, and there were food vendors, tents for shade, and plenty of space for staging of boats. They even had shuttles running to take racers back to the starting line to get their boats. Afterwards, in the evening, the awards banquet was held in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. All the participants, friends and family crossed the bridge to Mexico. The race all told was a huge success, and the race organizers did a great job blending international laws, customs and mindsets. My only tip for racers next year would be to get more than two hours sleep, don’t lose your bilge pump and try not to do it with a cold. 9

Photo by Bennett Wetch

One small stroke for a woman ... another giant leap for womankind

by Pam Boteler

president of USA WomenCAN “Realize the Dream – 2016,” the current movement to gain Olympic status for women in canoe, got another boost with exhibition events at both the Senior World Championships in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (sprint) and Le Seu D’Urgell, Spain (slalom). I was one of 21 women from 11 countries and three continents that competed in the sprint canoe championships with 16 of us from seven countries additionally participating in the inaugural International Canoe Federation Pre-World Championship Development Camp for women’s canoe. “Women in canoe hit it out the park at the world championships,” said Joe Jacobi, interim executive director of USA Canoe/Kayak and 1992 Olympic canoe slalom gold medalist. “The spirit of the group drew you in to their vibe.” Team USA got its best performances and first medals in many years at the 2009 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, by its women’s canoe team. Women’s canoe was exhibition for the second time. Hannah Menke of the Rockaway Olympic Canoe and 10

Kayak Club in New York earned the first of her two silver medals in the C1 500 meter event and the second in the C1 200 meter event. Representing the Washington Canoe Club, I teamed up with Anna Crawford from the Lake Lanier Canoe/Kayak Club in the C2 500 and 200 meter events and finished hotly contested races in fifth and sixth places respectively. Anna and I also participated in the Pre-World Championship Development Camp. “On a technical level, what has been achieved in such a short time is phenomenal,” Jacobi said.

Success also in whitewater Not to be outdone by flat water women, twenty-three athletes from 14 countries competed in the canoe slalom exhibition at the World Championships in Spain. Like the sprint championships, the ICF hosted its first ever PreWorld Championship Development Camp for women’s slalom canoe. Though not a medal sport for women, the number of countries sending women canoeists was about the same for

men’s slalom, which should not be confused with kayak slalom where paddlers’ position in the boat is different and use a double-bladed paddle. In the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, women’s canoe was also an exhibition and Team USA had a solid showing behind Micki Reeve’s 11th place finish, just missing the final. Carolyn Peterson and Hailey Thompson followed in 13th and 14th places, respectively. These fine athletes participated in the development program.

What was the response? If judging by the response of some well-known personalities, it won’t be long before both paddling disciplines enjoy the Olympic spirit and its glory.

photo by William Menke

(at left) Participants at the innaugural women’s sprint canoe development camp at the 2009 ICF World Championships in Nova Scotia, Canada. (right) Silver medalist Hannah Menke shares the podium with the other medalist of the C1 200 meters event at the World Championships.

in canoe.” “The exhibition at Worlds injected into my paddlers the dream of possibilities,” said Jonathan Sousley, canoe coach at the Gig Harbor Olympic Canoe and Kayak Racing Team. The excitement wasn’t exclusive to the sprint canoes. The energy was just as intense for the slalom championships. “Opportunity breeds engagement and excellence. The ICF camp held before the Worlds was one of the best examples of international cooperation in slalom development that I’ve seen in the 40-plus years I have been involved in the sport,” said Cathy Hearn, one of the most decorated American slalom kayakers and the U.S. national canoe slalom coach. “This spirit carried on into the competition itself, attracting the support of athletes and coaches from around the world.”

“I was extremely impressed with the exhibition races,” said Claudiu Ciur, head coach of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club What’s next for and former Romanian national women’s canoe? photo by Bennett Wetch canoe champion. “I believe that The ICF will hold an important [USACK] needs to be involved vote this December. This meeting more. Coaches must select girls as will determine the final 2010 Senior World Championships early as possible, from school, and to lead them in canoe. I programs. The desire is to not only repeat the success of am certain that next year more things can be accomplished women’s canoe from the 2009 championship regattas, but and move forward towards equal representation of women 11

Sprint Canoe Sprint flatwater canoe - also known as “high-kneel” - is currently an Olympic medal event for men, but not for women. It is the companion sport to sprint kayak, which is an Olympic event for both men and women. It is a classic test of a combination of speed, power, endurance and balance. It is one of the oldest Olympic sports - and one of the most difficult. Race distances are 1,000, 500 and 200 meters and are contested on a straight, buoyed course with nine lanes, each boat in a separate lane. The paddling style in this Olympic discipline requires the paddler to be kneeling on one knee, paddling on one side and to use a single-blade paddle. The paddle is only slightly shorter than the height of the athlete, usually up to about the bridge of the nose.

Colleen Hickey photo by John Thompson


to contest them at full medal status. A vote also is expected on the permanent inclusion of women’s canoe on the World Championships and World Cup programs and the ICF development programs. We expect medal status again at the 2010 Pan American Championships in Mexico City which simply requires a minimum of three countries. USA, Canada, Brazil and Ecuador will send teams. The host nation of Mexico is working hard to develop a team. There will be medal events at all of the 2010 Slalom World Cups, and all Canoe Slalom World Series events (which include prize money) and in ICF Slalom rankings. We will continue to work to have events added in all continental championships – sprint and slalom – and increase the number of countries with women’s canoe as official events in their respective national championships. This latter target is critical. Currently, there are approximately 500 women from at least 21 countries around the world paddling in canoes. Seven countries include women’s canoe as official or exhibition events at their national championships: Canada, USA, Brazil, Spain, France, Poland and Russia. An additional 14 countries have women training in canoes at various skill levels and have expressed an interest or intent to include women’s canoe at the national level in the near future. It is important to note that women from Great Britain and Ecuador won medals at the World Championships despite not having national-level status. “If women’s canoe were an Olympic event, you’d see a lot of other countries jump on board,” said Jeff Houser, Atlantic regional high performance coach for Canoe Kayak Canada . “But with so many countries tied to their Olympic funding in terms of what they can do in development, they

just can’t afford to add [women’s] canoe.” The challenges that some nations face is outshined by the progress that other nations have made. The momentum is there, according to Canadian K1 star, Adam Van Koerverden, 2004 Olympic sprint champion. “There’s no reason why women can’t canoe, and no reason why they can’t be doing it quickly.” For more information on the quest for Olympic status for women’s canoe, visit Boteler made history in 2000 when she became the first woman to compete in sprint canoe at the USA Canoe/Kayak National Championships – against men. Not only did she compete, she won gold. She repreated in 2001. Heavily influenced by Boteler’s success on the water and lobbying off the water, in 2002 USA Canoe/Kayak changed its by-laws to allow women to compete in the nationals in all events, with equal status. Boteler also was the first woman in the world to compete in an ICF-sanctioned marathon event when she won a silver medal in the USA Canoe/Kayak National Marathon Team Trials in 2002 – once again, against the men. She was undefeated in sprint events in the U.S. from 2000 to 2008 and remains undefeated in the 1,000 meter singles canoe event. She has also won numerous international medals. Boteler is president of USA WomenCAN, a driving force in the global campaign for gender equity in Olympic canoeing; chair of the new USACK Women in Canoe committee; member of the new Quality through E-Quality in USACK committee; and a nominee to the Board of Directors of the American Canoe Association.

Rising young stars in the US Sprint: Angela Wang – Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club Lydia Keefe-Sampson – Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club Makenzie Sousley – Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team Sarah Rucci – Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team

Slalom: Hailey Thompson – Stevens Point, Wis. Micki Reeves – Grand Junction, Colo. Colleen Hickey – Charlotte, N.C. Rebecca Moore – Red River Racing Club, Texas

U.S. Clubs Training Women in Canoe: Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club Gig Harbor Olympic Canoe and Kayak Club Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club Washington Canoe Club

Hailey Thompson photo by John Thompson


Outrigger racing finding ho warm currents of the Pacif

With its luxurious expanse of white sand, warm breezes and long rolling surf, Waikiki is an outrigger paradise. But there is another Waikiki, a frigid stretch of grey sand on the rocky shores of New England. And, for Boston-area paddlers, the unlikely name of their home beach is proof that East Coast outrigger canoeing was meant to be. While outrigger canoes are readily associated with places like Hawaii, California and Tahiti, one might be surprised to see crews gliding down the Potomac past the Jefferson Memorial, bobbing upon the Hudson in the shadows of Manhattan’s skyscrapers or enjoying their own little sleigh ride in the choppy waters of Nantucket Sound. But the sport thrives on the East Coast, with clubs ranging from Florida to New England, and up into Ontario and Quebec. Over the past couple of decades, clubs have emerged up and down the coast, drawing water sport enthusiasts from a variety of disciplines, novices to Olympic-class athletes, transplanted islanders and Hawaiians-at-heart. Paddlers are drawn to the sport for a variety of reasons, among them the fitness benefits and social interaction, involvement in community and environmental causes, cultural connection to Hawaii and the opportunity to compete at regional, national and international levels. But the common thread found throughout the clubs is the emphasis placed on the Aloha Spirit that is inherent in this Polynesian sport. Lacking the palm trees and warm sunshine (in the northeast, anyway), it is this spirit that connects East Coast paddlers to the global outrigger ohana and to the roots of the sport. 14

When asked whether there is a noticeable difference in

the approach of East Coast paddlers and teams from the well-documented laid-back attitude of Hawaii and the West Coast, Brook Meerbergen, president of Nantucket Outrigger Canoe Club, explains, “With the sheer number of people packed into the northeast – New York City, Philly, Boston - people are pretty competitive and aggressive in general, pretty individualistic.” He notes, however, the one significant difference between outrigger racing and other American team sports: while individual athletes in other sports are regularly granted star status above their teammates, outrigger is all about team blending, an ethos which transcends even the rugged northeastern individualism. Teams travel throughout the Atlantic seaboard during race season, competing in events that encompass all of the outrigger-related classes, OC1 and OC2 boats to the traditional six-man and the increasingly popular stand-up paddling. One of the world’s premier international outrigger races is New York’s Liberty World Outrigger Competition. Teams from around the world compete in the 15-mile race which runs from the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River, down around Manhattan, past Ground Zero to the Lincoln Tunnel on the Hudson River, out to the Statue of Liberty and back to the Brooklyn Bridge. And while much of the outrigger world is focused on Kona over the Labor Day weekend, paddlers up east camp out on Kent Island, Maryland, for a weekend of relaxation and racing. “It’s like Woodstock . . . with canoes,” says Deb

ome waters beyond the fic Ocean

by Stephen Mahelona associate editor

Hall, president of Kent Island Outrigger Canoe Club and the East Coast Outrigger Racing Association. The 35-mile Kent Island Cup, a relay which circumnavigates the island, draws upwards of 200 paddlers. In addition to competing in local and international races, the member clubs of ECORA are ardent supporters of programs for individuals with disabilities, and organize and participate in paddling events like the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project. Such events provide severely wounded service members with a foundation for the development of a positive self-image, a key factor in leading an independent, full and productive life. Clubs also participate in events to raise awareness and funds for the preservation of the diverse aquatic environments in which they paddle and upon which the health the planet depends. Proceeds from some ECORA-sanctioned races go toward the conservation of Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound ecologies. New Jersey’s Margo Pellegrino has journeyed 2,000 miles from Miami to Maine in her OC1 to educate people about the problems facing our oceans and to build support for national legislation to protect our oceans and coasts. She then followed that up with a 1,200 mile trek from Ft. Pierce, Florida to New

Orleans to raise awareness about protecting the Gulf of Mexico. While temperatures in the north limit the outrigger season to April through November, crews in Florida enjoy paddling year-round. Despite the agreeable weather and miles of coastline, Florida outrigger has grown somewhat slowly, though steadily. Coach Tim Streeter of Kana Lui Miami Outrigger Canoe Club joked, “Until they invented air conditioning, no one could live here. So there really was no ocean culture to speak of in south Florida.” Throw in the transient nature of the area’s population, and building a foundation of experienced paddlers has been a time-consuming process. But with five clubs, outrigger is firmly established on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida sending crews to compete in the biggies such as the Liberty Challenge, the Queen Liliuokalani and the Moloka’i Hoe. Among the Florida events, this year’s season-ending Treasure Island Classic was the highlight of the eight-race season and a milestone for Florida paddling. “It was a blast. We had a traditional Hawaiian blessing for our two new Bradley canoes, and a record entry of 15 teams - novice, mixed, men’s and women’s,” said Lex Raas, President of Kai Aniani Canoe Club. 15

First family of surfski trade Pacific Ocean waves for Mississippi River current

Hemmens couple set new record for Phatawater Kayak Challenge by DeAnne Hemmens Forty-two miles downriver on the Mississippi. Not exactly what we are used to, what we have done or even what we ever have thought about doing. We were contacted about two years ago by Keith Benoist asking us (Ocean Paddlesports) to take a look at this neat little race he puts on to see if we might be interested in attending or helping to promote. I think I recall sort of blowing off his e-mail, thinking to myself, a river, a long way – nope.

perfect time of year between the U.S. Surfski Championships and Chicago Shoreline Marathon. There was plenty of time to train for four hours plus. We put in the training and the time, but we had to count on the river cooperating to help us break the record Steve put up the year before.

Patrick had raced many rivers back in South Africa when we first met, and here in the states he had attempted the Texas Water Safari. Both experiences – the Berg in South Africa and the Safari in Texas, came close to being the end of our relationship. The Berg is a four-day stage race in the Cape Province in Winter. This means rainy, cold and muddy. I was supposed to be in South Africa to tour game reserves and see animals, not sit in a car while it rained to watch Patrick train for hours upon hours, so I left South Africa for good. He followed, happy ending.

New course record holders, Patrick and DeAnne Hemmens with their family. (below) Men’s solo winner, Ed Joy.

The Texas Water Safari is a 40-something hour overnight grind it out, tough man thing. He and our friend Mike Shea went in a canoe, with surfski paddles and I was their support. Sixteen hours and a lot of arguing later, pulling the canoe up the bank as they quit, while fire ants ate my legs. Okay, almost not married with that fight, but okay, happy ending. So the Phatwater Kayak Challenge was for someone else. We convinced our friend Steve Woods from South Africa to go, we’d send a ski and then see how he liked it. Success. He broke the record, sang the praises of the place and race. By 2009, Phatwater got on our race schedule. If falls in the 16

If it wasn’t for Keith’s efforts to get us there we might not have made it. And this is really why his race is so successful and will continue to grow. From the moment we said we were going, Keith made himself available to answer all our questions, plan the fights and make it happen. When we missed all the flights to Baton Rouge because of bad weather in Houston, he had a friend drive 1½ hours to get us in another city. They offered paddles, gear and clothes when our luggage did not arrive with us. It did show up later that night, but nevertheless, he had us covered. On a side note, a lady at the Alexandria Airport called me three times to make sure our paddles would arrive in time – unheard of. That would never happen in Los Angles, never, ever.

From the enthusiastic hellos in the “Under the Hill” bar to the Grand Natchez Hotel high on the hill above the river, we felt the Southern hospitality. Anticipation built as we loaded a bus at 5 a.m. to head to the start. Donuts and all 167 paddlers. Now think about that for a minute. The U.S. Surfski Championships had about 130, Chicago Shoreline 75. Here on a river in the middle of the country 167 … right on. Mike Herbert and I had a few exchanges where we commented on how this felt like a sprint regatta; busses, early and of course the smell … kind of the fresh water, misty, mossy, heavy, humid air … hard to explain, but that’s close.

To me it’s hard to imagine that he and I were on the 1996 Olympic sprint team together and 13 years later we are racing 42 miles downriver together. Time does change some things, but not our love for a sport. Plus he still wears the same dang hat and jacket. Mike, you are a classic! During the race briefing, to which I paid little attention (sorry Keith), I was stuffing my face with bananas. I never start a four hour race with two donuts and four cups of coffee. Generally I worry about two things in a double ski race, am I going to bonk and let Patrick suffer or if I am going to bonk and suffer myself. I was not really nervous, just anxious to get on the water and to break that record. We met many wonderful people that day. Most of whom I do not know their names, some of whom I have had email contact with and some that just made me realize that so many do this for so many different reasons. How about the guy who came in last place just under 7 hours? Could you float faster than that? Where did he go, did he paddle? He was stoked, smiling and joking about needing a longer boat. How about the men’s solo winner Ed Joy with that bright orange life vest high up around his neck, for 3hours 41 minutes? Didn’t that give him a massive rash? I could turn around in the double and see that thing for miles. He would have never caught us by surprise because that thing glowed. How about Keith and Melissa, second place tandem in four hours, faster they have ever gone, on no sleep and so much last minute organization to make sure their race was well run and safe. I could tell you how we raced tactically etc, but that does not give you the feel of the race, the place or the people. It was a unique experience that you only get when you do something out of your normal routine, which for us is the ocean. I can say that for this day, the river was kind, the people were kinder and Pat and I had a day in double that only I can describe as a connection you get when you have been married for 21 years and paddling together for 23. Gone are the negative memories of the Berg and the Water Safari, replaced with the positive ones of the Phatwater.


When asked to share my World Championships experience with readers, I realized that I wanted this article to reach two goals. The first is to convey the excitement of a World Championships race, and the second is to encourage readers to try the sport of marathon kayak racing. The sport is young in this country, and I feel that it is on the verge of a growth spurt. Racers of all ages should seriously consider hopping on the wake of this up and coming sport. For those readers who may not follow marathon racing, a brief synopsis might do well here. Marathon rac-

Abel Hastings

5-time U.S. marathon team member


Abel Hastings’ thou ICF World Maratho ing uses sprint regulation canoes and kayaks. The only difference being that marathon boats are allowed to be a bit lighter. Races begin with a mass start, and international men’s kayak events cover 30 kilometers and include seven portages. Athletes draft off one another, so tactics play a heavy role as races often come down to a sprint finish. This year, Crestuma, Portugal, played host to the 2009 ICF Marathon World Championships. While Portugal has a long tradition of marathon racing, this year marked the first time the country has hosted the world’s premier marathon event. Crestuma, Portugal

has an ideal landscape and climate for marathon racing, including warm, but dry weather and a fantastic body of water – the Douro River. Athletes from 29 countries – including the U.S. – descended upon the small city of Crestuma for the races Sept. 19-20. Of course, the main goal of the athletes was to show the world of paddleracing how well the past year of training had prepared them. However, with the great food and beautiful surroundings, there were plenty of other once-in-a-lifetime things to accomplish while in Crestuma. Like the rest of the U.S. Team, my trip

photo by Marcel Laurens

In September, I raced in the 2009 ICF Marathon World Championships. Although I have now raced in five world championships, this year’s race was no less exciting. Every opportunity I have had to race as a member of Team USA has been a fortunate one.

ughtful take on the on Championships to Portugal began with the U.S. Team Trials. A two-day event, the team trials is the means to select the top two qualifying athletes to represent the U.S. at the world championships. In order to be selected, athletes not only needed to place first or second at the U.S. Team Trials, but they needed to have a finish time within a time criteria set out by the US Marathon Committee to make sure they would be competitive at the world championships. A total of 10 athletes qualified for the U.S. team. The 2009 team was one of the largest ever for the U.S. – an indication that the sport, and the quality of athletes, are growing rapidly in

America. With making the team and a summer of hard training under my belt, I headed off to Europe. Any race takes careful and time-consuming planning, but racing abroad takes planning up a few notches. For me, the packing process takes about two weeks, as I plan for all my hydration and nutrition needs, all types of weather, and installing all the boat fittings that I’ve come to count on over the years. The other biggest hurdle to racing overseas is arrang-

Team USA at the World Marathon Championships. Standing (L-R): John DePalma, Anne Blanchard, Jason Quagliata, Reid Hyle, Abel Hastings, Shaun Koos, Kaitlyn McElroy, Claudiu Cuir. Kneeling (L-R): Austin Schwinn, Stanton Collins, Tanner Easterday.

see MARATHON next page

K2 junior men’s at the start of the 2009 ICF World Marathon Championships in Portugal. see Marathon next page

Photo by Loren Collins


MARATHON ing a good race boat. I had ordered a new Slovakian-made Vajda Infusion and arranged to have it shipped to the course, so it was waiting for me when I arrived in Portugal. We arrived in Portugal on the Tuesday prior to the race and found our accommodations. Accommodations at world championships races are typically prearranged for the team. In my five years on the U.S. team, accommodations have ranged from glorified tents with disposable sheets, to college dormitories, to brand new top quality hotels. This year in Portugal, it was the latter – a brand new hotel room that was top quality. After settling in, we spent the rest of the week getting boats in tip-top shape, inspecting the course and practicing the portage. This year’s portage was quite complicated due to the competing current and tide on this course and the tricky entrance down a steeper than normal embankment. My event would have me going through the portage seven times so I knew I’d better have it nailed down. We took time out of our race preparation to cheer on U.S. master’s athletes, John Baltzell and Johan Dahl of Texas, who raced early in the week. They each raced to a very respectful finish. Friday – the day before the race – arrived quickly. That evening, all the national teams loaded onto busses for the parade and opening ceremonies. This is one of my favorite parts of racing at the world championships. Sure, it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, but it’s a great feeling to represent the U.S. and wear red, white and blue in the parade. Opening ceremonies always include a parade in our national uniforms and a bunch of speeches by officials and governmental types. It’s customary for athletes to trade uniforms after the closing ceremonies, so the opening ceremonies also provide athletes the chance to see which uniforms they’d most like to take home. I usually start getting nervous about 20

the time the opening ceremonies end, and this year was no exception. The start is critical to a good race, so I was lucky to draw a good lane starting between many-time world champion of both sprint and marathon, Emilio Merchan of Spain and Tomas Jezek of the Czech Republic who happened to be fresh off a world cup win earlier in the year. I spent the next 24 hours trying to remain as calm as possible. Easier said than done. When race time finally rolled around, I felt ready to go. It’s hard to adequately describe how a world championship start feels except to say that all the athletes are crammed onto the water in front of a dock with less than 3 feet between boats. Racers jockey for space for their paddle blades, and try to calm their nerves as they wait for the starter’s command. All the while, boat holders are moving boats up and back to ensure an even start. Unlike sprint racing, a marathon start feels much less civilized. After all training and preparation, race day arrived.

Before I knew it, we were off the start line. About 40 boats were suddenly darting to the first turn, which was about 2,000 meters ahead. I’m sure it looked like mayhem on the water as water splashed up into the air, blades clashed and the pace went below 4:00 min. per kilometer. This was my fifth world championship start, and it’s truly taken me five to do one well. I finally got off the line with the main field. I worked to balance between staying on my line and grabbing the wash of a nearby paddler, all the while fighting the turbulence from all the other boats. At this stage of the race, the name of the game is to get to the first turn with the main field, which I did. After the first turn, the pace slowed just enough for packs to form as we turned towards the first portage. I’m sorry to say that making it to the first turn with the main field was the highlight of my race. Somewhere during the first two laps, I developed a stomach cramp. By portage three – about 10 kilometers into the course, I realized I hadn’t yet picked up my drink tube – a sign that my body wasn’t doing what I’d hoped. It was a disappointment for sure. I felt my training had prepared me for a top-15 finish, but in the end I crossed the line 31st. My race was just one of five events the U.S. team entered. In my

opinion, our athletes should be proud to have been part of this year’s world championships and of their performances. While we may not have medaled, the U.S. team made some major strides towards moving up in the pack this year. Before we even left for Europe we had made a major advancement with the addition of a national team coach. Other national teams arrive with scores of coaches, physical therapists and boat mechanics. But the U.S. athletes have always had to fend for ourselves. In the past, we have helped each other at the portages, worked on each other’s boats and talked through race plans together. While this was a good set-up, this year showed us that having a coach is better. In addition, we have a solid group of juniors. Our junior K-1 paddler and our two junior K-2 paddlers have great potential and the type of dedication that will help them eventually be able to race well in the senior events. In the past ten years, the U.S. team has grown in depth, thanks in part to former marathon team athletes like

Greg Barton, Joe Shaw and Robert Clegg. They have focused on helping to building the sport from the ground up in this country. This supportive and building philosophy is shared by athletes like Jason Quagliata and Anne Blanchard who play guiding roles on the marathon committee of USA Canoe/Kayak. The U.S. team is poised for greatness thanks to the contributions of many people, and I feel lucky to be a part of development of the sport in this country. I hope readers of Canoe & Kayak Racing will read this article and be motivated to train for a marathon, whether it be a local race or the 2010 Marathon World Championships and master’s World Cup in Spain. I’d also like to think this article might inspire each of us to consider whether a paddler we know might take the world by storm and be the first American to medal at an ICF World Championships.

yond just attending a race where you might share the starting line with a paddler or two you’ve just read about. There is real camaraderie at the world championships. Typically, athletes come to the race site several days and up to a few weeks in advance to get to know the course, acclimate and to mentally prepare. During this time, athletes learn from each other and become close friends. Even though we know we will be racing against one another, we often compare notes about technique, the course and equipment. Whatever the case may be, the world championships offer an opportunity for people from very different parts of the world to come together, share and find commonality.

One of the first and longest lasting impressions of racing at the world championships is what an incredible experience it is to be racing among the world’s best paddlers. This feeling goes be-

U.S. K2 team Reid Hyle and Jason Quagliata through a portage at the 2009 World Marathon Championships with coach Claudiu Cuir.

photo by Lauren Collens


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