With Mother Nature finally relinquishing her winter wares, world freestyle kayak champion Nick Troutman retained his title at the fifth annual Paddling Life Invitational on Mon., May 31, by placing fourth in the creek race and first in freestyle to bring home the combined crown.
Capping off the weekend-long 30th anniversary of the Yampa River Festival, Troutman, who paddles for Jackson Kayak and Kokatat, earned the title after earning 19 points for his fourth-place showing on the extreme race down Fish Creek, finishing behind Sam Sutton and Brad Lauder of New Zealand, and Dagger paddler Corey Volt in third. In the afternoon's freestyle event, he made up for lost time by edging out Stephen Wright and Volt in the finals in Charlie's Hole downtown. Sutton followed Troutman in second place overall, with two-time Invitational champion Stephen Wright taking third overall.
For the women, with three-time winner Tanya Faux of Australia sidelined with the flu, Emily Jackson and Ruth Gordon traded one-two finishes to settle for a tie for first place overall. Jackson finished first in the creek race and second in freestyle, with Gordon making up for her second-place creek race showing with a dynamic victory in freestyle. Sarah Hamilton took third.
Featuring an all-star cast of some of the world's best kayakers, the event drew two current world freestyle champions, as well as a former world champion, to Steamboat for the two-event competition offering more than $3,500 in cash and prizes. "All in all, it was a great event," says Paddling Life's Eugene Buchanan, adding that it couldn't be done without the support of such sponsors as Steamboat in the Summertime, Kokatat, NRS, MTI and others. "It's pretty unique to test competitors in both downriver and freestyle in the same event."
"It's an awesome format," says Gordan, now on her way to the Teva Mountain Games. "You have to be good at both river running and freestyle to pull off a win." Adds Troutman: "It was an awesome day…great water levels and even better weather."