With high water coursing down the Rocky Mountains, freshly married Nick Troutman of Jackson Kayak took home top overall honors at this year's Canoe and Kayak-sponsored Paddling Life Pro Invitational on Monday, May 25, capping off the weekend-long Yampa River Festival. Troutman, the world freestyle kayak bronze medalist, earned the title after looping to a first-place finish in the afternoon's freestyle event, barely edging out Stephen Wright and Corey Volt in the freestyle finals. Following Troutman in second place overall was world kayak freestyle silver medalist Andrew Holcombe of Dagger Kayaks, whose win in the raging Fish Creek race earlier in the day offset an eight-place finish in freestyle to earn him the runner-up spot. Two-time Paddling Life Invitational champion Stephen Wright settled for third place overall, with a second-place showing in freestyle and sixth-place finish in the creek race.
For the women, it was Australia's Tanya Faux soaring to her third overall title in a row, with wins in both the creek race and freestyle event, followed by Emily Jackson of Jackson Kayak in second, with a third-place finish in the creek race and second-pace showing in freestyle, and Kiwi Nikki Kelly in third, with a second-place showing in the creek race and sixth-place showing in freestyle. World freestyle kayak champion Ruth Gordon took fourth overall.
"All in all, it was a great event," says organizer Eugene Buchanan of the two-event competition drawing some of the world's beset kayakers to Steamboat Springs, Colo. and offering more than $3,500 in cash and prizes. "There are a lot of other events going on in Colorado right now, and it was great to see so many competitors come up between the Buena Vista event and next week's freestyle nationals in Glenwood Springs."
The Invitational tests both a downriver race and freestyle, with the best overall score combined from both events determining the champion. "It's great to have a one-day event that rewards both creek racing and freestyle," says Troutman.
Primary sponsors of this year's event include Steamboat in the Summertime, Kokatat, NRS, Dagger Kayaks and Canoe & Kayak magazine. The event also draws attention to Charlie's Hole downtown, which the City based its successful recreational in-channel diversion water right (RICD) filing on in 2004. "This is just one way to help showcase what a world-class feature the town has," adds Buchanan. "Plus, it's a great way to showcase and reward today's best all-around paddlers."