VAIL, Colorado, May 31—There’s nothing like having a home away from home, and Eric Jackson and Tanya Faux are finding a very comfortable abode at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail. EJ, who claimed victory in last year’s PaddleCross event, was victorious in this year’s iteration, winning both heats in which he competed and tallying the best time (3:30.51) in the morning’s time trials.

Faux won the women’s PaddleCross competition in 2004 and was dominant again today. Like EJ, Faux had the lowest time trial (3:48) before placing first in the semifinal heat and the final.

The field here is loaded with some of the most talented boaters in the world, making their victories all the more impressive. EJ was nearly topped by fellow Team Jackson member Jay Kincaid in the time trials. Kincaid’s 3:30.56 was a mere five one-hundredths of a second behind (the top 16 men qualified for the semis). Jackson won easily in the semifinals, actually glancing over his shoulder to gauge his lead over Rush Sturges, Graham Anderson, and Scott Harcke as he approached the finish line.

With powerful strokes and stellar lines, EJ controlled his own destiny in the final, maintaining yet another sizeable lead over his foes (Tao Berman, Brad Ludden, and Kincaid).

“The four-man race is always very interesting,” said EJ. “It’s the least predictable competition in whitewater. When you’re racing by yourself, you only have your own mistakes to think about.”

When asked about his training regimen that keeps him in superb shape at age 42, EJ quickly said, “I almost never train. I play. I never sacrifice fun to train.

“When I get up in the morning, I just want to go kayaking. People comment on that (his age), but it’s not really a big deal one way or the other. I’ve never not been in at least as good of shape as my competitors. I know how to stay in shape. Kayaking is my favorite thing to do. If I had to sum it up in one line, it could be, I don’t ever take a single paddle stroke if it wasn’t just for the fun of it. If the time ever comes that it’s not as fun, you won’t see me on the water.”

That’s some pretty grim news for the guys half his age who are frequently finding themselves playing for second place.

For Faux, the key was similar to her triumph two years ago—starting with 10 strong paddle strokes and holding her edge for the rest of the course.

“The third gate was definitely the hardest part,” she said. “The waves are high and the water pushes you away from the gate. On my final run, I had so much speed that I actually had to put the brakes on to reach the third gate. And I had a little anxiety attack there,” she said, “like ‘Don’t screw up now and don’t look back.’ “

She may have been tempted to look back, wondering where her fellow Teva teammate, Nikki Kelly was. Kelly was disqualified in the semifinals for missing a gate (there are three spots on the run where each kayaker must slow down and physically touch a target on the edge of the river. However, it may have been the wrong call. Faux later said that she saw Kelly touch the target. That left Tanya Shuman, Emily Jackson (yes, EJ’s 16-year-old daughter), and Laura Nash in the final. Like the men’s final, the real race was for second, as Faux gained a comfortable advantage.

“There was more green water this year and fewer holes to stop you,” she said.
Like Kelly, Kincaid also may have had a legitimate gripe in the men’s competition. He was disqualified in the finals for not touching a gate. Some witnesses said he did in fact touch it.

In the Raft PaddleCross event, Teva 8-Ball smoked Pinchy Time and Go Lite/Nike to claim the title. Teva 8-Ball also recorded a time of 3:31 in the time trials, eight seconds faster than Pinchie Time.

Many kayakers will compete in tomorrow’s (June 1) Paddle Magazine Homestake Creek Race. There will also be a Big Trick competition and a East vs. West rodeo qualifier, which will pit Front Range playboaters against western Colorado rodeo stars.

Butting In: Between races a crew of rafters who are apparently unafraid public displays of shrinkage, entertained the crowd with the most revealing performance of the day–rafting nude on the Dowd Chute stretch. It’s encouraging to see that these river-runners had the good sense to protect their heads, although it could be inferred that there wasn’t much to protect anyway.

Men’s PaddleCross Finals
1. Eric Jackson
2. Tao Berman
3. Brad Ludden
4. Jay Kincaid

Men’s Time Trials Top 16
1. Eric Jackson, 3:30.51
2. Jay Kincaid, 3:30.56
3. Brad Ludden, 3:32.50
4. Tao Berman, 3:32.94
5. Pat Keller, 3:33.73
6. Charlie Center, 3:34.83
7. Tommy Hilleke, 3:35.12
8. Rush Sturges, 3:37.46
9. Graeme Anderson, 3:39.85
10. Josh Bechtel, 3:39.95
11. Todd Baker, 3:42.45
12. Ross Odonohue, 3:42.66
13. Stephen Wright, 3:43.24
14. Ted Pierce, 3:43.72
15. Jared Seiler, 3:44.71
16. Scott Harcke, 3:45.33

Women’s PaddleCross Finals
1. Tanya Faux
2. Tanya Shuman
3. Emily Jackson
4. Laura Nash

Women’s PaddleCross Time Trials Top 8
1. Tanya Faux, 3:48
2. Emily Jackson, 3:51
3. Robin Betz, 3:56
4. Laura Nash, 3:57
5. Nikki Kelly, 3:58
6. Tanya Shuman, 3:58
7. Christie Glissmeyer, 4:01
8. Devon Barker, 4:01

Raft PaddleCross Time Trials
1. Teva 8-Ball, 3:31
2. Pinchie Time, 3:39
3. Clear Creek, 3:46
4. Go Lite/Nike, 3:46
5. Combine UN of Timberline, 3:47
6. BWR, 3:56
7. Timberline Women, 3:57
8. Mad Buzz, 4:09
9. Mile High & Some, 4:14