GoPro Mountain Games: 8-Ball

DCIM101GOPROG0120721.The GoPro Mountain Games have become one of the staple events of the summer in the outdoors. People come from all over for to check out the adventure sports, free music concerts, newest gear on the market and Down Town Vail parties. Though it is the events like climbing, kayaking, biking mud runs, dog jumps, SUP and slack line that the spectators come to watch, though nothing brings a crowd like the 8-Ball kayak races.

Just imagine a head to head race on 4 to 6 people racing while trying to battle the Gore creek’s whitewater, then throw in some 8-balls, which is best described as gladiators in kayaks trying to stop the racers from finishing. It pretty much ends up as carnage wrapped up in the perfect afternoon event for people to watch, cheer, laugh and cringe. The 8-Ball race originated at the Mountain Games years ago and has since popped up at kayak events across the country, surprisingly people love carnage.

As a paddler myself coming to the Mountain Games for the past 10 years, the 8-Ball race is actually one of my most favorite events of the action packed week long event. It is awesome to see how many paddlers come out for this one event, you will have top cree racers, and freestyle champions alongside local paddlers and young kids. You might think that some pro kayaker and a local kid racing would’t be much of a show, but they way the 8-Ball works, the better you are the bigger the target is one your chest, so it all works out in the end. Now you have to understand that some skill in involved but mostly just luck, so don’t get upset if you don’t win. 11390132_10153084356214317_4033829486765060317_n

This year was no exception and was another amazing day battle on the river. I started gearing up with my full face helmet and elbow pads, it liked like I was about to go to war, and in my mind I was. Off the word “GO” the race begins and you start dodging kayaking, paddles, and pool toys as I raced 4 others racers down to the finish bridge. My strategy of letting up and pulling into second and trying to avoid the 8-Ballers worked for the first couple rounds, though as the day goes on it gets harder as all the racers who don’t make it on just jump in and become 8-ballers themselves. By the Semi Finals I felt I was doing pretty good until I came through the Rodeo Hole and there was nowhere to go, the river was a full pile of of colorful kayak and people, with noway to go around I tried to just go through, which ended with me just attempting to go under, and that didn’t work. I was 4th and only top 3 went on the final rounds. I was bummed for a second until I realized the classic saying “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

I ran back up to the top, jumped in Karma Unlimited and figured if I can’t be the best racer I can try to be the best 8-Baller. As the final started the women’s heat were first. Now, I didn’t want to hurt anyone so I made sure to not make any huge blows to the face this year, I just wanted to try to stop them from reaching the finish. The women did a good job trying to dodge us 8-ballers though they had a harder time getting around myself in a 12 foot boat. I was able to pretty much collect them all and railroad them all the the side of the river, though was kept floating down together until we dropped into the main hole. It was like watching a giant iceberg drop into a big wave and get broken apart as our floatilla of racers and 8-Ballers all dropped into the hole together. Miraculously all the 8-Ballers made it through and the three racers were stuck in the hole getting tumbled on top of each other on creek boats. Slowly they were able to get out and podium with Nouria Newman on top of the podium.

10848874_1133050160043682_357550851403365583_oMen’s Finals were next. I rallied back up to the top of the course to get in as much carnage as I could muster. As the three men came battling down the course, all of us 8-ballers were ready to cause some destruction. I stuck with the idea that I would take out which ever paddler was in first place at the time, that way I wouldn’t be singling anyone out to try and keep it as fair as I could. After a couple head on collations and railroading some people into the side of the river it faired out that Gregg Parker took home the top honors. In the end it was an super fun afternoon and I’m sure it was just as much fun to watch as it was to participate in. I can’t wait until next year .

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