The Greatest Year Anyone Could Ask For!

Courtney Kerin’s 2011 Year in Review

This year my whole life has made a HUGE change and it was all most definitely for the better! I faced many amazing opportunities, meet numerous incredible people and went to handfuls of unbelievable places! My Year began with a final few weeks in NZ doing some last descents of my favourite rivers before I headed abroad for my epic adventure!
I packed my boat and Bill’s bag, equipped with my passport, US Visa and an unimaginable fulfillment of excitement. First stop USA, I stayed here for a week with a new classmate Nick, as I had come to attend New River Academy. Within the week we were headed for Uganda to start off the spring semester. Now Uganda, for those of you who have never been there, is definitely a must go place for any kayaker. While there we lived on the Hairy Lemon Island training at Nile Special and Club wave everyday, and Bujagali where we ran the Silverback section of the Nile each day, until its final resting day…the last day it was ever paddled, as now the rapid is flooded out by the infamous Silverback Dam! I also got the opportunity while in Uganda to get to know some of the locals, visit local primary and high schools and go on a extraordinary safari.
As spring break came, we headed back to the US and I stayed in Montana with my best classmate Juno! We hung out in the snow and did a First Descent of the world’s shortest river (Roe River).
After spring break we were off to the East Coast of the US to finish off the school year paddling around West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland…
With New River Academy, I graduated my high school career and then hopped onto the next plane to Germany to begin my World’s Mission!

When I arrived in Germany I was picked up by my friend Emily Wall, who drove me to Plattling where I pitched my tent right by the river and called it home. I was lucky enough to also get the loan of her boat until mine arrived. So armed with a small Rockstar, my paddling gear and the World Championships Freestyle feature right at my footsteps I began training hard, trying to learn as much as I could in the short time I had. Water levels were a hassle with not enough water to make things easy but I persevered in hope it would pay off.
The build up to Worlds was very nerve racking as we got made to move camp and more and more countries and people started showing up, it became real! The pressure was now on, not to blow everything I had worked for! The US team arrived strong and proud showing how serious this competition was with their strict training regime. EJ took me for a drive to the Czech Republic to go pick up our Shiny New Carbon Rockstars. It was unbelievable. I never thought I would ever have a carbon playboat, but with the help of my family support back home it was made possible. It is super light, stiff and B-E-A-Utiful!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, the biggest surprise of all happened… A few days before the comp began my Uncle Kev arrived from New Zealand to come and support me and he brought along my older sister Ashleigh! It was super exciting to see them again but also added to my nerves. Prelims I almost blew, but snuck into the top 10 in 8th place. Next up was squirt boating which was a new discipline for me but I gave it my best shot after a short training earlier on in the month with 2x World Champion Clair O’Hara. I placed 7th overall in the Women’s Field. Then Freestyle Semi-finals, I went into it still a bit nervous but figured its my first World Champs, I felt like I was good enough to make finals but just tried to tell myself it’s a learning experience to keep the nerves down. It turned out I had my best rides now. Going into finals in first place with the highest Junior Women’s score of the whole Competition. Going into finals the worst I could do was 5th, but I was going for gold! Sadly the pressure and my inexperience was just a little much and so I didn’t play it smart and came out with the Silver! But never-the-less World Number Two. I stood on the podium with the NZ Flag above my waving in the wind. It was a very special moment for me and one I was proud to share with my Uncle and sister as well as all my International friends.

And even with this much all over for me, the year was still beginning; I got back on a plane to the US headed for Colorado with the Jacksons. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to travel with the Jacksons, the greatest family you will ever meet. So for those of you wondering who that random little kid was with them this year…that was me…Courtney Kerin ( :
We travelled around the west Coast in the RV, competing at the US Nationals, where I tried my hand at OC1 (resulting in a unicorn nose) and C1, and at the Whitewater Junior Olympics, where I slipped back into my slalom and Downriver shoes as well as my freestyle. I also got the opportunity to go to the famous Outdoor Retailer Summer Event where JK was launching their new line of fishing and River-running boats. This event was a truly unbelievable experience for a small NZ farm kid like me!
After OR, we began the long haul to the Ottawa River in Canada, where we parked up and trained everyday. Warm water, beautiful weather, and world-class water! It was heaven, what more could one ask for?

And at perfect levels for Garb, Babyface and Corner wave, there was plenty of variety to fill in your day! Also while there, Dane and Nick got me more into Stand Up Paddleboarding, getting me to run the river on their boards, I did my first overnighter and caught my first fish!
A few weeks down and it was time for the Canada Cup it was a great day, the sun was shining and everyone was buzzing, between our crew we took home all the champions, Mens-Nick, Junior Mens-Dane, Womens Emily, Junior Womens- Me and with that all wrapped up it was time to hit the road again, down to Rock Island-Tennessee, HOME!
But not for long, I was soon off to the Gauley River with Dane to make the most of the limited releases. This is one of my favourite rivers as you can spend a long day out with as much freestyle at a variety of spots as you could wish for, as well as great big water rapids that get your heart pumping!
Emily, Kristine and KC later arrived and Gauley Fest Began. The biggest Whitewater Festival I’ve ever seen! Spent the night making JK Kool-aide, up on the RV roof throwing out JK Swagger and chilling out to the opportunity.
P.s. One of the best parts about the Gauley is Fat Eddies afterwards, an ice-cream shop just before the bridge to the put-in. Try the Zealander (a blizzard ice-cream I invented).
Then there was GAF at the Nantahala Outdoor Centre. Here I had a great time talking about JK Boats, selling gear, meeting some cool kayakers, and hanging out with my big sis Emily!
From one place to the next, after GAF I headed to Nags Head-NC with Stephen Wright for the Surf Kayak World Championships, where I represented NZ once again. Surf Kayaking was new to me but I gave it my best shot trying to make the most off my whitewater skills and convert them to surf style.
Then back to Tennessee for some more festivals, the JK Dealers summit and 2011 Whitewater symposium held in Rock Island. It was a lot of fun and both were great chances to meet up with friends old and new!
Before I knew it, it was mid October … and everyone knows mid October is a pretty awesome time because not only is it Nick Troutmans birthday but it was mine as well! We celebrated our day with some great Rock Island kayaking, Frisbee golf, ping-pong, baking and presents! It was the Best Birthday I’ve ever had!
Next was Halloween, and yes being a New Zealander I have never had a Halloween before, so this was a really fascinating time for me. We visited a pumpkin patch, pick out and carved pumpkins, made pumpkin pie and watched scary movies!
With all the excitement of this year, time just flew and before I knew it, it was time to get back on the plane ride home. It was a long flight, made longer by how much I was already missing my new family. But eventually I landed in NZ, stepping out of the plane I had my arms in the air and shouted out the name of my home country to the amusement of everyone behind me. With all the time I spent away and things I did, the airport staff were require to empty out and exterminate everything I had, but eventually I repacked and walked out to find my mum amongst the crowd. We headed home and relaxed for the night then I was off to Tekapo the next morning for my first NZ comp of the year! The Tekapo Throw-down, I was ecstatic to see all my friends again and catch up. The comp went off like a hoot! And I got to show off my new skills in the freezing glacial water. Then Home to see family and friends and get to work! My year still continues, I just got home after a couple weeks at school camps and up in the North Island at my most recent competition, Xmas@Kaituna. It went of great with a time trial, downriver freestyle, throw-down and plenty of Christmas cheer!

As for next year, I plan to get more into Creeking, starting with the West Cost of NZ armed with my little Hero, and also expand my freestyle knowledge by getting back to the US to see my Family I miss SOO MUCH!

Thank you soo much to the Jacksons, Nick, Clay, Stephen, Hayley, Kat, Juno and everyone else who has so kindly cared for me this year, whether it be on the water, in their home or on the road! There is not a moment of this year I would give away for anything!

So Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all! And I hope to see you out and about on a river sometime next year!

Courtney Kerin

Comments on “The Greatest Year Anyone Could Ask For!”

  1. Kat Levitt
    December 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    You are so welcome! You took this opportunity and RAN with it. 🙂

  2. Sage Donnelly and family
    December 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Awesome meeting you! Would love to see you next year!

  3. Jack
    December 29, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Just missed you on the Ottawa, but glad I got to see you at GAF. Oh, and who took that nice pic of you at GAF 😉

  4. Debbie Bloxham
    January 11, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Hi Courtney, this is a fab write-up! Really awesome to read and ‘hear’ your enthusiasm and joy. Congrats!

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