How the West was won!

Clay and I have the privilege to go and boat with the fine folks in OKC. Here is what Dave Lindo had to say about it.

How the West was Won with Jackson Clinics, BBQ, and Free Beer!
“…like any good paddler you are only still reading this to find out where the free beer part comes in!”
Most Oklahomans only know the likes of EJ, Rafa, Emily, or most any other Jackson Kayak, team paddler via instructional videos, YouTube posts and similar electronic format interactions. Most non-Okies hear about a world class paddling event being held in the dust bowl state and belch out a big belly laugh. Last weekend was no different, as OKC Kayak Paddlesport Superstore and Jackson Kayak hosted free clinics with the godfather of whitewater and inventor of the freestyle move, “The Loop”, Clay Wright. Also making a guest instructor appearance, was another superstar in the world of kayaking and head of World Kayak, Colin Kemp.

Now, let’s back up a little, and find out a bit more about why OKC is hosting whitewater boaters from the world over, and now is the permanent home for the paddling industry’s annual retailer trade show. First, Oklahoma DOES have whitewater in the eastern, southeastern, and southwestern parts of the state, and Arkansas whitewater is only a couple hours from the centrally located capitol, Oklahoma City. The real game changer was the opening of a sixty million-dollar, man-made kayak park and training facility, Riversports Rapids, which offers something for both beginners, and the real studs a of whitewater. Now, no matter if the water levels on the natural rivers are flowing or not, there is always something good to paddle right in the heart of downtown.

A visit from Colin and Clay was hotly anticipated, particularly from those like local fanboy, Curtis Semler, who sleeps with a picture of Clay under his pillow at night. Jackson Kayak, being the amazing industry partner, and league of friends to our local paddling shop, was about to begin its third year of superstar offerings in Oklahoma, as a gigantic thank you for the enormous support Oklahomans and others regionally offer when looking for a top brand kayak to buy. I like to think of it more as buying a friendship rather than purchasing a little floating piece of plastic. Now, unlike me, many of you reading this might not have to pay for folks to befriend you. But, fellowship is truly the hallmark of the relationship Jackson has with its vendor paddle shop partners, suppliers, and you as the customer. Building fellowship and growing the whitewater community is also the main goal of World Kayak.

The first day event began as crowds assimilated early, while I plied the team Jackson Paddlers with overcaffeinated cups of Joe and energy drinks. In my excitement, I may or may not have requested the traveling pair to start the day a wee bit on the early side. The sun had barely made an appearance, yet no matter the direction one looked, you saw Jackson branded boats being unloaded from vehicles or outfitted for both veteran and new paddlers alike. It was obvious that the water park and entire city, is a Jackson town.

Even before the two story tall pumps started spurting liquid fun, a bevy of volunteers were joining the first timers in wet-exits on the bottom pool. This would soon be followed by a strokes and concepts clinic with even many long-term paddlers gaining knowledge that had never been imparted to them in the past. By lunchtime, many paddlers who only a year prior were tasting whitewater kayaking at our Jackson Kayak clinic for their first time, were now competing in OKC’s first BoaterX event. The launch ramp lined out three paddlers head to head, freefalling about twenty feet to enter the water. They then battled it out since BoaterX allows them to play dirty in these head to head heats. The following day’s World Kayak Hometown Throwdown, Slalom Survivor event also pitted paddler against paddler, with a series of challenges to boot. This much friendlier rivalry was a spectators delight and my favorite part of the weekend. Participants included kids not even four-foot-tall boofing rapid blocks, seventy-five-year-old seniors, navigating a slalom gate, and a plethora of raft guides struggling to take as few of strokes possible to avoid penalty points, without flipping on the house sized waves. Yes, some carnage was to be had at the event as well! Crowd participation was much the same as any fall Saturday that the Sooners play football, loud and raucous. It was the best (Thanks Colin and Curtis Semler!) …and like all hometown throw downs, the prizes were randomly awarded based on participation.

Like any good paddler, you are probably only reading this because we have yet to mention where the free beer part comes in. When all the Jackson Dynamic Duo tandem whitewater kayak rides were done, and the new mixmaster finally got a break from being demoed, Colin, Clay, Andi, I.e. super freaky girlfriend of Clay (kidding! …very helpful, superstar personality, even if she does put you in a headlock), and the entire kayaking community came together for an all-out parking lot celebration. Local JK Ambassadors Daryl and Dania Hopper pulled a mondo smoker filled with enough pulled pork, smoked bologna, and sausages to feed two armies. It was darn tasty and washed down with loads of free brew. This meat extravaganza followed another fiesta with the Jackson crew, when local paddling friend, Steve Jackson and buddies grilled up a feast, which paired with more brews, for our staff training. Every day of these pro paddlers’ visit was a reunion of friends and lots of deep belly laughs.

Moral of the story: Buy a Jackson Kayak, paddle better, meet nicer people, eat well, toast an adventurous life lived well.
Thank you to all the OKC Kayak staff, new kayak owners, clinic participants, volunteers, loaders, unloaders, roll teachers, photographers, chefs, instructor assistants, safety crew, Jackson Kayak, Crazy Andi Jones, Clay West, Colin Kemp, Jerry and Kathy Frazier (who housed Colin), runners, lunch buyers, Riversport Rapids staff, Curtis Semler, Hometown Throwdown helpers, and many others who made this possible.

Dave Lindo, OKC Kayak/Tulsa Kayak
Photo Credit Andy Penney, Jeanne Tung, and Laurie Biby

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