by Scott Sady
I pretty much thought I had seen it all, then I got to Cascade, Idaho and the Kelly’s whitewater park. This place is a testament to what can happen when a whole community comes together. Not that that is overly hard in a town with less than 1000 people, but they really did it right here. A product of private investment and public philanthropy, this whitewater park is probably the fanciest, largest and best landscaped park I have ever seen. The visitors center has free wi-fi and plasma TV’s showing kayaking movies and the feature here on the North Fork of the Payette river is spectacular at the flows we had it, roughly 3800 cfs.
This upper feature at this park is a spectacular steep wave hole where big wave moves go as well as some hole moves. The lower features are suitable for learning or kids or just swimming through, and there are calm lakes at top and bottom, so no real danger of being swept away in the current. Plus the water is very warm. Short sleeves on the river were the order of the day. This event was the US nationals for freestyle kayaking and the cash purse was huge. Several thousand dollars per category for winning the event, as well as the same thing again for the top placers in the national points standing. Reno’s Jessica Yurtinus showed well, finally figuring out how to utilize the hole section of the feature to get her felix and some spins and roundhouses to come in 5th in the event and 7th in the nation in the women’s point standings. Pete and I were a little farther down the line in the men’s pro division, but the competition was stiff and most of the big moves were going on the wave, so in the 3 days I was here, I figured out how to throw loops, mcnasty’s and back-blunts on the wave and was really excited about that. Too bad we don’t have any big, powerful waves within 200 miles of Reno, they are a ton of fun! All in all I finished ranked 8th in the nation by USACK.
Anyhow, back to the event. Man, can they throw a party here. Live bands at the venue, Llve bands in town, free beer for the kayakers. Everyone in the community was so appreciative that we were there. We saw the waitresses from the breakfast joint (route 55 cafe) show up to watch the competition. At the athletes party at a tiny bar called Cross the Tracks they had a great local band playing and the lovely bartenders gave us our first beers free, then some of the locals bought us beer, then the band started playing punk versions of Bob Dylan songs and the next thing you knew, the tables had been cleared out and we had a full mosh pit going in the center of the bar. Pete dragged the bartender girls in. A few of the older local couples joined in, and even the owner of the bar got in on the action for a few songs. They said they had never had anyone dancing at the bar before, much less “doing whatever it was you were doing out there.” Sharing experiences like these with the local folks in the towns in which we compete and the camaraderie and friendly competitiveness between all the pro kayakers out here really is a special thing and is the main reason why I do this each summer. Most of the communities in which we compete are small towns that were basically headed towards extinction before they built their whitewater parks and hung their hopes on them to bring in tourist dollars. We do our best to come in, give a good show and try to get people excited about kayaking and river recreation in general. And in turn, they treat us like celebrities. A win-win situation if I ever saw one.
I’ll be back in Reno in the next few days and the levels at the Reno park are just about getting to the perfect levels. Personally I think about 1300 cfs is the optimum level for our playpark and we are very near that now. So come on out. I’m in the blue Jackson Rockstar, so catch me if you want to learn some tricks and I’ll try to help. Or look into picking up or demoing a boat from Reno Mountain Sports and I’ll see you on the water.