Dan Gavere and the Vail Mountain Games

Congratulations to Starboard’s Dan Gavere for his awesome performance and win at the Vail Mountain Games! Dan provides a great review of the event and his win here:

“As I reflect on my weekend here in Colorado at the GoPro Vail Mountain Games I can’t help my overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and stoke on the whole experience. I worked hard, paddled hard, and now am feeling worked but in a good healthy way. Luckily after 2 years of either the water being too high or too low we were blessed by mother nature with perfect flows for all of the river events. Most importantly ideal levels for the SUP Surf Sprint which is a 3+ mile stretch of class 2 whitewater that is continuous and technical with rocks, waves, holes, and tricky drops that bring out the best of any paddler who decides to give it a go. In preparation I made several runs and tried out a few different boards. The depth of Gore Creek was shallow and fins striking rocks made cleaning the course with no falls difficult. I saw all kinds of cut down fins, flexi fins and even some paddlers trying it with no fins at all including myself to try and find the perfect combination of board and fin. The rules state a 12.6 length limit so I knew the fastest paddlers would be using race boards right at the 12.6 length including some custom made just for this race.

After a few practice runs I was started to realize the true benefits with the Astro Inflatables and the 12.6 Astro Tour at 30” wide was starting to feel really stable and fast. It’s light weight, stiff construction, and optimal tip and tail rocker were getting me down the creek as fast as my 12.6×26” wide carbon flat water race board which had already proven itself on the creek with 2 previous wins. So I was torn between the 2 boards, but race day was here and I would have to make a decision. My competitors were showing up with mad skills and fast boards so I knew I had to have a perfect run on a killer board to take the win this year. I decided on the Inflatable Astro 12.6 Touring board in part because it felt fast enough, but also because I knew at 30” wide I would be paddling through the rapids as opposed to bracing and working really hard not to fall off the narrow race board which was also getting beat up pretty badly by the rocks. One fall would most certainly result in not winning and perhaps giving up any chance of a podium finish. I decided to take the conservative approach with stability and confidence and simply paddle at my sprint pace for the approximate 20 minute race. At 8,000 plus feet in elevation it took some acclimating but I was starting to feel comfortable pushing myself at this elevation and knew I could go at 100% for 20 minutes.

Race day had come and it was a busy morning. I was also in charge of announcing and organizing all 4 of the whitewater kayak events which were heavily contested by some of the best paddlers in the world so immediately after the race I would have to be “on point” and ready to fire up the crowd on the mic for another solid 6 hrs of kayak competitions in front of thousands of specataors. My throat was already a bit hoarse from announcing the previous 2 days, and the race would certainly dry it out worse so I chose to race while savoring some hard candy (jolly rancher strawberry)which helped immensely in preventing that typical dry throat cough athletes often get when breathing hard in the extremely dry high elevation air. On top of that the cottonwoods were shedding and it was a virtual snowstorm of cotton coming down by the time the race started and a stiff 15-20 knot wind starting to crank upstream. At the start the race mood was upbeat and fun, and I enjoyed the camaraderie amongst all the athletes at the start. Everyone seemed to sincerely want each other to have a great race. This would be a timed race so it’s extremely difficult to gauge how hard to paddle since you really have no idea where you stand in the race until you know your time and time of your competitors? I stuck to my game plan and after the final 10 second count down I was finally racing and putting my mind, body and spirit into every stroke. I knew the lines and where to cut corners and where to stick to the outside of the turn to find the fastest water. I sprinted out of the start choking down on my paddle and trying to maintain a stroke per second cadence. During the rapids the pace would intensify as my plan on the inflatable board was to always have a blade in the water moving me faster than the current. Taking quick short strokes on the top of each a wave had me at a furious pace, but I could feel myself literally flying downstream over the rocks and whitewater of Gore Creek. My heart rate was maxing a few times at 180 beats per second and I had to back of 3 separate times when I knew I was going maybe a little too hard. My lungs strained to take in enough oxygen and my vision was starting to blur, but I stayed focused looking forward to my lines and preplanning as much as possible to find the fastest water on the creek. It was mid course at 9 minutes and I was feeling strong but the wind was starting to become a factor so again I choked down on my paddle and got into a “tucked” position as much as possible to lower my torso which seemed to help, but certainly took more energy to keep the pace going. The whitewater required keeping the board pointing straight downstream and if the waves didn’t knock you down the eddies would try to suck the tip of your board towards shore and into an inevitable 360 degree turn or worse a spill in the 40 degree creek which would certainly cost me a win. I kept the pace going and made sure to counter the waves and eddies by anticipating which way the river would try to re-direct my momentum. The Astro Tour was easy and forgiving to maneuver and I was feeling comfortable The last mile of course would be an all out effort and it was time to pour on the speed as I knew it would only be a few minutes until I would finish. I dug deep where I could and kept my mind in the game with a new focus I had never experienced before during this race. It was euphoric and painful at the same time. Mind was stoked but my body was suffering. Sweat poured into my eyes and I was hitting my threshold, but with a huge burst near the finish is how I planned it and I was sticking to my game plan. Going all out for the last 300 meters I again choked down on my paddle in my thumb down style of paddling and focused on the highest cadence I could possibly maintain. As I passed the electronic eye of the finish my stoke level was high because I knew I had just laid down one of the best races in my career. The taste of iron in my mouth could not be extinguished as I poured water down my throat and looked to the creek trying to shout out for my peers that were starting to come across the line and also looking very fast. Everyone looked worked and I could tell some of the fastest had also had some great runs by the enormous smiles on their faces. I couldn’t help but to wonder if my time was competitive, but I had work to do so I stripped out of my sweat drenched Level Six stuff that kept my body temps perfectly regulated, and literally ran to grab the mic and fire up the crowd for the Freestyle Kayak semi finals happeningjust a 100 meters downstream.

A few hours later I started getting word from the other competitors that I had scored the win by 6 seconds. I was stoked that all the preparation had paid off and now it was time to get my day of work done and start a celebration. When the official results got posted I had indeed taken the win with close second and third battle between Mike Tavares and Brent Redden only separated by 2 seconds. It was aclose race and we all agreed it’s a much different dynamic racing against the clock rather than against each other as it usual is with a mass start so you know who’s leading the whole time, but its nice to have a different format than the usual and mix it up a bit.

A huge thanks goes out all of my friend’s family and sponsors for the encouragement and support I have had this season.

Starboard, Level Six, Teva, Smith, Harvest Blue, Outside Van, Pocket Fuel Naturals, Headhunter, and especially the Vail Valley Foundation.”

(Photographer : Kip Hoffman)