August 9, 2004
An amazing rush comes over me as I nail a sharp turn along the winding river causing me to paddle
harder. ďHalf way done,Ē I tell myself. I take a huge gulp of air and plummet down the next chain of
waves ahead of me, closing my eyes and holding my breath as the glacier water seeps through my
purple USA splash top. By the end of the race Iím gulping for air as the bystanders on the side of
the river give me a funny look while I groan and talk to myself as I finish the last leg of the
The finish line is in site, well, it doesnít say finish, itís in some other language, German
probably but itís the finish all the same. I count to three and then hammer out my last twenty
strokes waiting for the buzzer to sound as I cross the finish line. I did it. I finished the race.
I shakily pop the skirt off of my boat and climb up the rocky shore to be greeted by my K1-M
teammates who had raced an hour before the women. I clumsily set my boat down and look over my
shoulder to see my other teammate Lisa Adams attempting to get out of her boat. We discuss how our
runs went and where we know we messed up and anxiously wait for the results to be posted.
I started racing wildwater last November (2003). Never did I imagine I would end up racing in
Junior Pre-worlds in Vipeteno, Italy eight months later with five amazing athletes. I hopped on a
plane for Munich Germany with five people I barely knew and came back with five awesome friends.
Our first several days consisted of getting up at 8 and paddling on the river until lunchtime.
After eating lunch in our hotel, which was really the house of a German woman who owned a tremendous
amount cows, we headed back to the river until around four. Then the races started. We all raced a
total of four days. Nonstops the first day (a classic race which determined the start order for the
rest of the races), two 2 minute sprints, a twenty minute long classic, and a team race which I
raced with my other two USA teammates - Lisa Adams and Perrin Pring. One thing I learned while I
was in Europe was that the Europeans are amazing paddlers. Some of them are even high school
dropouts who have quit school to commit there lives to the sport of paddling. Americans will never
quite match up to the skill of the Europeans but it makes a terrific goal to strive for in the
What does wildwater hold for me next? Well, hopefully my skills in a glass boat will improve
as I aim to compete in the Senior Pre-worlds next year. I am for sure competing in the Junior
Worlds too. My career of wildwater paddling has just begun and I look forward to many more years of
traveling the globe to paddle and meet many more amazing athletes.
Emily Stein is a USAWildwater K-1W Junior team member.