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2009 Wildwater Highlights and Challenges

A report to the Wildwater Board, USACK, and the Paddling Community

by John Pinyerd
USA Canoe/Kayak
Wildwater Committee Chairman

December 29, 2009 -- Marietta, GA

The trends that started in 2008 where we had the "best of times and the worst of times" continued in 2009. Our racers and our core group of donors have hung tough, but the USA Wildwater program like all non-profits felt the effect of a tough year for donations and we were forced to make some tough decisions and cut some of our programs.

The foundation of USA Wildwater is our private donors. Tom Calhoun continues to be a cornerstone for the USA program. Tom Popp, Dave Mason, Jamie McEwan and an anonymous donor also remain as key contributors. With the economy stabilizing and the stock market back on the rise again, we are quite hopeful that we will turn the corner with our fundraising in 2010. Our goal is to build on the programs/budget we had in 2008 and to properly support the 2010 World Championship team.

In order to make donating easier, we have added a direct link from our website to the USACK program. This is a great step forward. Please remember to specify Wildwater when you use the USACK e-form:

In spite of the economic woes of non-profits, our sponsors stepped up and helped us provide world class coaching (Maurizio Togniacci) and management (Chris Osment) for our Junior World’s Team. As a result, the Junior Wildwater Team had a successful trip to Buochs Switzerland for the 2009 Junior Wildwater World Championships.

Our Junior athletes performed quite well. Our two most notable were Peter Lutter from MD and Tyler Hinton from CO. In K-1, Peter finished 19th in the Classic Race, and 9th in the Sprint Race in a field of 54! During the sprint race, Peter’s name stood atop the leader board for a long time which generated excitement from everyone there! Peter was our top performing athlete of the year! In C-1, Tyler Hinton finished 18th in the classic and 20th in the Sprint, a tremendous accomplishment for his first year in international competition. Notable performances were also generated by Griff Griffith, Will Grubb, Laura Adams, Haley Popp, MacKenzie Hatcher Sierra O’Brien, Craig Adams, Charlie Kieft, and JP Griffith.

Tom Wier led our senior team in international competition at the World Cups in Tasmania. Tom finished 6th overall in the C-1 class with race results within 6% of the winner. Tom was our top senior athlete of the year. Tom was joined by Jennie Goldberg K-1W and Chris Norbury K-1.

Thanks to our sponsors, we were able to distribute $2,500 in performance funding. Tom Wier, Peter Lutter, and Tyler Hinton were rewarded due to their hard work and the results they generated.

With this being an off year for the Senior Worlds, and knowing that our participation at the Tasmania World Cups would be slim, we made a strong push to make 2009 a year where we focused on domestic races and development. Anticipating that we were going to do something special, the ICF WWC designated both our Nationals and FIBArk as international events. Our efforts paid off. Our combined "USA Team Trials, Nationals, and FIBArk Whitewater Festival Mega Event" was perhaps our best event of this kind. In total, we had nearly 100 racers participating with thousands of onlookers and tons of excitement!

Ed Loeffel and the FIBArk organization are certainly to be commended for their efforts. In my opinion, Ed was the 2009 volunteer of the year for Wildwater.

All of our Wildwater Committee Members really rose to the occasion in 2009 and all of them are very worthy of special recognition. However, I will limit my comments to a few highlights:

  • Chuck Brabec – continues to find ways make the premier wildwater racing website on the planet.
  • Jeremy Rogers is full of energy and ideas and some of them actually work! We are thrilled to work with the corporate sponsors he brought us in 2009 (Keen, Immersion Research, and Clif Bar).
  • Denny Adams – continues to work tirelessly to promote wildwater in CO, host races, and promote junior development.
  • Chris Osment – as always did an incredible job managing our Junior World Championship Team.
  • Maurizio Tognocci – continues to be one of the best junior coaches in the World. We appreciate his efforts to coach the 09 Junior Worlds Team. Maurizio will also coach the "Chute the Hooch Training Camp" in Atlanta in January 2010.

Our challenges for 2010 and beyond are:

  • Funding continues to be huge challenge and we took a step backwards in 2009. However, as previously mentioned we feel that we can turn the corner in 2010 and hopefully get back to 2008 levels or beyond. Many of our issues would simply be mitigated if we were properly funded.
  • Boats – the lack of boats really hampers our efforts. Doug Ritchie did a fabulous job of bringing in a container full in 06-07 and we nabbed another 50+ at the 07 Junior Worlds, but we have not had another major infusion since. Another challenge is the introduction of the "mono class" K-1 which will be required in international competition beginning in 2012. The logistics of getting an infusion of these boats into our program will be a challenge that we must find a way to overcome. Failure to do so will leave the USA program in a third world state.
  • Development/Growth to the base will need to continue to happen if we are to hang on to our progress. Of course, we need to continue to grow our sport! Training camps like "Chute the Hooch" work very well in this respect as well as the methods employed by the CO clubs. We need to replicate these efforts in other areas of the country such as the mid-Atlantic.
  • Clubs/Centers of Excellence - We must also refocus on stimulating the pursuit of excellence for our top racers. A key to making this happen is implementing well focused clubs. Bill Endicott refers to what we need as "commando style" centers of excellence. While we have a semblance of this in ATL, DC, CO, the Nanty and Seattle, we need to push this concept to the next level. In addition we should be strategically implement clubs at the collegiate level as we tend to loose many of our developing juniors when they go off to college or enter the work force.
  • Coaching is a necessity that we can not overlook. Developing clubs will need support in order to grow national level racers. National level racers will need support to help the grown to the international level. We need to revisit the idea of bringing to level coaching to our clubs and camps. A very small step in this direction is that Maurizio Tognacci will be helping John Pinyerd and Chris Hipgrave at the "Chute the Hooch" Training camp. We need to do this more!

We can do this! We can continue to grow our sport to the point were we are fielding full teams and putting our racers on the podium in the Junior and Senior categories. Our Masters Racers have already proven that given a level playing field, we will win our share of medals! I look forward to working with our sponsors, our board, our racers, and the paddling community to move our beloved sport of Wildwater onward and upward in 2010!