Posted by: Ashley | July 16, 2010

Wausau Whitewater Blog Moves

The Wausau Whitewater Flows Blog has moved! This blog will allow us to connect with the kayaking world through World Kayak! So check us out! WE’ve already posted a few stories.

Posted by: Ashley | June 1, 2010

2010 Ray McLain Scholarship Recipient Announced

Wausau Kayak/Canoe Corporation
Wausau Whitewater
For Immediate Release – May 28, 2010
Contact:  Ashley Knutson, Operations Manager
Phone: (715) 572-6197; E-mail: __________________________________________________________

2010 Ray McLain Scholarship Recipient Announced

The Ray McLain Paddling Scholarship Fund provides financial support to qualified up and coming paddlers from the Midwest and Wisconsin in the sports of whitewater kayak and canoe, enabling their pursuit of national and /or international medals. As Ray McLain committed so much of his time, efforts, and dollars over the years to help youth excel in the sport, Wausau Kayak / Canoe Corporation and Green Bay Paddlers United want this to keep his legacy going by administering the Ray McLain Scholarship Fund.

Hailey Thompson, Stevens Point, WI, is the recipient of the 2010 Ray McClain Scholarship. Thompson began paddling at the age of 12 and excelled quickly in the sport making the Senior National Team only two years later at the age of 14. In 2009, Hailey received the title of C-1W National Champion and placed 4th at the Pre-World Championships in Tacen, Slovenia.

This year Hailey has continued her success by keeping her spot as the best in the Nation for C-1W Whitewater Slalom. Hailey will represent the USA around the world at the 2010 World Cup Series in Europe, the 2010 Junior World Championships in Foix, France and the 2010 Senior World Championships in Tacen, Slovenia. At age 16, she is one of the top paddlers in the World and well deserving of the 2010 Ray McLain Scholarship.

For more information regarding the Ray McLain Scholarship Fund, please visit

Posted by: Ashley | May 24, 2010

How do you Judge Freestyle?

By Cole Jacobsen & Pat Peckham with Dawn Bugni

Initially making its name with slalom racing events, Wausau Whitewater now hosts many freestyle events too. The popularity of playing in freestyle holes, also known as rodeo, has grown dramatically in the past few years.
Most freestyle action takes place in the freestyle “holes” or playspots. The standing wave in the middle of the channel allows talented paddlers to avoid being swept downstream while performing showy moves. Paddlers in this event have 60 seconds to amass as many points as they can. If they’re swept out of the “hole,” they paddle madly back into position because the judge only awards points for moves done in that spot.

Paddlers switch to short playboats for freestyle since shorter kayaks and canoes turn more quickly and enable continually evolving and changing moves. The river becomes their stage. Watch for Cartwheels, Phonics Monkeys (bow 360-degree rotation to front flip), Space Godzillas (past vertical aerial cartwheel), Split Wheels (two vertical ends with a 180-degree vertical direction change in between ends), Loops (front aerial somersault), Back Loops (an aerial backwards somersault), 360-Degree spin’s, and many more during these exhilarating events.

Freestyle competitions use one very experienced judge, selected for his knowledge of the sport, to award points. For Wausau Whitewater, that judge is Chad Kehn from Minnesota – freestyle judge since 2006 and returning for the 2009 season. One or more scribes support the judge during freestyle events. As the paddler scores points, the judge calls out point values to the scribe and they record them on scoring sheet for each competitor. With the help of the scribes, the judge never looks away from the paddler.
The buzzer sounds and the judge reviews the paddler’s score. When he’s finished, the next competitor gets the green flag to enter the hole starting the excitement starts all over again.

Kayakers: here’s a great opportunity to up your skills, no matter what level

(beginner, intermediate, slalom, freestyle, or instructor)

Register Today at

Wausau Whitewater is happy to announce that its Ray McLain Camp is kicking it up a notch this year! Cathy Hearn (USA), former Olympian, World Champion, and current coach of the US Slalom team will headline the teaching staff.  Fellow Midwesterner, adventure kayaker and freestyle champ Jonny (Utah) McConnville will provide freestyle instruction.

Cathy Hearn is no stranger to Wausau having spent nine days here earlier this year coaching our country’s World Championship hopefuls. She will be teaching her conceptual movement-based method of instruction which has helped countless boaters at all levels improve their game. By breaking up the classes into small groups she expects to have plenty of time for highly personal attention to her slalom students and to instructors who will also watch and help her teach.

Boaters will be asked to choose from five different classes of instruction.  Each class will be limited to eight students so prompt enrollment is encouraged.  The deadline will be July 1, after which (if there is still room for a class) a late fee will be applied. $225 includes water and lunch for all three days.*  Dates are Wednesday through Friday, July 21 through 23 and will be followed by a weekend of whitewater fun including a Saturday packed with informal competition (slalom, freestyle and boater cross) and a Sunday “recreational release”.

*Instructor tuition is decreased to $115 in return for instructing with beginner and intermediate classes.  The instructor class will be ideal for those already certified to teach by the ACA (though certification is not a prerequisite).  Time spent with students will count towards the mandatory ACA experience required for certification renewal.

Posted by: Ashley | May 20, 2010

Learn to Kayak with Wausau Whitewater

Wausau Whitewater continues our partnership with Bear Paw in 2010 offering a variety of instructional courses for paddlers of all levels.

Introductory to Whitewater Kayaking

This class is designed for the person who has always wanted to try whitewater kayaking. This introduction to whitewater kayaking instruction class begins with complete gear outfitting and basic safety instruction, and continues with paddling techniques, ferrying, peel ins/outs. Morning and Afternoon classes offered at every recreational release. The first is June 5th. So sign up early providing you with the opportunity to advance your skills with our follow up classes! 3 hours of instruction and complete gear outfitting for just $40 is a rate you can’t beat anywhere else. So reserve your spot today!

Additional Classes Include: Introductory to Whitewater Canoeing, Kayak Rolling, Class III level Kayaking, and Fundamentals of Freestyle Kayaking! We are also offering the Ray McClain 3 day training camp and 2day Jackson Freestyle Clinic!

For more information and to register visit

We hope to see you there!

ntro to Whitewater Kayaking ~ Register Now!

This class is designed for the person who has always wanted to try whitewater kayaking. A 2.5 hour introduction to whitewater kayaking instruction class begins with complete gear outfitting and basic safety instruction, and continues with paddling techniques, ferrying, peel ins/outs. Morning and Afternoon classes offered June 5th, 26th, 27th, July 10th & 11th, August 7th & 8th, September 4th, 5th, 18th, and 19th.

Posted by: Ashley | May 18, 2010

Wausau Whitewater Moving Forward

by Ashley Knutson

Over the years Wausau Whitewater has been host to Local, National, and International races and competitions both in the Slalom and Freestyle disciplines of canoe and kayak. Julie Walraven dedicated numerous years as the Operations Manager, learning and knowing every aspect of the organization and what it has to offer the Wausau and paddling communities. While the economy in our country is struggling, Wausau Whitewater is still holding strong bringing events such as the ACA Open Canoe Nationals and North American Championships to Wausau in 2009 and winning the ACA Event of the Year. As I attempt to fill her shoes in 2010, I see tremendous opportunities for Wausau to be the cornerstone of growth in the sports of whitewater kayak and canoe.

In 2009, Wausau Whitewater partnered with Bear Paw Adventure Resort to offer training and instructional classes during recreational releases at a very affordable rate. The classes include introductory to whitewater canoeing and kayaking, Kayak rolling, Class III Level Kayaking, and Fundamentals of Freestyle Kayaking. Additionally, the Jackson Kayak Team travels to Wausau in August to offer a 2 day Jackson Freestyle Clinic and Cathy Hearn, one of the National Slalom Team Coaches will instruction the 3-day Ray McClain Training Camp in July.

Training isn’t the only new development at Wausau Whitewater however. Michael Schroeder has worked hard to bring the 1st Annual Wausau RiverFest to life on June 11-13th, 2010. He’s also made some new changes to the course moving rocks and creating new waves for the enjoyment of our growing community of freestyle paddlers. Additionally, Karla Westcott continues her efforts to bring in National and International events such as the 2010 Team Trials, 2011 Pre- Junior World Championships, and the 2012 Jr. World Championships!

The future is bright but Wausau Whitewater has always and continues to rely upon the support of wonderful volunteers, sponsors, paddlers, and a dedicated board of directors to continue to host these activities. Thank you for your support and if you are interested in getting involved or finding out how you can help make the upcoming years a success, contact Ashley Knutson at for more information!

Posted by: Ashley | May 17, 2010

A Dream Come True

By Julie Walraven & Dawn Bugni

The Dream

In early 1974, Bill Rypstat walked his dog along the banks of a dirty, unused river and dreamed of turning the Wisconsin River’s east channel into a whitewater course. He was building a kayak in his garage, and the kayak project and his dream soon became inseparable. He soon shared his vision with Bob Walraven, then the Division Manager of Wisconsin Public Service, the organization that owns and operates the dam controlling water flow into the channel, and an alliance was born. Fast forward to November 20, 1974 when a group of visionaries opened a coffer dam under the Scott St. Bridge, letting water flow to test varying water levels. In 1975, the first small race was held for Midwestern American Canoe Association (ACA) paddlers, and the rest is history.

Over the years, combined efforts of government entities and businesses enhanced the river. These efforts turned this section of the Wisconsin River into a challenging,world-renown slalom course and an improved location for whitewater freestyle playspots and waves. In 1976, Wausau/Marathon County Parks Department and the Army Corps of Engineers assisted in narrowing the channel and added a few rock features. In what would become the continuing saga of this project, heavy spring rains and snow melts the following year obliterated most of the improvements.

The Army Corps of Engineers made the channel between the railroad bridge and the “big drop” smaller in 1978, making the very first ACA Midwest divisional race possible here. For three years, improvements continued. In 1981, two weeks prior to the scheduled national championships, seasonal storms severely damaged the course. Many dedicated volunteers helped pile rock to repair it. And they returned each spring to repeat those course repairs until dike construction in 1988 better protected the course.

Whitewater Park

The city’s River Edge Commission initiated Whitewater Park development in 1984. In the same year, Wausau held its first international race, the Pan-Am Cup. Seeing the potential, by the following year, the commission installed seating and saw to some badly needed area landscaping. The next year, 1985, Wausau hosted the Mid-American Series of international races and by 1986 an estimated 25,000 fans watched the races from Whitewater Park. Wausau had secured its place in the world of slalom whitewater racing.

In 1988, Wausau began a streak of four successive World Cup Series races attracting the top whitewater paddlers in the world. As Wausau’s paddling recognition grew, a natural offshoot was the Home Stay Program, paddlers living with area families during competitions and training. To this day, national and international paddlers consider Wausau the world’s family and cherish the bonds formed during their time in the Home Stay Program. Hosting the final race of the World Cup in 1991, one of the last major competitions before the 1992 Olympics, gave local residents the opportunity to meet and get to know true Olympic class athletes up close and personal.

Course improvements included a new specially designed scissors dam gate, additional landscaped seating and a series of flagpoles for the next era in Wausau Whitewater.

The Junior Worlds

Wausau Whitewater fondly remembers 1994, as a huge year in the organization’s history. Hosting the Junior World Championships, flags from 24 nations flew from the beautiful new flagpoles. Dignitaries from the International Canoe Federation (ICF) representing Spain, Italy, Great Britain, and Poland came to be part of the event. Downtown merchants enjoyed visits from the young team members who spent an entire week collecting souvenirs of their U.S. Vsit. Adding to the challenge of hosting the world, race organizers successfully moved the entire operation from Wausau to Hurley one week before the event to meet the criteria for the wild water portion of the Junior Worlds.

The Secret

Race organizers and course developers from other parts of the country wonder in amazement at the success of Wausau. The secret behind that success lies in the many people who shared the same dream and followed it through to fruition – corporate sponsors, Bob Weller’s incredible computerized timing system, die-hard volunteers who sacrifice race weekends and more to plann successful events, home stay parents sharing a small portion of their lives with the paddling community, the list goes on and on. The efforts of many carved Wausau’s place in the paddling world. Without the drive and determination of one man to take his dream and make it the dream of many, Wausau would not have a history of more than 25 years’ success…and a brightly glowing future.

Posted by: Ashley | April 21, 2010

Understanding Slalom

Competitive paddling, like other sports, can be more enjoyable for spectators if they know the rules and have an understanding of judging criteria. Some indication of scoring and penalties can be picked up by watching the judges who assist on the course.

In the sport of slalom, the competitor is timed from start to finish. They can incur time penalties by touching a gate or missing it altogether. For each section of the course, there are gate judges, primarily responsible for one or more gates. With up to 25 gates, many judges are needed.

Green gates indicate the paddler passes through with the current. The paddler can be facing upstream or downstream while passing through, with no penalty for going through backward. Red gates mean the paddler passes the gate, then turns and paddles upstream to get through the gate. Gates are either single poled, with another pole on the bank to define the gate line, or two polled.

After competitors pass through a section, gate judges write down how they did on each gate. The gate judges then relay their findings using hand signals to the transmission section judge. If the gate judge places a closed fist across the chest, that’s good news because it means a penalty-free passage through that gate. If a judge holds two fingers out to one site, it means a two-second penalty for touching one of the poles. Sometimes the paddler’s body hits one of the gate poles. Other times, the boat or a paddle hits the pole. Either way, it’s a two-second penalty.

A judge’s outstretched hand means the competitor receives a 50 second penalty for missing a gate. All of the paddlers head and part of his or her boat must pass through the gate. It’s also considered a miss if a paddler goes through the wrong direction or goes through with all of his or her head submerged. In most instances, a 50-second penalty is enough to take a competitor out of contention for that run. The paddler with the better of two timed runs is the winner!

Posted by: Ashley | April 20, 2010

Volunteers Needed for USACK Trials

The USA Canoe/Kayak National Team Trials will be held April 30th-May 2nd at Wausau Whitewater Park. Wausau Whitewater, host to the event, relies upon a network of volunteers each year to put on great events for the community and is still in need of a few volunteers for the upcoming season. Interested in learning a bit about whitewater kayak and canoe while enjoying a day in the sun along the river? email Ashley at Today! The races will run Friday-Sunday from approximately 9am-4pm. Lunch is on us! Meet future olympic paddlers and support our local competitors.

Posted by: Ashley | April 14, 2010

USA Canoe/Kayak Team Trials in the Wausau Daily Herald

DJ from the Wausau Daily Herald made Wausau Whitewater Front Page News Yesterday. Check it out!

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