With the paddling season coming soon to an end, everyone took advantage of their last chance to play at Wausau Whitewater Park until next summer. Typically, 70-100 people show up to play for the 6 hour release, but this past weekend was one for the record books. For those of you unfamiliar with the park, you may think that anything over a few dozen would leave the place crowded and therefore….not fun. But in fact with 12 play spots for people of all levels, long lines don’t even start to form!
How many people showed up this weekend? Well, 160 people came out to play each day; the family was back together again. While everywhere you go across the country, you have an automatic bond with anyone on the river, in the Midwest, this connection reaches a new level. The difference that I have come to find over the past few years is that you can show up on your own to the park and have not just one friend but dozens of family members to spend the day with. If you are new to the sport, or just new to the area, you will likely stand out as “the new guy” at first, but never feel like it. Everyone will introduce themselves…so much that you’ll have a tough time remembering names. The regular guys will take you on a tour of the features and show you everything you need to know. And, after you’re done on the river, you’ll have a handful of dinner invites followed by beers at the VFW.
What’s so great about the park? Well, it’s not just a place for playboaters, slalom paddlers, or open canoeists, but a place for everyone! Boats are swapped around OCers jump in All-stars and playboaters try out the L’edges! Slalom paddlers run the channel making difficult attainments, practicing their lines, and hitting upstream gates, and the freestyle crowd entertains everyone during the hometown throwdown.
This year also has to be a record for the number of beginners at the park. While Wausau and Whitecap Kayak host introduction classes for two dozen people each weekend, it seems as if everyone brought along a buddy who wanted to learn to paddle this summer. UW- La Crosse even brought a group of students to the Park to partake in these classes this weekend!
Over the years, the park has developed and changed a lot. Michael Schroeder has put a lot of time and effort into not just developing awesome play spots, but also build up the bottom of the channel for the beginner crowd. This weekend the bottom section was full of friends teaching friends to ferry, surf, run drops, roll, catch eddies…..and with rumors of whitewater parks going up all over the place in the near future, there is so much potential for this number to grow exponentially!
So thanks to everyone for supporting this wonderful park in Wausau! Keep paddling and we’ll see you next year!
For a little more about the Release, check out Chris O’Brien’s blog http://cobkayak.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/record-number-of-paddlers-at-the-wausau-whitewater-park-saturday/