Sage Donnelly kayaks the North Fork of the Payette River in Idaho.
This weekend I competed in The Reno River Festival where I had a great time and I was happy to see all of my friends. I competed in freestyle on Friday and I was 2nd behind Hannah Kertesz, and Emery Tillman was 3rd. It was held in hole 3 on the North Channel but the water was very high so it was flushy. We each had 3 rides and the best ride counted. Even though it was flushy I still was able to get my loop, round house, and spin. For Men’s Freestyle Stephen Wright, Eric Jackson, and Dustin Urban were the top 3. For Women’s Freestyle Ruth Gordan Ebens, Emily Jackson, and Erin Clancy were the top 3. Saturday was the slalom race and I was 3rd in Women’s open and E.J. was 1st in men’s open. The weather was perfect and the river was even higher making it a challenging course. Thanks for the great course Charlie! Sunday was boater cross and I made it into the 2nd round where I took a paddle to my face so I finished 4th. As always, I enjoyed meeting people and talking to kids about kayaking throughout the weekend, and the festival was also a great fundraiser for my friend Jason Craig who was injured in a kayaking accident and my friend Daniel and I picked the raffle tickets for great prizes.
Thank you for putting on a great event!
For the 2nd year in a row, My family and I traveled to Kernville, Ca. to compete in the 47th Kern River Festival and 7th (?) annual Brush Creek Extreme Race. We arrived about 2 weeks early so I could attend the Gold Medal Camp put on by former Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Jacobi, former Olympic coach Bob Campbell, US National Jr. Development coach Tom Long, and former National Team members Chad, Kenneth and Anne Long. The weather wasn’t the greatest, (it even snowed!) but the coaching was! I highly recommend this camp to improve your slalom or overall river running skills. Then it was time to put my new skills to work and train for Brush Creek and the Kern River slalom course. Brush Creek was about 3 which is a great flow for the race, and I was the only Jr. girl among the 3 jr. boys that included my friend Daniel who was competing for the first time. Several other Jackson Kayak paddlers were there, including Colin Kemp and Darin McQuid, and fellow Reno paddler Noah Frasier made the journey down as well. I was able to boof over my problem area from last year (Fuzzy Bunny) so I felt very good about my race. Then it was onto the slalom race in downtown Kernville where they just received the permits to build a whitewater park. The water was very high and fast so the course was challenging. I think everyone had a great time! Hopefully next year they also have freestyle in their new whitewater park!
I just received my new Rasta (red, yellow, and green) Shooting Star kid’s playboat and I love it! Jackson Kayak also has Goth available (green, white, and black) as a standard color for boats now. The first thing I did was head down to the Reno Whitewater Park to try it out on a nice, high flow of about 900 cfs. It was super easy to loop and cartwheel. I was also able to try my new orange Lightning Freeride Junior paddle available through Jackson kayak, and it’s awesome! It is very light and easy to get used too.
With a very high snowpack this year, all of California and Nevada’s rivers are running high and will be for sometime, so I am spending lots of time in my Jackson Sidekick too. It is a very stable river runner and creek boat that I have been using since I was 7 and ran most of the rapids on the Grand Canyon in. Mom always said I looked like a weeble that wobbled but wouldn’t fall down! It boofs like a dream, punches holes easily, and pops up from drops like a cork. If you have a child who wants to get into kayaking, this is the perfect boat to start them in!
Right now, I am packing my van to head down to Kernville, Ca. for the Kernriver Festival where I hope to compete in the Brush Creek Race (if it’s not too high!) and slalom race. I will also be doing some fundraising for my friend and teammate Jason Craig, so if you like earrings, look for me! Then it’s home to prepare for the Reno River Festival! Hope to see you there!
Last week I was invited back for a second year to speak to kids about different river careers at Billinghurst Middle School in Reno, NV. I open my presentation with a kayaking video, then put on an informational slideshow, and close it with another video of kayaking. I also like to ask trivia questions to make sure the kids are paying attention, and give out Jackson Kayak Promotional DVD’s for correct answers. It’s amazing how many kids remember how much a topped out Grand Canyon guide can make on a 16 day trip! After I pass out JK stickers, I invite everyone up to check out the boats and gear. I put on the same presentation 5 times to different groups of kids everytime, so I spoke to over 100 kids! I know I had fun and I hope all the kids did too.
It has been an incredible year for me! I accomplished most of my goals for 2010 including completing my loop and competing in the Junior Olympics where I won 5 gold medals and I became the Cub Cadet National Slalom Champion. I also run more class 4 rivers and worked hard to support American Whitewater and Outdoor Nation as a good ambassador.
2010 Whitewater Accomplishments
Kern River Festival, 1st. in Jr. Women’s Slalom, 2nd. in Women’s Extreme Creek Race, 2nd. in Women’s Extreme Slalom Race, 1st. in Women’s Triple Crown
Cache Creek, 1st in Jr. Slalom
Reno River Festival. 2nd. in Jr. Freestyle
Truckee River Race, 1st. in Jr. Slalom
Auburn River Festival, 1st. Jr. Freestyle, 1st. Jr. Slalom
Yampa River Festival, 1st in Jr. open Freestyle, 2nd. in Jr Freestyle, 2nd. in Jr. Women’s Slalom
Teva Mountain Games, 12th in Women’s Freestyle, only cadet competitor
Lyons River Festival, 2nd in Cadet Slalom, 2nd in Cadet Freestyle
FibArk River Festival, 1st Cadet. Freestyle, 1st. Cadet. Slalom
American River Festival, 1st Cadet Freestyle, 1st Cadet Slalom
Mokelumne River Festival, 1st Cadet Down River Race, 1st Cadet Slalom
Age Group National Slalom Championship., 1st Cub-Cadet
Junior Olympics, 5 Gold Medals and 2 first places (non-sanctioned event) in Women’s Cub Cadet Category, 1st. Slalom, 1st. Sprint Slalom, 1st. Boatercross, 1st. Down River Sprint, 1st. Down River Race, 1st. C2 Slalom, 1st. Freestyle.
I was able to travel all over the nation this year and ran several new class 4 rivers including The Tellico, Youghiogheny, Cheat, New River, and the Ocoee, as well as the Nantahala and the Potomac rivers in the east, and Pauley Creek, Brush Creek, the Kaweaha, and the NF of the American, as well as my first over night self support kayak trip on class 4 Deer Creek. in the west.
Off River I spoke to 150 middle school students about river careers on Career Day in Reno, Nv. and to 100 4th and 5th graders in Sacramento, Ca. about getting outside and enjoying the outdoors, but especially kayaking!
Goals for 2011
I hope to continue competing and defend my Jr. Olympic and National titles and learn more freestyle tricks including Cartwheels, Backloops and Spacegodzillas. I also hope to run as many rivers as possible and be a good ambassador for AW and Outdoor Nation.
This year I was able to head down to Kernville, Ca and run Brush Creek, a class 4 creek that drops into the Kern River. It has lots of drops and slides, the biggest being a 20 foot waterfall! I had a blast! This is now my new favorite river. I also entered the Brush Creek Triple Crown series where I was the youngest contestant and placed 36th out of 39 on the down river race, 17th in the extreme slalom race and then I was 1st in the standard slalom race and ended up being top female overall! I also was able to qualify for Jr. Olympics at NOC this year and am very excited. Please check out this vidoe of mainly Triple Drop where the extreme slalom race was held. Sage Donnelly - Brush Creek, 2010
I was asked to speak at Career Day at Billinghurst Middle School in Reno, NV, by my friend and fellow paddler School Counselor Val Licon. My job was to talk about different jobs you can have on the river. My friends Colin Kemp, Hilde Schweitzer and Darin McQuoid all helped me by giving me information on different kinds of river jobs including raft guides, kayak instructors, store owner/managers and photographers/cinematographers. I spoke to over 150 kids between 6th and 8th grade. I made a slide show/video show to show the kids as well as brought in a few kayaks for the kids to sit in and then passed out Jackson Kayak stickers at the end. I think it went very well and I hope all the kids enjoyed the presentation!
Even though it is winter, I haven't stopped boating. Northerrn Nevada 's rivers are frozen over, but California rivers are only a few hours away and that's where I have been going. Chamberlin Falls, a class 4 section of the North Fork of the American River, only runs a few months a year and I have been lucky enough to catch it about 4 times now. My favorite drop is Chamberlin Falls itself (http://www.awetstate.com/NAmericanC.html), Staircase and Bogus Thunder. It is only 5 miles long so we usually run it a few times. I also took a trip to Texas to the Olympic Outdoor Center (http://wwwkayakinstruction.org) located on the San Marcos River which is 72 degrees year round. Ben (1996 Olympian) and Michelle Kvanli (2009 women's national slalom champ) coached me in slalom racing where I was able to win in my first slalom race of the year. I have a few more, but Junior Olympics here I come! If you want to learn to kayak, they have an excellent begginers to advanced program for both whitewater and slalom. I had even more fun because my friend Henry Hyde, another 9 y/o kayaker, was there, and I met Chelsea Bornemann, a 13 y/o slalom racer, so it was cool to be around other kids. A large group of kids from Colorado were also there for racing and training, and we did the Tube Chutes, a fun water slide next to a dam, and I ran Graduation Falls with Henry and Chelsea, a 15 ft water fall that was lots of fun. I can't wait to paddle with Ben, Michelle, Henry and Chelsea again because they are such fun and good friends! After we got back from Texas, I was able to paddle with my friend Ria on the Coloma to Greenwood section of the South Fork of the American River. She is only 7 and becoming a great kayaker-she even did her first combat roll when we were on the river! It has been a great 2010 so far and I look forward to more-Peace, Sage
What happens in California after a few years of drought. The reservoirs get low and sections of rivers normally underwater become runnable again. This weekend we did the Big Bend Run on the North Fork of the Feather River. This section is normally under 35 feet of water but the reservoir is so low we were able to run about 6 miles of class 3/4 whitewater. It starts out with a short paddle to a 35 ft. dam that makes a big slide/drop into the river. At first I was very nervous, but I watched several people run it and I decided to try it. I followed my Dad to the wave above the drop and Mom follwed me. When I started to go over I felt like I was going to slam to the bottom, but the roostertail wave carried me gently to the slide portion and the pillowy waves at the bottom. I had so much fun that I paddled right over to the ropes hanging on the side of the dam and climbed back up to do it again and again. We had set up a pulley system for boats and everyone had to climb up a rope to get back up, but I was pulled up because I weighed less than some of the boats!
After several photo drops on the dam, we continued down the river for a lot of fun rapids. Box Car rapid was a riverwide hole that had a small rock slot that I was able to shoot through, while most of the other people had to drop into the hole and were flipped. After a short lunch break and a fun seal launch, we continued paddling through a few more class 4 gorge rapids into the lake where we were picked up by motor boats and shuttled 7 miles across the lake to our cars. I hope to do this again next week. Thanks Scott Sady for the great photos!
What a busy month! After the American River Festival, we headed to Colorado to attend our friends Nathan Fey and Marin Peterson' s wedding. Nathan is the Colo. American Whitewater rep. and Marin is a Predator Helmet rep. so of course we ended up on the water. After the wedding, 19 of the wedding guests drove to Utah to float the Westwater section of the Colorado River. It is a 17 mile class 3/4 float and we did it as an overnighter. The waves were big, the water cold and brown, the camp, cliffs, scenery, spectacular! My family was in our kayaks and the bride and groom were in our Dynamic Duo, and there were a few other kayaks and about 5 rafts, including our 14 foot raft Big Red, who was being paddled by the brides brother in law. LOTS OF FUN! After floating the river, we drove home, unpacked, repacked and drove to the Feather River Festival. I had a great time running the class 3 Rock Creek section and Class 4 Lobin as well as running the slalom course. The weekend highlight was the great party and fundraiser for American Whitewater that the Chico Paddleheads put on. They had 2 bands, hula hoops, fiber optic antennas and about 400 people. I was also able to have my friend Molly sleep over in the van. We both slept upstairs with my dogs Wyatt and Kenya-the 2 biggest ridgebacks, and had a blast-and slept well.
Now we are home, cleaning and repacking the van so we can go to Yosemite for a week where I'm going to climb Snake Dike, a 7 pitch 5.7 climb on Half Dome. Wish me luck!
It's been another several busy weeks! It started with an American Whitewater scheduled release on the Pitt River in California where I love to run the class 4 Hero Slide right next to the 30 ft waterfall. It's a blast! Then we headed over to Idaho for some fun with our friends the Voorhees family. We started out on the Gutter, the neighborhood play spot, and I competed in their local Hometown Throwdown, then it was up to Garden Valley where we camped out and ran the Staircase and Canyon sections of the South Fork of the Payette River. The highlight was watching 12 y/o Alec run the class 5 + Big Falls-and he stomped it! Dad also was able to do several runs on the upper North Fork of the Payette, another class 5 section, and he had a ball! We had to leave a few days early because my Grandmother had a heart attack, but she is OK now. Then next week was the American River Festival where I competed in the rodeo, slalom race and the duo down river race with my Dad. I was the only girl in Jrs. and competed against two boys, both over 15-I placed 3rd. Sunday was the slalom race where I competed against another teenage girl and the boy who won the rodeo. but this time I was first! Then Dad and I hopped into our Dynamic Duo and did the first inaugural Lars Holbeck Memorial Down River Race from Chili Bar to Trouble Maker. We were the only parent/child team so we were first, but we were only 1 minute behind the 3rd place adult team
After looking at it all year, this week I finally got up the nerve to surf First Threat on the South Fork of the American River. It is a large bouncy wave hole that is very intimidating, but with the encouragement of a lot of people (thanks Mike and Hilde!) I finally hopped in and had a great ride. It is very easy to catch, but once you are in it you can't see up river so a look out has to tell you when a raft or kayak is coming. Now I am working on spinning in it without flipping or flushing so I can compete in the American River Festival Rodeo.
Dad took his new custom green and black All-Star out for it’s maiden voyage today and he had a blast. He took it down Chili Bar on the American to test it on Maya and First Threat and had the fastest spins Iv’e ever seen. It was hard to wipe the grin from his face! We ran into Hilde and Mike at First Threat and Hilde was using Ruth Gordons new Star while Ruth is at worlds and Hilde was super excited about the response of the new boat and how quick it was. Eventually Mike was able to try it and he wouldn’t give it back to her! Both were excited about it’s speed and handling and how it was not as aggressive as they thought it would be-making playing on waves and holes even more fun. I was so inspired by their enthusiasm that I managed to get my first spins in Maya and finally surfed First Threat! I can’t wait to get a new orange/white Shooting Star some day. By the way-my dad recieved about 20 complements on how cool his new boat looked!
I had a perfect weekend! I spent Saturday kayaking Chili Bar on the American and had a blast surfing Maya, then on Sunday I spent the day climbing at Phantom Spires by Kyburz, Ca. I love this area because the hike in is short and the climbing is great. I climbed my favorite lie back and Mom and Dad played a lot on a 5.10b crack. We also had a lot of inter-action with a rattle snake that was sunning itself along our route. I named him fatty because he was the fattest snake I've ever seen!
Truckee River Safety Fair, 2009
We just wrapped up another successful safety fair sponsored by the Truckee River Foundation and I was lucky enough to help! We had about 120 kids from the ages of 4 to 14 show up to get a free helmet, pfd and water shoes and learn how to safely float through the rapids on a river. The most important thing I learned was to never dive head first into a river because you can not see the bottom, and always make sure someone has an eye on you. All the kids separated into age groups and I helped out with the little kids, which was mostly teaching the parents about water safety, and that most drownings happen in the presents of an adult. After each class, the kids received a free t-shirt and ice cream and then decorated their helmets at a station set up by the girl scouts. Some of the designs were super neat. Thanks to all the volunteers that helped!