What are Keeners? Keeners are young people between the age of 12 and 17 who are “keen” about kayaking and have a positive attitude about life. The Keener Program focuses on the following:
- Personal Demeanor, Attitude, Work Ethic, Conduct, Youth and Character Development
- Public speaking – ice breaker speeches on Sunday night and formal speeches every Monday
- Written communication – Keeners must post at least one weekly blog to www.okskeener.blogspot.com
- Skill Development
- Competitive Training – Keeners compete weekly
- Cross training
- Kayak Swiftwater Rescue Training
- First Aid, CPR Certification
- All aspects of becoming a PRO Boater
This is the second year I have been to Keeners. A typical week here is where you paddle with the coaches Monday through Friday and then on weekends you have freedom to go paddle when and where you want. This past month has been amazing, within one week I was able to learn many skills. We have warm ups on the water every morning for about 30 minutes. During the flatwater warm ups we do many fun things, which include flipping over and seeing how long we can hold our breath to get us prepared for Beatdown Thursday. We also work on flat water tricks and how to help someone in need on the water. After that we have a flatwater paddle every day down to The Lorne, which is a fun section of the Ottawa with many features to play in. All the features there depend on water levels, but the features there are Garburator, Bug Bus, Mini Bus and last but not least Push Button. When we were there, the two features in were Garburator and Push Button. Since we have a flatwater paddle everyday, I went from barely being able to flatwater loop to being able to flatwater McNasty. Since you paddle down with the coaches you get to see all the huge tricks they can do on the flat water too.
Everyday at Keeners is a different day, it starts with Speech Night Monday, Freestyle Tuesday, Race Day Wednesday, Beatdown Thursday aka Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursday, also on Thursday nights we have Knots for Gnar. Then Friday is Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday. Also each Keener must do a blog each week on something related to Keeners or something that happened at Keeners. During every morning on the weekdays we play a random game like Death Ball, Ultimate Frisbee, or anything Anna ( Keener Mom) comes up with. During the one of the weeks we played a game where you put your average kayak gear at one end of the grass field and you line up in groups at the other end and race down to get all the kayak gear back. Though here’s the catch, you can only get one peice of gear and you must wear it and then once you get back to the group take it off and hand it to the next runner and they must wear that gear and get another other piece of gear and wear that one too. So you can start to see how the game works. In my group just happened to have Tom Dollé, one of the French kayakers here, because he doesn’t weigh much we put him last in our group becasue we had to run and get the kayak and then put him in it with all the gear and then run back down the field. That weighed a lot so we had our entire group of like 7 pick him up in the kayak and run with him in the kayak in our hands down the field. We were in the lead but unfortunately we kinda dropped him on the stern of the boat, so we lost but it was the funniest thing ever.
One of the other games we played was Ultimate Frisbee which is when players on teams attempt to score points by passing a frisbee to a teammate over the opposing team’s goal line, but keener style. Basically just a bunch of just awoken up teeenagers having to play a game that involves running, so for a while we played and scored points, but the fun hadn’t started yet. We started playing the game a little faster since we were finally awake, so one of the Keeners, Holly, started running down the field and was going for the frisbee, and she didn’t catch the frisbee but didn’t see the cement septic tank in front of her and ran full speed into it and fell. We all walked over to her to see if the was ok, she ended up spraining her ankle really badly but after a while it was really funny. She couldn’t paddle but she was able to take a SUP board put the McCoy’s and take pictures of Beatdown Thursday.
On Tuesdays we split into groups of 4 or 5, depending on how many coaches are there. On one of the Tuesdays, after our warm up we paddled down to Garb and worked on tricks. I talked to one of my coaches telling him I have my blunt down on my right and now I want to learn my pan-am , which is an over vertical blunt. He said ok and he told me how to do it and to go try it on Garb. I attempted many times and many times I fell on my face, but that’s the beautiful thing about freestyle kayaking, you can fall on you face many times but the more you fall, the closer you are to getting that trick down. Before we went to paddle down to go get lunch I went for one of my last ride and I carved over to the shoulder of the wave to get on top of the foam pile to come down the wave to take off and thow a trick. Once I got to the top I knew it would be a good pass so I went down the wave and took my powerstroke and I went flying in the air, I went for the pan-am and it went massive. My boat was completely out of the air and I landed the trick too. It was one of the best moments I had at Keeners, I had the biggest smile on my face, I was really excited about my ride.
The next day was Race Day Wednesday, our first race was a relay race at McCoy’s, which is above where the Keeners stay. We paddle the flatwater of to Baby Face and then hike with our boats for 5-10 minutes and then you can put in at the top of the island and paddle the rapid. We were put into relay groups and there were about 5 of us in each group. The first part of the race started on the island and you started running down the island to the water to get to get in you boat and paddle backwards across the river into the other eddy on the other side of the river. Though the catch that the keeners didn’t know was that one of the coachers flipped and switched around the boats so the racers were confused. Once they got in their boats they paddle as fast as they could to get to the other side. I was in the second leg of the race and I had to paddle to the Hero Eddy back on the other side of the river and then paddle back again the other side, but since there are 5 kayakers racing all at once it’s a little difficult. There’s a catch to getting to the other side after you have caught the eddy. You have to catch this glass wave and surf across about a 15 ft of rushing water and above Phil’s Hole, which you very easily get beat down in, and make it to the other side to tag the next person in the next leg of the race to start. I raced to the hero eddy and I was one of the first people there, though not good becasue you have the other boaters paddling into to the eddy which is only a 2 boat eddy. So you have boaters slamming into as your trying to get out, therefore I got stuck on a rock and ended up missing my line and going right towards Phil’s, which isn’t to bad, I just took the line through the center of the hole. Once I finally got to the other side I tagged the other person in and the race went on, surprisingly we came in 3rd with a time of about 20 minutes.
Then on the last Wednesday we took a trip to the Gatineau River in Quebec and it was gnarly. The first rapid is one of the biggest on the river and there’s a hole there called Lucifer’s Anus. This hole is nothing like Phils, this hole will teach you a lesson if you go into it. Basically you wouldn’t want to go into this hole on purpose, but were Keeners so we do go into this hole on purpose. At least some of us do. I did not plan at all to go in but I did, becasue of one of the Keeners, Kaelin. He told Bren Orton that if Bren went into Lucifer’s, Kaelin would. Well, Bren went in and he didn’t get beatdown at all. Of course I just happened to be standing next to Kaelin when Bren walked up and told Kaelin it’s his turn, Kaelin replied with no, I don’t want to, then Bren looked at me and said Cat, go get in Lucifer’s so Kaelin can see how easy it is. I was a little scared but I told myself I have a mile of flatwater and kayakers at the bottom, so what could possible happen. I went to get in the hole and missed, I went again and missed 3 or 4 times but finally I caught Lucifers.
After that I started to walk up the side of the river to try again and I saw one of the other Keeners, Bryce, attempt to go into the hole. I wasn’t really paying attention that much till I started hearing cheering. I turned to look and Bryce is getting the crap beat out of him, after about 45 second of seriously getting beatdown he went to pull his spray skirt and he came out and got body recirculated and as he started to get body surfed his boat hit him on the head and then he went down under water. It had been about 15 seconds he hadn’t popped up and we started to get a little worried, you could here people start to say where’s Bryce, where’s Bryce, we really were getting worried. Then he popped out of the water, he got tunnel vision so he didn’t pass out thankfully. After watching Bryce’s beatdown I decided not to go in, and nobody else went in either.
The next day of the fun Keener week is Big Water Bacon Beatdown Thursday; the first Thursday I attempted to get beat down in Right Side Phils but failed. After our morning at McCoys we paddled down to the lunch site and ate lunch. After lunch we usually have a choice to either go to the pour over and swim into it, swim in the whirlpools or go jump of the the jump rock. I chose to go swim in the whirlpools and it was super fun. I got sucked down for about 20 seconds and it was great, but after a while I open my eyes and realized its dark and I can’t see the light and I got a little freaked out but then I floated back up to the top. Then on another Thursday I went to the jump rock and attempted a frontflip, and this rock is about 17 ft, so I went to jump and I was scared to under rotate, after a little bit of thinking about I finally jumped and over rotated. Luckily I didn’t over rotate so much that I belly flopped but I landed on my face and it was very painful, yet very funny.
On the last Thursday my dad drove up the Canada to watch us on the last few days and he wanted me to get beatdown in Phils and I told him that’s not possible, I have tried for the past 2 years and it hasn’t worked. He said go anyways I want pictures. I went and little did I know this would be the beatdown of my life. As I went in I got beatdown for a few seconds and then I came up for air and as I came up I went back under. I started getting thrown around like I was a feather. After about 20 seconds of getting thrown around I was done and wanted out, well that didn’t happen. I went to pull my skirt and I couldn’t get to it, I was getting thrown around so much I just couldn’t. Finally I popped up after about 10 seconds, I was completely out of breathe because I hadn’t actually got some oxygen. I looked at my dad and I flipped over again and pulled my skirt and got body surfed. On Thursdays we have at least 2 people below Phils in an eddy incase someone swims you can paddle over and help them. Once I popped up I started swimming to the football eddy and Savannah and Rachel came to help me and Bren went and got my boat but I couldn’t breathe and they helped me get to the side and gave me some water and I was good to go. A coach was also in the eddy with them and Rachel told me that he told them to get ready to go help me because I was in there a while, and he thought I was going to swim. He was right.
That night we had knots for gnar; since this was the last day of knots for gnar we were able to go repeal off a tower that is about 160 ft. I was the last person to go and you have to climb up the tower to get the where you can repel. It looks super sketchy but it’s actually really safe climbing up. Once you get to the top you walk over to the guys who help get you set up for repealing, once that is done you walk over to the spot where you drop off of and it’s super scary going because you walk backwards and have to like lean of the tower and just drop. Once you start to repel you calm down and it becomes super chill.
Also the Thursday paddles down the river are cut a little short becasue we drive back up to McCoys and play on Baby face. Though not all of us are in our kayaks. My friends and I went in a raft and attempted to surf Horseshoe, which isn’t commercially rafted, but again we Keeners so we do it. The first week I went on a raft with my friends and another Keener, Ray, as our raft guide. Everytime we went in the raft flipped. It was really fun. Then on another Thursday my friend Olivia and I went out on a SUP board and attempted to surf Baby Face, we tried many times and we caught the wave once after we figured at that the person in the front needed to paddle hard and the person in the back needed to rutter. We only caught the wave for a few seconds till the bow plunged and we went flying forward, this was definitely one of the best times at Keeners.
Now the last day of the epic week is Funky Fresh Freestyle Friday. This is where we go train on Garb or Push Button for the morning and compete after lunch on that feature. I mostly competed on Garb and did my normal ride which was Blunt, attempt at a Pan-Am, and spins. On another week I went and competed on Push-Button. For me Push-Button is a very difficult feature, its wave-hole. That means you can do both wave and hole tricks. After training I asked Bren if I could try his carbon Jed, he said sure. The entire month that I was there I was not able to loop in the feature and once I got in carbon boat I hit my first loop and it was amazing. I was super stoked. This about wraps up this year’s Keener adventure. I can’t wait for many more years to come at Keeners.
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