Like a lot of people, Thomas Oliver Prior Carvajal first discovered the GoPro Mountain Games online, watching river-soaked footage of the Coors Light Steep Creek Championships on his laptop near his home near Santiago, Chile.
This year Carvajal is here and creating his own heroic footage on the highly technical Homestake Creek course as well as the Coors Light Down River Sprint. Together with friends Jaime Lancaster, Lucas Pedro Varas Barillas, and Vicente Astorga, Carvajal travelled north from Chile to paddle at the GoPro Mountain Games and tour the rivers of the Rocky Mountain West.
Unlike many of the seasoned pros, however, Carvajal and company booked their own tickets, paid their own way, and took care of their own lodging (a tent at the campground just up the road) without sponsorship help.
I’m always checking out the kayaking videos on the internet, so we knew all about this competition. It’s REALLY big,” Carvajal said. “It’s really amazing to be here, side by side with all these pros that I’ve seen in these videos.”
“This creek is really intimidating,” Astorga said. “It’s a class V rapid, so you can’t mess it up, you’ve got to get over your nerves, make it through, keep your bow up and not go sideways.”
Unfortunately for Astorga, he did get sideways. He pulled his skirt after getting pinned on a rock, and had to go for a short swim.
Chilean paddler Jaime Lancaster qualified for the final round, coming in 9th overall. Lancaster and the others all agreed that the experience, not the results, were the reason they travelled so far to take part in the GoPro Mountain Games.
No Spain, no gain
Another international competitor did make the final round and made quite an impact. Gerd Serrasolses of Spain placed second in the event behind Dane Jackson of Walling, Tennessee. Cole Moore of Cabin John, Maryland came in third.
“It’s a really tricky course, there are a lot of rocks that are going to try and mess with you and take you off your line, and lose a lot of time,” Serrasolses said. “It’s really important to know where the rocks are, and try to avoid them … if you can.”
Serrasolses said the creek reminded him of some of the terrain he kayaks in the eastern region of Spain, north of Barcelona near his home town of Sort.
“It’s really cool to meet all the people here, from all these different sports,” Serrasolses said. “It’s inspiring. This is a really great place to get motivated.
Serrasolses and the rest of the kayaking field continue competition with freestyle and downriver events throughout the weekend.