Rafting Team Profile - USA Women's Rafting Team
With spring rafting in full swing and the start of runoff season in the United States now is the prime time for the US women's team to step up their game for the 2017 racing circuit. We caught up with some of the ladies from team USA to get their thoughts on this season, World Championships in Japan, and the competition.
Rafting Magazine: How is the team feeling about how prepared you all are to compete on the international stage?
Avery Potter: Well, speaking for myself, I am honestly fairly nervous. I competed for Team USA in the last World Rafting Championship, and there's some daunting competition. There are teams that have been paddling together for over a decade, and some countries that pay their teams to be athletes. We as athletes have to figure out our own gear, funding, logistics and sponsors on top of all the rafting business. It's a lot to deal with. I think we've got a chance of doing really well though! We have all been training in the off season and will turn up our intensity and focus this summer. As a team, we have an awesome balance of personalities and work together really well, and everyone on the team has breadth and depth in water reading skills. So we have the raw talent to make it happen.
Jenn Hodgekiss: Now the USRA is having nationals one year in advance I feel that nationals for the r4 is great training for us as a team and for individual training. As a competitor in prior worlds, our team members have the experience and thrill to compete at a world rafting level. It's extreme and awesome to see so many athletes with the same admiration for the river at worlds.
Eva Lambert: I am feeling strong and prepared in our efforts. We have put so much effort into fundraising planning, logistics, and individual training. As the rivers start running, we will be able to focus all our efforts in team training.
RM: Are you focusing on any specific discipline to try to gain a points advantage?
Jenn Hodgekiss: I would have to say since the most points are downriver and slalom these are our team's main focus. Personally, I enjoy training mostly on downriver and slalom too. Downriver races are by far the most challenging, being in distance and team dependency. Slalom, is like a ballroom dance on the river to be smooth, fast and fluent is key. This r6 group of women is by far the most encouraging and uplifting group that I have ever paddled with. We are a positive team.
Avery Potter: Downriver and slalom are obviously the big point events, and ones we are well equipped to prepare for. The Arkansas River as our main training ground is an incredible resource, with ample stretches of whitewater to work with and a decent little slalom course that we can set for varying drills. We have a tough time preparing for the head to head as we don't really have any teams to practice battling with. That's something I think we'll try to address this summer.
Eva Lambert: Our team has always been really great at battling so Head to Head and any battling we do in the Down River race is a strong point advantage.
RM: After their stunning victory last year, how does the team feel about battling it out with the UK women's open team at the world championships this year?
JH: If we are battling head2head, bring it on! We are a determined team, and more than our inner strength comes out when we are battling, we turn into our on individual creatures if you will, aggressiveness with determination for success and to be the fastest on the fastest current.
AP: I actually got to practice with a few members of the Great Britain Women's team last fall before Worlds as I was living in London at the time. What a generous, affable bunch of ladies! I think they were also happy to have someone to train with, but they were very open in sharing technique and helping me become a better paddler. So I'm excited to see them again and look forward to the chance to compete against them. They are one of the most formidable teams we stand to compete with, and I for one am excited to push myself and the team and see if we can't give them a good fight.
EL: I am definitely looking forward to racing against the Great Britain Women's Team. We seem to have similar strengths in disciplines. It will be a great show for spectators.
RM: With the great snow pack from the Rockies to the west coast and the potential high water on the horizon do you foresee any issues with flows affecting your training schedule?
JH: It is always nice to have water whether high flow or regular flow. High water is always accelerating to practice and paddle on. Low water can be very challenging with exposed rocks and can cause exhaustion but is still awesome being out on the river any flow at any time. It's great to ski, paddle, and mountain bike ride in the same day.
AP: High water is just different, I can't think of a reason why it might negatively affect our training. The eddies and holes usually get more difficult in the slalom stretch which is good for training, and downriver just changes. From the info I've been able to research on the river we'll be competing on in Japan, the Yoshino, it looks like it's bigger water features than we typically see on the Upper Arkansas, so the more variety of whitewater we see the better.
EL: I don't see any issues. We have had high water years in the past and the variety actually is really good for team training. It puts us in different situations that we have to adapt to which is great preparation for rivers that we have never run together before.
Team USA 2017 Roster
Evangeline (Eva) Lambert
Paddles Back Left
Eva has worked as a raft guide on Clear Creek for Mile Hi Rafting in Idaho Springs, Colorado since 2007. The river has always been a big part of her life these last ten years and will continue to be. “There’s something to, being in the middle of the “white room” (a rapid), knowing exactly where you are and staying solid on your line. It’s an amazing feeling.” Adding this to racing with her teammates and there is not much like it; “We put a lot of hard work leading up to our race, we race fiercely and in the end, we celebrate with our river family.” Eva is looking forward to competing at the World Rafting Championships in Japan.
Paddles Front Right & Alternate
Jen started raft racing in 2012 with the "Red Ladies" in Colorado. She has been rafting since 2006 - guiding on California rivers the Kern, Tuolumne. She has also guided in Colorado on the Arkansas, in Arizona on the Salt and on the Colorado River. Internationally she has guided in Chile on the Futaleufu River. Jen currently guides with Outdoors Unlimited through the Grand Canyon, Colorado River. Jen's love for the sport is in "the ability to run amazing sections of whitewater with your best girlfriends ... and style it!"
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." ~ Loren Eiseley!
Kelli Carpenter Gunderson
Paddles Middle Right
Kelli has been raft guiding for 6 years on various rivers in Colorado, Arizona, and West Virginia. She loves that the sport of raft racing brings together so many awesome river women and encourages others to get on the river. This will be Kelli’s second time on the world rafting stage.
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view"-Ed Abbey
Paddles Front Left
Anna grew up as a water person in a landlocked state. 16 years of swimming competitively and life guarding eventually led to the best water profession; working as a raft guide. Anna is looking forward to representing the United States in her first World Rafting Championships in Japan. Read more about Anna’s Story in her athlete profile.
Paddles Front Right
Jennifer has a deep rooted passion for whitewater. Going on ten years of rafting, and five years of raft racing, she is looking forward to her dreams coming true and competing at her second World Rafting Championships in Japan. As she prepares for such intense competition, she takes time to enjoy new rivers and experience nature and the outdoors where she feels at home. “Water has always been an amazing force to me and one of the blessings in my life.” Jennifer plans to start her career as a teacher and stick to floating in her "shredder" after her competitive days are done.
Paddles Middle Left
Lone Tree, CO
Avery has been raft guiding and kayaking for 3 years now. Her love for rivers and rafting started way back to when she was a kid. Her dad would take her and her brother out rafting once or twice a summer all throughout her childhood, mostly with Arkansas Valley Adventures on the Arkansas River. This would fuel her passion and find herself working as a raft guide for AVA later in life.
Avery has been a competitive athlete all her life. After graduating from college she really missed that enthusiastic and team-oriented atmosphere. When she was invited to paddle with the team two years ago, she didn't hesitate in accepting. Avery admires any female athlete that does not compromise or commodify themselves for others. “Look good, feel good, do good, look good.” Competing in Japan will be Avery’s second World Rafting Championship.
Paddles Back Right
Buena Vista, CO
“The yogic belief of living in the present transfers so well into whitewater; you have no choice but to be in the moment and flow with Mother Nature. It’s my greatest joy in life.” Up until recently, there are two motivations that drive Tana’s soul —rafting and yoga. Tana’s first taste of whitewater was in 2006 when she trained on the Class III section of the Lower Youghiogheny in Ohiopyle, this is when her passion began. Her energy, love and eagerness quickly turned into an obsession of bigger and more challenging. She wanted more and that was in the form of the Class V world-renowned section of the Upper Youghiogheny. By 2007 Tana made it her goal to become a guide on this section of river and in the summer of 2008, she claimed the title she was searching for as an Upper Youghiogheny guide and is still today one of few women who has ever held that achievement.
She describes this as her “awe moment,” where she can combine her passion for whitewater, strength and fitness, and competitive enthusiasm. Though her love and energy for the sport never dissipated she rallied her team from the side-lines with a new sense of urgency to prove to her son Oscar that she can get back out there and achieve her goals. “I want my son to know he can achieve any of his dreams if he puts his mind to it.” With months of hard work, long hours and sacrifice, Tana and her team gained the title of our current 2016 R6 National Champions.