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Whitewater warriors

click to enlarge BRUCE ELLIOTT

Spring is here. Translation in Colorado: hard-core whitewater.

But the need to feel the adrenaline rush of shooting through rocks on a crest of foam is too great for some to wait out the winter season. Katy Fitzgerald, pictured above, is one such junkie. She spent two weeks this winter in Mexico crashing her river kayak through waterfalls and whirls of swirling white.

"Once you're on the river," she said, "you get to interact with the water on a whole other level."

But until Fitzgerald can return to her favorite local run on the Arkansas River north of Buena Vista in May, she's honing her skills in a swimming pool, along with other members of the Pikes Peak Whitewater Kayak Club.

From January until early April, the kayak club meets Sunday evenings at Cheyenne Mountain High School near The Broadmoor. They thrash though the pool, practicing how to roll over, parry and turn.

About 100 kayak enthusiasts belong to the club, which was formed in 1975 and organizes expeditions each spring and summer. Typically about 30 members show up for pool training.

"It's a great sport," said club president Gordon Stringer. And because of new technology and training opportunities, he said, "it's a lot safer today than it ever has been."

And by coming together over the winter months, Fitzgerald said, they form friendships that prove invaluable on the river.

Tumbling through rapids can quickly lead to dangerous situations, she said, and it helps to "know the people you're paddling with are going to look after you."

-- Dan Wilcock

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