Meet the U.S. Masters Men’s Rafting Team

July 31, 2017

In 2016, the U.S. Masters Men’s Rafting Team took silver in downriver and bronze overall at the International Rafting Federation (IRF) World Championships. This year, they’ve got their sights set on gold at the 2017 IRF World Championships in Japan. Andy Baxter introduced us to the team.

How Did the Team Form?

We’re all involved in the whitewater community and competitive watersports at high levels. Crazy Pete is the owner of Sawyer Paddles and Oars and a former Olympic slalom kayak hopeful. I (Andy) was a two-time master world champion rower who participated in the 2008 Olympic trials. Matt is a former pro rafter and river guide.

Along with our friend Covey Baack, we put a team together on a whim to enter the King of the Rogue race. We won and decided to enter the U.S. National Championship. We held our own, beating a few pro teams and even besting the U.S. National team in the slalom event. At the after party we hit it off with the U.S. guys. Team captain John Mark Seelig suggested we join them to form the very first U.S. Masters Team. Covey was too young to make the cut, but we had the great fortune to get current U.S. team member Matt Norfleet to round out our four man team for the 2016 World Championships.

The U.S. Masters Team took silver in the Downriver event

Our 2017 Masters team is based in Southern Oregon, just over the California border. The core four (Andy, Pete, Matt, and Jon McLaughlin) reside in Oregon. Former U.S. team world champion John Tribble is just down the road on the Klamath river in California. Our sixth man, Jon Catlett, is based in Flagstaff, Arizona. We have two alternates in northern Oregon, as well as a few hearty, local stand-ins.

What is your most memorable competition(s) to date? What made it stand apart?
For me it would be competing with Team Sawyer Racing at U.S. Nationals. That caught the interest of the U.S. Team and started this whole adventure.

Describe what a typical day looks like for the team. How do you juggle full time jobs and families while pursuing this passion?
The typical day is that there is no typical day! We grab our training whenever and wherever we can. We have team training on Mondays and Tuesdays with weekends open as available. Between team sessions, we train individually in the gym and on the water. Doubles are split between a strength training session and an aerobic session. We also do HIIT sessions and combine two minute bursts of different exercises (secret weapons I can’t tell you about!) with Olympic and power lifting movements.

The KÜHL KONQUER SS is a favorite for team training sessions.

What does the training for competitions entail? Describe the physical and mental aspects of training.
World Championship rafting has four events judged on a weighted point system: time trial, head-to-head, slalom and down river. While most of that falls into the realm of anaerobic power coupled with technical skill and team coordination, the downriver phase requires tremendous aerobic stamina as well. The teamwork component is critical and blankets all of the events, whether we are gunning it in the time trial and head-to-head, finessing the slalom, or surviving the pain tank on the downriver!

How does it feel to represent the USA abroad?
We kid around a lot, but when we travel abroad we are ambassadors for the United States and that is an honor and a privilege. We finished Silver in the downriver and Bronze overall at the 2016 World’s in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. Masters Team on their way to Bronze overall at the 2016 World Championships

We’re even stronger this year and have a great team of capable, like-minded guys intent on winning the Gold in Japan this October. Our fitness is excellent, our skills and teamwork are strong, and we always invoke our special super power. Our not-so secret-weapon: we have fun.

What is your favorite place to raft in U.S. and why?
Corny but true, my favorite place to raft is wherever my teammates want me. Most of our water training is done on the Rogue River on the Nugget and PowerHouse/Muggers Alley sections above Gold Hill, Oregon. We also train on Emigrant Lake, the Klamath River, and the Smith and Umpqua rivers.

Why is KÜHL clothing a great fit for your team/sport?
KÜHL gear is the best. It’s stylish, tough, dries fast and doesn’t wrinkle!! KÜHL fits perfectly in our athletic whitewater culture and yes, it’s pretty friggin KÜHL.