Next Level Ride, a cable wakeboard park, opens Friday

Next Level Ride, a new cable wakeboard park, opens Friday on Highway 71 in Del Valle. Photo courtesy Next Level Ride
Next Level Ride, a new cable wakeboard park, opens Friday on Highway 71 in Del Valle. Photo courtesy Next Level Ride

Adding proof to the notion that you don’t need a boat to ride a wakeboard, a third cable wakeboard park opens in the Austin area this week.

The newest park, Next Level Ride, officially fires up its wakeboard-pulling cable system on Friday. It’s located 8 miles east of Austin Bergstrom International Airport on Highway 71.

Two other cable parks – Quest ATX, which opened the summer of 2014 at 10815 FM 1625, and Texas Ski Ranch, which opened on Interstate 35 in New Braunfels more than a decade ago – also cater to wakeboarders without boats.

Niki Sotkovski, co-owner of Next Level Ride, demonstrates her wakeboarding skills. Photo courtesy Next Level Ride
Niki Sotkovski, co-owner of Next Level Ride, demonstrates her wakeboarding skills. Photo courtesy Next Level Ride

The husband and wife team of Curt and Niki Sotkovski, who started a wakeboarding team six years ago when they were in college, own and operate Next Level Ride.

A cable strung between towers pulls wakeboarders around a manmade lake and over obstacles like ramps and rails. The park is open to beginner and experienced riders and has a special smaller system called the Little Bro that’s suitable for children.

“We are invested and passionate about taking wakeboarders’ and people’s athleticism as a whole to the next level,” co-owner Curt Sotkovski said in a press release. “One way we are going to stand out from other cable parks is by offering training, nutrition, yoga, kid’s camps and possibly a skate park and dirt bike course next year.”

The park will focus on wakeboarding for the remainder of the 2015 season, before unveiling the other activities next year, said co-owner Niki Sotkovski.

Passes to the park can be purchased online here.

The park is located at 5400 E. Highway 71 in Del Valle. For more information call 512-915-9056.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail to close for maintenance

A portion of the Southern Walnut Creek Trail will close Oct. 5-23 for maintenance work. Martin do Nascimento/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A portion of the Southern Walnut Creek Trail will close Oct. 5-23 for maintenance work. Martin do Nascimento/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Heads up, cyclists.

A portion of the Southern Walnut Creek Trail between Delwau Lane and FM 969 (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) will be closed the first three weeks of October to address erosion issues.

Because of flood damage earlier this year and in anticipation of a rainy fall, the Public Works Department is doing maintenance work from Oct. 5-Oct 23. The trail will reopen for the weekends.

Trail users traveling south should exit at the YMCA and use 51st Street to access Springdale Road. Trail users traveling north should use Springdale Road as an alternative.

 

Leo Manzano named race ambassador for 2016 Capitol 10,000

Leo Manzano runs on the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Nell Carroll/Austin American-Statesman
Leo Manzano runs on the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Nell Carroll/Austin American-Statesman

 

Leo Manzano, who stormed down the homestretch to claim the silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 London Olympics, is teaming up with the Statesman Capitol 10,000 as official Race Ambassador.

If you need a jolt of inspiration to run the race, listen up.

Manzano grew up in a small town in Guanajuato, Mexico, with no electricity or running water, where boys were expected to work at an early age to help support the family. When he was 4 years old, Manzano’s family moved to Granite Shoals, near Marble Falls. His father worked as a machine operator at a gravel quarry and his mom held odd jobs while Manzano focused on school.

Leo Manzano, left, poses with Jeff Simocek, race director of the Statesman Capitol 10,000. Photo by Nell Carroll/
Leo Manzano, left, poses with Jeff Simecek, race director of the Statesman Capitol 10,000. Photo by Nell Carroll/

He started running with a track program the summer after sixth grade. Initially, his parents discouraged him because it seemed like a waste of time. But in seventh grade, he joined the cross-country team and quickly showed promise. During his four years at Marble Falls High School, where the track around the football stadium now bears his name, he won a total of nine Texas high school track and cross-country titles.

Manzano went on to become the first in his family to graduate from high school, then landed a track scholarship to the University of Texas, where he became a five-time NCAA champion and an 11-time NCAA All-American.

He raced at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but was eliminated in the semifinals. He redeemed himself in 2012, coming from behind to take second and becoming the first American to medal in the 1,500 meters since Jim Ryun won silver in 1968.

At 5 foot 5 inches, Manzano is short for a track athlete, but he can run a mile faster than anyone in Austin. People say he has a Ferrari engine packed into a Pinto body. He’s known for his kick, that last-minute burst of speed that pushes him out of the pack and into the lead as he crosses the finish line.

“I am very excited and honored to have the opportunity to represent a race that means so much to so many of us,” Manzano said. “I invite everyone to come out, share their joy of running and support a race that makes a positive impact in the community with the generous support of local nonprofits and initiatives.”

The 2016 race is set for April 10. Registration opens Thursday here.  A portion of proceeds will benefit The Trail Foundation.

“The Statesman Capitol 10,000 is an iconic race and Leo Manzano is an iconic runner,” said Jeff Simecek, Cap10K race director. “We couldn’t ask for a better pairing and representative for Austin’s beloved annual race. We look forward to working with Leo and to the 39th running of the Cap10K in 2016.”

Fans can paddle with Texas Book Festival authors at Congress Avenue Kayaks

Fans can paddle alongside authors featured at the Texas Book Festival on Oct. 17. Photo by Bob Daemmrich
Fans can paddle alongside authors featured at the Texas Book Festival on Oct. 17. Photo by Bob Daemmrich

What better way to meet some of the authors appearing at the Texas Book Festival than to paddle alongside them?

Fans paddle with authors Shannon Galpin and Jake Halpern during the 2014 Author's Paddle. Photo by Bob Daemmrich
Fans paddle with authors Shannon Galpin and Jake Halpern during the 2014 Author’s Paddle. Photo by Bob Daemmrich

For the third year, Congress Avenue Kayaks will host an Author’s Paddle on Oct. 17.

Beginning at 8 a.m., authors including Carmiel Banasky (“The Suicide of Claire Bishop”), Alexandra Kleeman (“You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine”), Katherine Taylor (“Valley Fever”) and Allyson Hobbs (“A Chosen Exit”) will discuss their books as they paddle with fans in Lady Bird Lake.

Reservations are required. Call (512) 809-8916 to register.

For more information go here or call (512) 809-8916.

Congress Avenue Kayaks is located at the Waller Creek Boathouse, 74 Trinity Street, on the Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

Moonlight Serenade Social Ride set for Friday

Riders gear up on the Pfluger Bridge for a social ride in this 2009 file photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Riders gear up on the Pfluger Bridge for a social ride in this 2009 file photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

A Moonlight Serenade Social Ride is scheduled for Friday.

The public is invited to join the staff and board of directors of Bike Austin at 7 p.m. at Easy Tiger, 709 E. Sixth Street, for a pre-ride discussion about how to make Austin a safer place to ride and walk. A short ride will begin at 8 p.m. and wrap up at Zilker Brewing,1701 E. Sixth Street.

Discounted drinks and snacks will be offered at Easy Tiger, and Magnus Innovation will give a 15 percent discount on bike lights.

RSVP here.

2015 FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships set for Dec. 1 at Austin American-Statesman

Competitors chug beer at last year's Beer Mile World Championships at Circuit of the Americas. Photo by Julia Robinson for Austin American-Statesman
Competitors chug beer at last year’s Beer Mile World Championships at Circuit of the Americas. Photo by Julia Robinson for Austin American-Statesman

Chug a beer, run and repeat – four times – and you’ve got the idea behind the beer mile.

12/03/14 Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN; Michael Cunningham, 24, of New York, chugs a beer during the Men's Elite Beer Mile World Championships at the Circuit of the Americas track on December 3, 2014.
12/03/14 Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN;
Michael Cunningham, 24, of New York, chugs a beer during the Men’s Elite Beer Mile World Championships at the Circuit of the Americas track on December 3, 2014.

Last year, the first-ever official beer mile race took place at Circuit of the Americas. Long held unofficially, under cover of darkness at school tracks around the world, the Austin event featured professional meet standards, automatic timing and a $2,500 cash prize for winners. Runners came from as far away as Sweden and Australia to compete, and a Canadian postal carrier sloshed away with the men’s elite trophy.

The event returns to Austin this year, but moves downtown, to the parking lot of the Austin American-Statesman. (Yay me!)

The 2015 FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships are scheduled for Dec. 1. Runners will make four loops on a 400-meter track, chugging a 12-ounce beer with each lap.

Last year’s winner, Corey Gallagher, who narrowly missed snapping the 5-minute mark, plans to return to defend his title.

The event will feature a beer garden, food trucks, music and competitors ranging from Olympians to weekend warriors. Admission is free. The races will be streamed live on FloTrack.com.

Chris Kimbrough trains for last year's Beer Mile World Championships. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Chris Kimbrough trains for last year’s Beer Mile World Championships. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

TheCHIVE’s KCCO line of beers has been named official beer of the event, and will be served to competitors and available for purchase by spectators.

The event will include two open heats, a sub-elite heat (runners must qualify), a celebrity heat and elite heats for both men and women. Relay divisions are also planned.

For more information go here. Registration will open soon.

Schlotzsky’s Bun Run takes off on Sunday

Gear up your buns, folks.

Runners take off at the start of the Schlotzsky's Bun Run in this archive photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman.
Runners take off at the start of the Schlotzsky’s Bun Run in this archive photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman.

This year’s Schlotzsky’s Bun Run, where teams can earn honors for Austin’s Fittest Buns, Austin’s Fastest Buns, Austin’s Best Lookin’ Buns and Austin’s Most Generous Buns, is set for Sunday at The Domain.

Last year, the race, long a harbinger of springtime in Austin, shifted to a fall date. It also moved from downtown to the Domain, and announced proceeds would benefit JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The race stays at the Domain this year, and again benefits JDRF, which works to improve lives and find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

A young runner takes a glance at the competition during the Kid's K in this archive photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman.
A young runner takes a glance at the competition during the Kid’s K in this archive photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman.

Besides the timed 5K run, with cash prizes for the top male and female winners, there’s a Kids K race for children 12 and under and a team challenge. Dogs can get in on the action too, running alongside their owners to compete for the title of Fastest Dog in Austin.

Race organizers describe the course as flat and fast.

The kids race starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K starts at 8:30 a.m. at 11401 Century Oaks Terrace.

Participants get chips, hot sauce and goodie bags. A special Kid’s Korral with fun activities including face painting and special treats is also planned.

To register or for information about packet pick up and how to get VIB (Very Important Bun) status, go here.  http://www.bunrun.com.

Since 2012, Schlotzsky’s has raised more than $500,000 for JDRF.

How does Texas rank on latest list of most obese states?

Obesity rates are climbing in Texas. Illustration by Rick Steinhauser
Obesity rates are climbing in Texas. Illustration by Rick Steinhauser

Nearly a third of adult Texans are obese, and the Lone Star State ranks 11th on a list released this week of the most obese states in the country.

Not good, people.

Arkansas wins the dubious honors of the most overweight state, with 35.9 percent of adults considered obese. Colorado has the lowest rate of obesity – 21.3 percent – and even that’s astonishing.

Consider that obesity rates are at or above 30 percent in 22 states and not a single state has an obesity rate below 21 percent.

In 1980, no state had a rate above 15 percent. In 1991, no state had a rate over 20 percent.

Now, more than 30 percent of adults, nearly 17 percent of 2 to 19-year-olds and more than 8 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are obese, according to State of Obesity (previously titled “F as in Fat”), a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Here in Texas, our waistlines have been gradually increasing in recent years. We ranked 19th fattest with a rate of 29.2 percent in 2013. In 2014 we edged up to 15th fattest with a 30.9 percent rate of obesity.

Today we’re at 31.9 percent. Read more about our statistics here.

Also of note? Twenty-three of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the south and midwest. Rates are at or above 30 percent in 42 states for blacks, 30 states for Latinos and 13 states for whites.

Obesity can lead to health problems including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The study found that diabetes rates increased in eight states – Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Here’s the complete list:

1. Arkansas (35.9)

2. West Virginia (35.7)

3. Mississippi (35.5)

4. Louisiana (34.9)

5. Alabama (33.5)

6. Oklahoma (33.0)

7. Indiana (32.7)

8. Ohio (32.6)

9. North Dakota (32.2)

10. South Carolina (32.1)

11. Texas (31.9)

12. Kentucky (31.6)

13. Kansas (31.3)

14. (tie) Tennessee (31.2) and Wisconsin (31.2)

16. Iowa (30.9)

17. (tie) Delaware (30.7) and Michigan (30.7)

19. Georgia (30.5)

20. (tie) Missouri (30.2) and Nebraska (30.2) and Pennsylvania (30.2)

23. South Dakota (29.8)

24. (tie) Alaska (29.7) and North Carolina (29.7)

26. Maryland (29.6)

27. Wyoming (29.5)

28. Illinois (29.3)

29. (tie) Arizona (28.9) and Idaho (28.9)

31. Virginia (28.5)

32. New Mexico (28.4)

33. Maine (28.2)

34. Oregon (27.9)

35. Nevada (27.7)

36. Minnesota (27.6)

37. New Hampshire (27.4)

38. Washington (27.3)

39. (tie) New York (27.0) and Rhode Island (27.0)

41. New Jersey (26.9)

42. Montana (26.4)

43. Connecticut (26.3)

44. Florida (26.2)

45. Utah (25.7)

46. Vermont (24.8)

47. California (24.7)

48. Massachusetts (23.3)

49. Hawaii (22.1)

50. District of Columbia (21.7)

51. Colorado (21.3).

Share your bike commute photos using #AustinCommutes

Pam LeBlanc has been pedaling to work for seven or eight years. Photo by Chris LeBlanc
Pam LeBlanc has been pedaling to work for seven or eight years. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

This city just looks different from the seat of a bicycle.
You see the people, the slow change in the skyline as buildings sprout beneath cranes. The birds, the squirrels, the dogs.
The quirky stuff, too. The family of metal goats that lives in front of a house on Shoal Creek Boulevard. The cyclist with a pair of dachshunds tucked into her backpack. The two-wheeled laundry delivery service.
I’ve been riding a bike to work most days for seven or eight years. It saves me gas money, it keeps me from fidgeting in rush hour traffic and it gives me a little bonus exercise.
The sun blazes, the rain pelts, the wind blows and the humidity rises. Football games unfold at House Park. Skateboards clatter at the park, volleyballs fly on sand courts. Cars honk, owls hoot, bells ring.
What do you see on your commute today?
Share your photos with us. We’ll feature some of our favorites online and in print. Just tag them #AustinCommutes.

Austin trick skiing champion Kay Nichols has died of cancer

Kay Nichols was a champion trick water skier. She died Saturday. Mark Matson For American Statesman
Kay Nichols was a champion trick water skier. She died Saturday. Mark Matson For American Statesman

Austin trick water skier Kay Nichols has died.

Nichols, 63, died of cancer Sept. 12.

Over the years, she won at least a dozen national titles and one world title while twirling across the water on her short, wide ski.

“She was an Austin water ski icon for sure,” said family friend Dick Gilliam. “Kay was one of the most genuine and nicest people I’ve ever known.”

Nichols grew up in Michigan, where she began competing when she was 7. By time she turned 21, though, she’d had enough of competitive water skiing. She gave it up, married a fellow skier (whom she met while trying to get a sinking speedboat to shore) and moved to Texas.

Then, when she was 28, with one baby in tow and pregnant with a second, she went to watch her husband David Nichols, a radiologist, compete in a water ski tournament. It took just one glimpse of the female competitors to persuade her to start skiing again.

In trick skiing, some of the tricks are done while holding the tow handle with the hands; other tricks are done with one foot attached to the tow rope by a collar, or “bear trap.” Someone in the boat operates a safety pin that is released when the skier falls. It takes a lot of trust; if the pin isn’t released quickly, the skier could be dragged through the water by her foot.

Nichols skied in her first national championships in 1981, at age 29. She won her first title there in 1987.

In 2006 she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She had surgery and underwent therapy and was back on the water competing a few months later.

“When you go into these competitions, you don’t think about winning, ” she said at the time. “It’s 90 percent mental, and if you think about it, you’ll fall.”