Monday, September 01, 2008

Freestyle Canoeing World Cup '08

photo Timmy Raa

I returned home late last night from the 2008 freestyle canoeing World Cup tour, happy and tired. The event consisted of 3 events; Prague in the Czech Republic, Augsburg in Germany and Thun in Switzerland. I was unable to attend Prague due work commitments and my birthday so was left with a lot to do in the final 2 events. As well as competing I spent a lot of time in the judging tent helping out Jasper to do a superb job of moderating the events.

photo Timmy Raa

I arrived early on Wednesday morning at the Eiskanal in Augsburg to attend GB team training, it has been nearly 2years since I last entered a freestyle so I was excited and slightly nervous to be back on the competition circuit. Augsburg is one of my favourite places to paddle and I was hoping for a good result, I had solid rides in the prelims and qualified in first place for finals, yes! The finals have slightly changed since I last competed and instead of a knock-out system the finals are now 3 runs with your best score counting, I think this is definitely an improvement. My second run of the 3 was my highlight, I hit all my tricks and scored the highest scoring ride of the competition, yippee! My first comp in 2years and straight to the top of the podium.

photo Timmy Raa

The tour was soon back on the road and heading to Thun I made a quick stop at home with Timmy Raa, Flic, Jasper, Casper, Tom, Roeul and LP on the way to go for a beer, pick up some clean clothes and have 24hours rest and recuperation. Thun is the feature for the 2009 World Freestyle Championships and so practice there is essential for a good result in the Worlds next year. Thun is a very beautiful town, a challenging wave and typically a superb event, this year was no exception. Simon Hirter and his team pulled out all the stops to build an event unlike any other on the canoeing calender, well done mate, it rocked.

photo Sabrina Barm

I had prelims on Thursday and was again slightly nervous due to my lack of practice time, I had a few lucky rides and managed to qualify in first place going through to final, phew. Judging was the order of the day for the next 2days in the tent with Jasper and his team again. Judging is sometimes a very thankless task and I wonder if everybody really appreciates the work judges do. Judges give up their time for free, because the ICF won't pay us, and sometimes have to suffer being critised and abused just for doing our job, a prominent "professional" kayaker saw fit to thank us for our work by sticking his middle fingers up at us, thanks TC, an apology would be nice. On the plus side Team Jackson kayak went out of their way to thank us for our work so big shouts out to EJ, Stephen and Nick for being really nice people.

Sunday saw me back on the water for finals, and from the moment I woke up I knew I would have to work very hard, I was not feeling top fit. After an hours delay we were finally under way, I struggled to find form and had 3 bad rides, gutted, I finished in 3rd place. My result was strangely academic as I only competed in 2 of the 3 WorldCup events it was impossible for me to finish any higher than 3rd place overall, so although disappointed with my lack lustre performance I am back on the competition scene with a bang finishing 3rd in the WorldCup after a 2year break is not so bad. I am looking forwards to the Worlds next year and will have to get into a serious training regime to ensure a good result.

WorldCup podium winners, Jez, Toby and Me, photo Markus Leppaenen

Next up will be a few days jumping the ramp at GEHLA, an open canoe trip on the Ticino, off to Holland to run some open canoeing clinics at Dutch Water Dreams at the end of September, then a wedding and SUP surfing in Cornwall and then off to Nepal, sweet.

Big thanks to AKV and Simon for organising great events, Jasper and all the other volunteer judges and scribes, all the cool competitors who make these tours such a blast and finally to Esquif/Patschifik, Nookie and Kober for sorting me out with cool stuff.
See you somewhere nice,