Although you may not have noticed it there have been lots of keen freestyle paddlers out grinding almost the whole winter around Hurley and Lee Valley in the build up to GB Freestyle Kayak Team selections which are taking place at the end of this month (just a few days away now). But what is so important about Team GB for this year? This selections dictates the team for the upcoming 2015 ICF Freestyle Kayak World Championships which are being held on the Garberator Wave, Ottawa, Canada.
So what’s the big deal?
Freestyle Kayak World Championships are held every two years but the reason that there is extra excitement for this year is the feature it is being held on is actually a really cool wave (seriously, search Garb wave in youtube and you could be lost for hours of cool tricks). Previous World Championships to this have seen the sport go (in our opinion) slightly stagnant as small, unimpressive, hole features have dominated the competition circuit. This year it is finally changing and hopefully it will mark a new era of Competitive Freestyle paddling.
How will the GB team be selected?
The selection process changes from year to year, so here is a quick run through of what is going to happen this year. The team will be selected based on the results of two competitions, one at Hurley and one at a feature apparently known by the course raft guides as ‘J-20’ which is the small wave after the first drop on the Olympic Course. The results from these two events are then added up and the top 5 Senior Men, Top 3 Senior women (Current Women’s World Champ Claire O’Hara is pre-selected to defend her title, in effect an extra space in Womens K1), Top 2 C1, Top 3 Junior Mens K1 and top 2 Junior Women’s K1 will make up the team which goes out to Canada to compete to be the World Champion at the end of August this year.
How do the Competitions work?
Each paddler will get three rides each ride lasting 45 seconds to do as many different tricks as possible. Each trick has a specific definition and attached points value depending on how difficult it is to perform , tricks can only be scored once in each direction, bonuses are awarded for getting the boat aerial, or if it is particularly huge, or by doing a trick without using your paddle. There are also bonuses for linking tricks together. Two out of the three rides will count, the scores from the best two rides are added together, Highest score wins.
But won’t it be the same top people as every year?
Well, because of the location of the World Champs this year a lot of paddlers have certainly been motivated to spend time training just for this event and this has made the field much tighter. This year will be one of the tightest selection events in the last five-seven years or maybe the tightest event ever!
Can I still paddle those days?
Whilst Hurley is technically not ‘closed specially for the event’ we do recommend giving it a miss during the daytime from 9am onwards until probably 4ish. Lee Valley has limited opening, check with them to find out detailed opening times.
Can I go watch?
Of course! Spectators are welcome at both events but remember to take a BA with you because spectators on the weir bridge at Hurley are required to wear one and, you can stand closer at Lee Valley if you have one.
Who should I look out for?
Obviously all of the people taking part in selections should be fairly good to watch, but there are a few we have been seeing on the river and getting better an awful lot over the past few months, in Ladies keep your eyes out for local lady Mandy Chan who has made some big gains over winter, especially since switching boats to a 2014 Jackson Kayak Rockstar. Also Nicola Beeby and Emily Ward will be hot contenders. In Junior mens it is another tight race but keep your eyes on the Hugo Anthony, Hugo Scott and Jake Norman. Senior Mens is probably the tightest we have seen it for years with hot favourites including Hurley boys Alan Ward, Craig Ayres and Doug Cooper, lads from ‘Up North’; Rob Crowe, Gav Barker, Bren Orton, Dennis Newton, 2011 World Champion James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington and of course our very own part timer, who has spent a lot of time training Seth Ashworth.
here is a neat little video from paddling on the Ottawa by Nick Troutman, not so much Garberator but gives an good idea of what the area is like:
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