It was that time of year again, the best extreme kayakers from around traveled to the small alpine town of Oetz to battle for the championship belt! After a long drive from the UK I arrived in evening with my wife, father and friend. We were meant to be camping but to our delight we were offered a free upgrade to a cabin, a good start to the week! It rained hard all night which filled me with a little concern as to how high the river levels would be the next day.Lift off! Crazy fast line during my qualifier heat
'Champions killer' in healthy flows
We awoke to a damp misty day and after eating we packed up and headed to the river! We first took a look at the course, it was extremely high! The course was monstrous and no one was training on it as it was just too full on and dangerous. I met up with a group of Swiss and headed up to the middle section of the Oetz river which has a little less gradient. This was a grade 5 section of river in high water and I had never paddled the kayak I had before and was not fitted into it properly. Needless to say after three big sections I got pinned against some trees and had to exit the boat. After an hour of trying to recover the boat it finally came loose! Interesting first day!
Signing my life away!
Throughout the week it got drier and the river level dropped everyday to more manageable levels. For the rest of the week I met up with fellow paddlers and competitors and trained on the course. It was extreme water and it was awesome! Throughout the week we witnessed some awesome carnage, luckily no one was hurt. On Thursday I registered for the event, got my bib and goodies and had an early night for the big day ahead, qualification day!
After downing a couple of Beet-it shots I got geared up and headed to the event. The river was a little higher but still manageable. The event has a fantastic safety record, using the local mountain rescue and swift water rescue to help anyone getting into difficulty. The 150 competitors were split into two groups, I was put into the second group, and we then had to do our mandatory training run to ensure we were capable. My training run was one of my best and this filled me with confidence for the race! It was now time for the real thing. There were two qualification runs with both of your times being added together to form your score, the top 45 then go through to the finals, slim pickings!
Most colorful dude around!
So calming my nerves I carried my boat down the ramp and launched into the hissing white-water below! My first run was extremely good giving me a time of 1:24, this put me right up there with the pro’s. Feeling pretty chuffed, it was time for lunch! I knew I needed to match my first run or do better to qualify, which I knew I was perfectly capable off. After launching again, my line was good. But after dropping into the crux of the run I got pulled slightly right and slowed down, I paddled as hard as I could to get back on line. This minor mistake cost me six seconds giving me a time of 1:30, bugger!
Going deep in 'Minus 1'
This dropped me over all to 69th place. I was disappointed but also proud of my first run. My first run was not even my best so I know I have massive potential for the future. This was my first major race and out of roughly 15 GBR competitors I was 5th fastest. It’s just the name of the game, nature is unpredictable and sometimes it shows you whose boss! After a good night at the Loser’s party we headed to the course the next morning for the super final! A young Kiwi chap named Sam Sutton had won it three years in a row so all eyes were on him. After and epic final a young slalomist from the UK took the belt!
Practicing on the qualifier course during high flows
No turning back! Cruising into 'Minus 1'
Needless to say the Champions party was a little nuts! With slightly sore heads we started the long drive back to the UK. This was the most professional, intense and amazing event I have ever taken part in and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It’s made me more hungry to do better and put pressure on the racing scene, as we speak I’m working on purchasing a faster boat. With plans to hit the USA racing scene and dominate the UK racing scene, next year is looking full on! I’m very grateful for Nookies support throughout the event and supplying me with fantastic gear! Cheers guys, see you on the water!