First up was the British and Club Championships held in Nottingham. This was held only a week or two after I returned from America so I was on top form going into the event. I would have liked to say that I had a nice relaxing return to UK competition but I spent most of the weekend dashing around like a madman (maybe because I was!) as I was competing, judging, tallying the scores and organising 150 people to be in the right place at the right time! I must give a massive thanks to all those who volunteered their help on the day, the weekend couldn't of run without you. The Saturday consisted of the more relaxed events (although still highly competitive) which included:
- 45 Second Ergo Challenge - The name says it all really... how far can you go in 45 seconds on a kayak ergo?
- Extreme Slalom - Gates to go round, touch plates and balls to hit and freestyle moves to throw,6th Place
- Down River Race - Head to head racing all the way down the course.
- Triathlon - Kayak, Swim and Run... Very tough event this one and worth double points!
- Cartwheel Comp - How many ends can you throw in one attempt.
- Big Trick - Anything goes!
These were all based on different classes (expert, open, novice) and age groups (masters, seniors and juniors) as well as gender. Some events everyone competed together, some were split into these categories. Each paddler competing gets points for their club... 50 for a win, 47 for second 45 for third, 44, 43... etc. With a boat on offer for the winning club as well as a load of other great prizes everyone wanted to do their best for their club.
Sudbury Canoe Club wining a brand new D75 from Wavesport
I had a pretty good day all in all... I managed the greatest distance on the kayak ergo (cross training does work!) at 204m a win in the Triathlon and a joint first in the Cartwheel comp (24 ends) . I also managed a few other 3rd places. The other members of my club, North Avon, also did well and we went into the Sunday in Second place behind the reigning champions Sudbury Canoe Club.
Spectators enjoying the action
Sunday was the main freestyle event. With a jam session in the morning the event was designed to allow paddlers to do their best and encourage the less experienced. The top 5 in each class then when through to an ICF final. I managed to win both rounds of the C1 so got given the title as British C1 Champion! The standard of the finals this year was incredibly high. I remember scoring Rob Crowe's top ride about 1500 points in the final, a few years ago people were only managing that over two rides!
Judging the jam session
It was a fantastic end to the weekend seeing everyone's happy smiling faces during the prize giving... it definitely made all the work I had put in to the weekend worth it! If you havent entered the club champs before... its definitely worth a trip!
Handing out prizes
The next big event on was the Hurley Classic, now in its 24th year. Last year was big, this year was even bigger. With over 150 paddlers from 15 different nations it truly was an international standard competition. Once again though it the event really encourages people of all ability. There was novice coaching sessions on offer from Den Newton, head GB coach and the jam session heats muddle everyone up. Even as a novice paddler you could end up competing with (not against) world champions. I had the overall winner, Stephen Wright from the US in my heat!
Doug Cooper ripping it in the night final
Saturday consisted of GB Selections and an epic boaterX race with starting ramp, water cannon and "8 balls" (Aaron Dempsy and Andy Aldred) to bash you. The GB selection event went well as I placed in second but I definitely felt like I could have paddled better. The BoaterX had 5 rounds to get to through to reach the final and I managed to reach the quaterfinals. The course started with a massive starting ramp which launched the four competitors down into the water. You then had to fight your way through the 8 balls, fire man's water cannon and the river flow across to a yellow boy on the far side of the Thames. Once rounding this the return leg was the same with another boy to go round and the 8 balls to stop you in your tracks. The guys doing this job were certainly effective! In my final round I had a great start and reached the other side of the river way before the other 3 in my heat. I fought my way back across the river making good speed. Unfortunately due to my lead I was cannon fodder for the 8 Balls and I got trapped and lost my 30m lead and ended up in fourth. Still... it was great fun!
Night time BoaterX under floodlights
Sunday was the main freestyle jam session event. I had written a brand new scoring system for the event which linked the judges computers to a big screen in the marque. Paddlers could get off the water and see their scores instantly. We think this was the first time such as system has been used outside of an ECA or ICF sanction event. This kept me busy for the most of the day but I still managed a 3rd place C1 finish. The Hurley Classic is a really progressive event.... next year is the 25th year and I know there are some big plans on the table! Definitely keep your diaries open!
This weekend was the final two GB selection events as well as the GB Freestyle AGM. The selections are being held for the European Championships in Bratislava in September 2014. The day consisted of two events; one in the inlet gate and on in the twin waves. Once again the scores were huge and once again I judged Rob Crowe's top ride to be well over 1500 points. I got my best ever combined score for C1 and paddled really well, achieving two first place finishes which puts me in the team for my 4th consecutive year!
The full team can be found on the GB Freestyle website: http://gbfreestylekayak.com/etive/?page_id=388. I am currently in the process of updating the website... we already have past results from all the international competitions since 2003 and I am currently creating athlete bios for all the GB team members. Mine is the first up so have a look!
Splitting it up
At both Hurley and Selections it was great to paddle with fellow Nookie team mate and best buddy Sam. We both grew up paddling together, learnt to roll at the same time, pushed each other to progress and competed at our first international championships together. We both lived in Wiltshire about 10 minutes away and used to have regular trips to Hurley (including one I remember on a Wednesday afternoon when we should have been in school!), South Wales or the local Saltford Weir. Sam has moved down to Falmouth to study graphic design and I am in Derby completing my apprenticeship so paddling trips are now less often. It was great to catch up and plan our next boating adventure... Norway is on the cards for next summer! Who wants to join us?! Sam did well at selections and just missed out on a highly competitive British Team K1 place.
In the evening the GB freestyle AGM was held. I am in the process of writing up the minutes and these will be on the GB freestyle website shortly. I am in my second year as secretary which I am enjoying despite a heavy work load. It is great to get paddlers feedback on how we have been doing as a committee and how we can move forward. This year Tim Ward stepped down as chairman after 5 years in the job. Tim has done an amazing job and has overseen the transformation of GB freestyle from a small organisation into the international and national body it is today. Tim has left some big boots to fill but I am sure our new chairman, Lee Parry will do a fantastic job also in the role.
Few words on my kit... I have now had my new Airscrew cag for 5 months and it is still keeping me toasty warm and dry. The Iceman as ever is ensuring that cold days arent a put off and the TI vest is fantastic for the warmer adventures, whether that be surfing or competing in the world champs!
Thanks as ever to Nookie for support me,
See you on the water,