The 2008 freestyle kayaking season kicked off with a short journey from Teesside to the mighty Washburn River. The Washburn is a fast flowing, shallow river which is fed from the base of a dam so is extremely cold.
The timing of the event couldn’t have been more perfect. Having finished 5 years of university on the Friday, it was a good time to go and relax and catch up with some friends. I set off early Saturday morning slightly blurry from the previous evenings partying but managed to drag along a couple of people (Sam and Dave) from the university club to take part in their first event.
First up on the Saturday was the boater cross heats. These were fiercely competed with some frantic paddling, some good lines and some not so good lines being taken along the course. With two tricky gates to be navigated I went from it from the off to make sure I was in pole position to get around them. I hit the first gate in second position but was really tight so managed to pass the leader on the inside. However, disaster struck as I couldn’t carry my momentum through the turn and got sucked back into the hole. I was soon joined by two other competitors and finally managed to fight my way out in 3rd place. This put me into the plate competition. I then quickly ran my boat to the top of the course to paddle down as safety for Sam in the ladies competition. Sam, up against three of the countries top female paddlers did really well winning her first ever race (although as an incubator she missed the poles out).
The freestyle heats followed with some spectacular rides in the expert men’s with Ed Smith consistently landing the big moves. I came off the water a little disappointed with my runs although I was later to learn I had placed 3rd in the heats so was really happy.
After the Saturday evening pub quiz, paddlers slowly made their way back to the course on the Sunday morning for the Boater X semis. Again the event was well contested and I had a good run despite finishing 3rd. Apologies to the person I landed on at the second gate!
Sunday afternoon consisted of the finals for all the events. As always the Old Gits and Incubator freestyle was highly entertaining with some awesome old school moves being pulled out of the bag! Congrats to Alex, Dave and Sam who all did really well in their first event. The women’s freestyle final followed with Claire and Emily fighting it out for the title. Some good ends and supercleans saw Claire emerge victorious. The men’s final was hotly contested as always. The knockout final encouraging people to go for their big tricks saw a spectacular display of what was possible in a small hole. Ed Smith came out on tope after consistently landing several big moves in each of his rides.
All in all the event was relaxing and a good way to get into the 2008 season. It would be good to see more women and incubators at futures events though, the events are very chilled out with safety and coaching available. Unfortunately I’ll be missing the next event at Tryweryn but am already looking forwards to Nottingham in September.