Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Freestyle @ Penrith WWC

Enjoying training in the sun (photo by Jez)

Returning to Australia after my NZ adventure I was fuelled by an excitement to get back out and paddle on the Penrith WWC. Having been spoilt by the friendliness, quality and ease of the Hawea waves it was a good challenge to be back training on this tricky little hole. Phoenix’s were much easier here, as were tricky wu's. But a lot of the other moves were a lot more challenging. Even the simple stuff like cartwheels and loops.

Claire O Training at Penrith (photo by Jez)

Penrith is an interesting place for freestyle. On the course there is one main hole for freestyle and a few other waves and holes that are ok. The main hole is good but has its own little intrigues that make it a testing place to train. Its fast, narrow, flushy and shallow. If you throw the move in the right place and in the right way it goes massive and feels amazing. But, throw it wrong and you get power flipped, hit the floor or get flushed.

Setting up for a big McNasty (photo by Jez)

Its a funny little spot as after hours of work I would finally begin to master a move and then the next session if I was even a little bit tired or forgot one tiny little detail that had made it work, I would find that the move would not work and would be gone again! Added to this was the challenge of the venue. Set half way down the course. The hole is directly above a sticky little pour over that is the main play spot for rafts on the run. Because this is a pumped course the only time we can access the river to train for freestyle is when the rafts are on. So for ½ – ¾ of each and every session theres rafts surfing the hole creating a man made inflatable under cut only a matter of meters behind the main play spot.

Focusing on the move (photo by Jez)

In Australia they also have a very well implemented 'upstream rule'. The theory is that a paddler or boat upstream has right of way all of the time. In practise this means that even if you are part way through a move or run you have to give way to boats from above and will find boats flying down the course towards you non stop. This challenge of looking upstream (all the time). Whilst paddling a fast, tricky, shallow and flushy feature. In which, if you flush, you need to hit your first roll without delay and then paddle hard to avoid the inflatable undercut in the pour over below you. Makes training here interesting to say the least.

Great photo Collage of photos made by Nouria of the freestyle action at the Penrith

The locals have it dialled in and show that the feature can and does work. Throwing every possible hole tricky. But its not easy and each move really has to be earnt and takes a long time to learn. Over the course of my final 3 weeks I paddled a lot which was great and combined with 5-6 sessions a week of what was now extremely high level and intense fitness training with Abel and the team at I was really beginning to feel ready for the season ahead.

Gilbert throws a sweet Entry Move

Mitch Taylor styling it at the Nationals
Josh, Tim and Jez Celebrate winning the Aussie Nationals

I trained a lot with Jez, Rich and the Aussie team as well as Anna Orvolva from Russia, Dave and Beans from the USA, Nouria Neuman from France and over 100+ slalom paddlers from all across the World, who were hear to compete in the forthcoming Junior and U23 World Championships. Each of whom I had the unfortunate pleasure of surfing the hole with at some stage during my last two weeks thanks to the 'upstream rule', before having a close call or full on collisions with a surfing raft!

Dreaming of the Cloud like Hawea Waves back in NZ (photo by Jez)