Friday, August 31, 2012

World Cup No 1 - Rock Island, TN

Day 1 – Training Day

Its great meeting up with friends old and new from across the World 

World Cups are amazing because I get to meet up with so many friends from across the World and share some great competition experiences with them. One of the downsides of this though is that this means most of the top freestyle kayakers from across the world are all in the same place, at the same time and the eddy ques (line ups) are huge. With over 120 paddlers competing at this years Rock Island World Cup event the line ups are massive and because of super low water year in the USA we only have a 3 hour dam release on which to all practice on the wave for the event! Luckily today they have split us all into 3 groups. So I join approx 45 others in the first 1 hour for my chance to practice on the wave.

Rock Island Tennessee!!!

Rock Island is a sweet little wave hole situated under an impressive waterfall. Theres nowhere I have ever competed quite like it. The waterfall creates an atmospheric mist and background noise of cascading water that you can;t help but be enthralled by as you surf the wave. The feature itself is great, a very tricky but very fun wave. In the 1 hour slot I get 3 rides and begin to get a feel for the shape and quality of the feature.

As water time is limited we also spent the day getting a guided tour of the Jackson Kayak factory

Ideally in the lead up to a major international event I would prefer much more practice time on the water but 3 rides is what we have all had so I quickly come up with a plan and spend the next 2 hours watching the others and studying the way they use the wave. Its super impressive watching the locals, Emily, Dane, Nick and EJ as they cruise around and generate power from each pocket in the wave. By 6pm the waters gone. So we spend the evening catching up, chilling out and getting ready for the event to kick off.

Three new Murky Water Slips all ready for the competition ahead

Day 2 – Freestyle Heats

In the hot spot with Head Judge Sneaky Pete Harmer
(photo by

Its an early start. The waters turing on for 10am and I have been asked to Judge the mens so need to be down at the river and ready to go by 9.30am. I spend the money judging the mens heats and then its my turn to go. I'm excited and a little nervous as I have no idea how well this will go. My first rides good and my seconds ok. I'm not sure its enough but i'm pretty happy with my rides, all things considering.

Claire O surfing looking for a big move set up
(photo by Philip Roberts)

Results are in. Scores are super low but I made it in 3rd behind Emily and Adriane so i'll be progressing through to the semi finals :o)

Emily Jackson showing some real style as she tears up her home spot

Day 3 – Squirt Finals

Everyone gets a little practice in before the event begins

Again its another early start. This time i'm judging the mens squirt. Its a super impressive event with a mix of different styles. Thomas (POL) is in a freestyle boat throwing a super impressive and fast flat water routine. Dane (USA) and Jeremy (USA) combine a nice mix of flat water squirt boating routines with mystery moves. But its Clay Wright (USA) who steels the show with a massive 21 second mystery move followed by a routine of all the hardest squirt boating flat water moves. With a huge score of 1,500 points he comfortably takes the win.

Clays happy with his 1st place World Cup ranking after a great ride

Normally I love to challenge myself against the guys results at these events but having only ever done one 20 second ride in my life today its going to be hard. First ride up I miss my mystery but lay down a nice flat water routine, 450 points, not bad. 2nd run, first up its Motoko (JPN). She puts down a sweet routine followed by a head under mystery move, 820 points!, game on I have to improve. I drop in with a 4 second mystery to start. Then I rack out as many top end flat water moves as I can. 980 points, i'm back in the lead. Motoko throws her 3rd run but it doesn't top her second run score. 

Head Squirt Judge Stephen Wright keeps everyone updated with the scores and all the action

The other girls are battling it out for 3rd place in playboats. They have some great rides but without a mystery can't quite beat our scores. Nuria (SPN) wins the flat water freestyle squirt battle taking a well earned 3rd. With 1 ride to go and having already secured 1st place I decide to give my last ride ago with hand paddles. A skill I have been working on this year. I get a sweet mystery move and throw some whirly gigs. Hand paddles are definitely an advantage underwater. This could be something I am going to work on more.

Jordan Poffernburg throws some huge moves in the C1 heats

Jez drives back up the eddy during the OC1 heats

Upstream on the waves things have also been busy with the junior men and OC1 heats underway. Bren Ortons (GB) on fire and finishes in first in the juniors and Chris Noble (GB) puts down two great rides in OC1. Before I know it i'm back in the judging stand for the senior mens quarter finals. Its only been 3 weeks since Pringle (GB) broke his collarbone. He's paddling well but doesn't have his usual explosive power. He's made the quarters but can't make enough points to reach the next round. Hopefully he'll be back to full form in 2 weeks by the NOC.

Broady Kellogg is cheered on as he competes in his first International Competition

Nick (CAN) throws down some huge moves to take the lead with Dane (USA) and Peter Chonka (SVK) close on his heels. The day finishes and we are all exhausted. A lot of people have now finished competing so tonight is 'the loosers' party. My finals are first thing tomorrow so I skip the party. Islays super keen and has a great night line dancing and partying with all the other guys and girls. Special thanks has to go to EJ and Kristine for opening up a free beer tab for everyone behind the bar.

Day 4 – Freestyle Finals

Coutney Kerin goes huge during her ride in the finals
(photo by RiverZoo.Eu)

Its finals day. Ladies are up first and i'm excited to go. I'm in the 2nd heat so watch the first 5 go. Everyones beginning to figure out the feature much better now and there some good loops being thrown. I'm up and go out hard. Problem is hard doesn't work here and before I realise it I have flushed. I battle to get up the right eddy. Bad choice as it takes twice the time of the river left eddy I make it back up but with only 2 seconds to spare. No moves = no points! Oh well 1 more ride still to go. Todays semis, its 2 rides each but only 1 counts so I still have plenty of opportunity to do enough to get through. I've been watching the others go so I know I only need 1 big move to make it through. I really need to just take my time.

Claire O regains composure between runs
(photo by RiverZoo.Eu)

2nd ride, I drop down. Surfing around I get a great pass for a roundhouse / blunt but decide to let it go. It wouldn't be enough points to go through and is an easy move for me to flush on so could end my ride. I set up for a felix.At 100 points its the perfect move. I flip rotate and pull it round. It nice but feels like it fell a few degrees short. I try and power it to finish linking it to a spin. Then I catch an edge and flip. This time I head left. It way faster and super cool. I paddle up behind the waterfall punching out through the curtain of cascading water to reappear above the feature and then its a short ferry glide back into the hole. 5 seconds left. I set up for a big loop. I get air but land hard and slightly to the left flushing out of the hole. I'm super happy with my ride especially the paddle back up behind the water fall but i'm not sure i've done enough. The loop definitely didn't score and my felix fell that little bit too short. Results are in and i'm in 6th just missing the cut but i'm happy. I enjoyed the rides.

Adriane cools down and wakes up ready for her final runs
(photo by Philip Roberts)

Dane Jackson relaxes between his finals and watches his sister Emily Jackson win the womens event

Time quickly flys by as the finals begin. Nouria (SPN) wins the junior girls, Hunter (USA) takes 1st in the junior boys, Jordan (USA) wins the OC1, Dane (USA) wins the C1, Emily (USA) wins the ladies and Peter Chonka (SVK) wins the mens. My highlights of the event were watching Emily and Clay throw down some incredible rides watching everyone cheer as Chonka won the mens after getting some huge air moves.
Quim Fontane warms up under the waterfall before the mens finals

The event finishes with a lovely meal and celebration at the Foglight Inn. The top 3 in each category are awarded with specially designed Rock Island World Cup 2012 baseball caps and all the helpers and volunteers names are put into a raffle to win a Go Pro Hero 2. I have a great night chatting to the Japanese team, using my new learn Japanese phrasebook (thank you Motoko) and catching up once more with everyone from the event.

Souvenirs from a World Cup Event

Massive thanks has to go to everyone from Jackson Kayak and at Rock Island for hosting the event, all the officials, volunteers and judges who helped run the event and the paddlers for making it such a great week.

Rolling out and back to the Pigeon aka Dirty Bird!

Now its time to say goodbye to Rock Island and pack up and head back to Pigeon Hole, Tennessee.

Thank you to James Bebbington and Katya Katalova (RiverZoo.EU), Jackson Kayaks, Philip Roberts and Islay Crosbie for the photos