Tuesday, September 18, 2012

World Cup 3 – Nantahala Outdoor Centre, North Carolina (NOC)

The competition begins

Training quickly comes to an end and the competition begins. Up first its the mans heats, Jnr M, Jnr W, OC1 and squirt. Its strange not having my freestyle heats on the first day but gives me a good rest, or so I think. Early evening I jump onto compete in Squirt. Its only two, 1 minute, rides but here at this feature its super hard. I lay down some good runs getting a nice mystery 2 - 4 secs in each run and putting me through in first place. Islay competing but unfortunately doesn't make the cut. She’s in Stephens Kor but didn't get chance to practice before the event. She’s happy though as she still got some pretty good rides and had chance to test the venue out for next year.

Claire O throwing down some flat water squirt tricks

Saturday quickly comes and i'm up early, i'm on 2nd in the first heat and we are first on. I'm really enjoying this feature so am excited to go as I am beginning to figure out the spot. I know its super tricky so some moves go relatively easily (loops, felixs, ctwls) but others are super hard (phoenix, mcnastys, spaces). Its a cut to top 10 so I know its really important to get just 2 decent rides with the base moves. I hit an entry move and the loops and felixs in both rides and possibly one mcnasty. Its plenty to get me through. In fact the holes so tricky its enough to get me through in 1st place.

Claire O Freestyle heats

The rest of the heats go and then i'm back on. Today not only do we have the K1W heats but we also have the K1W semi finals. Its 2 rides again but this time only 1 ride counts. I'm up last so watch the others go. Again scores are super low. I nail my base moves and go for the Mcnasty right. With a huge!?! score of 360 I make the final cut again in 1st place. Emily, Ruth, Nina and Islay also make it through.

Claire O going for a huge air loop

Team GB's having a great event. Brandon Bren, Me, Islay and Chris Noble are all through to the finals and Pring and David also had great results.

Bren Orton secures his place in the finals

The party really kicks off saturday night and the whole place comes alive with music. Kokatat are putting on the evening activities so we get some great food, free drinks and a raffle. 

Party rolls on into the night at NOC

As the party really starts to liven up I call it a day and head to bed, its another very busy day tomorrow.

Judges, Officials and Announcers ready for another day of freestyle action

The music is set... let the finals begin

I wake up early. Its finals day and once more I am in one of the first heats. I head to the river with all my squirt boating kit ready to go. It turns out they forgot to do the OC1 semi finals yesterday so I have a bit of time to chill. Its another beautiful day on the Nantahala and as a result loads of people have come out to watch us perform. Chris Nobles in the OC1 semi finals and has some great rides but unfortunately its not enough to take him through. Jez (AUS) also paddles really well but also just misses the cut. 
Chris Nobles throws down hard in the OC1 event

Then its the Cadet class. Loads of U14's have entered and put on a great display. Paddling tiny Jackson Shooting Stars and Fun 1's (not all of them of course) they have a great time competing on the same feature and at the same event as their boating heros.

Cady Kellog waits for her turn in the Cadet competition

Cadet Class World Cup 2012

Next its the squirt boat finals time. Its me and Motoko in squirt boats and then Nuria, Zophia and Isabella in freestyle boats. Motoko goes first and puts down a great ride but just misses her mystery. I'm up next I get my mystery and throw down some moves but get flushed downstream into the shallows under the bridge. Next ride goes loads better and I get a great combination of freestyle tricks and a big mystery. 

Claire O squirt boating in the freestyle feature

Motoko gets her mystery in her final ride but its not quite enough to top my score so I take the win. So its Me (1st), Motoko (2nd) and then Nuria (3rd). We also all take the same positions in the overall series. Its a great display of squirt boating. I am excited for next years Worlds as although this is not a site we would typically choose to squirt, it works and its fun.

Claire O super cleans a split wheel during the victory lap

Squirt Boating podium Claire O, Motoko and Nuria

The finals quickly roll on. Dane Jackson (USA) wins the mens squirt and C1, Nuria Fontane-Maso (SPN) wins the JnrW, Bren Orton (GBR) wins the Jnr M and Seth Chappel (USA) wins the OC1.

Nuria secures her 3rd win to take the series titles in the Jnr W class

Bren takes his 2nd Gold of the series with Hunter in 2nd and Brandon in 3rd place

Before I know it its time to jump back on. Jez and Hobbie are calling our names, its time for the K1W finals to begin. Its exciting sharing the eddy with Ruth, Emily and Nina its once again a World Championship finals line up but even better is the fact that my team mate Islay is there too. Shes made her first international senior womens K1 final. Islay’s up first and throws down a great ride hitting all her moves. Then the rest of us go. Once again scores are low as we find it a challenge getting the boat to release to throw the big moves. End of run 1 and i'm in the lead but the scores are so low I know I am not safe yet.

Claire O brings round a Mcnasty

2nd rides and everyone steps it up. Islay’s currently in 4th beating Ruth but then Ruth throws an incredible run, Mcnastys, Phoneix, Loops and Ctwls, its sweet and puts her to the top of the leader board. Me, Emily and Nina raise our game but can't match Ruths 495 point score.

Claire O mid routine in the finals

Final runs = last chance. Emily moves up to 2nd place. Ruth keeps 1st, Nina is 4th and Islay is in 5th. I'm last and know what I need to do. Normally I have to hit at least 1 big move on top of my base moves but here today I need to not miss any of my big moves! The pressures on. Hobbie and Jez are giving me words of support over the Mic and Islay gives me a quick prep talk in the eddy. The thumbs up from Head Judge Sneaky Pete and I go. The next 45 seconds are a blur. I know I hit my Mcnasty right and a switch mcnasty left. I got a huge air loop, a felix and a ctwl – split – split – phoneix attempt. The run finishes and I hear everyone cheer. The other girls all come over and congratulate me on my run. It felt like a great run and from the response it must have looked pretty good too. Was it enough though?

K1W congratulate each other on a great finals competition

The scores are in... 633 points... I've done it. I got my second win of the series and I won the first international event to be held at the site of next year World Championships. But not only that i'm super happy as I laid down a super complex, impressive, fun run! What a finals!!!

Results in :o)

K1W podium. Claire O, Ruth and Emily

The excitement doesn't stop there. Next up its the senior mens. The battles and displays continue. Chonka lays down a huge first run that the others just can't reach.

Peter Chonka makes it look effortless

That is until Danes final run. Dane heads into the feature and lays down a smooth controlled run of the hardest tricks on the score board with loads of height and huge bonuses. The scores in and at the last second Dane moves up into 1st place with 1316 points, a huge score. Theres now only 1 paddler left, Chonka. Chonka sets off super strong and lays down every move at the hardest end of the score sheet, effortlessly, left and right! As he paddles the whole crowd goes wild. We all know we are watching something very special begin performed, live, right in front of our eyes. Peter throws Loops, McNastys L & R, Phoneixs L & R, Tricky Wu's L & R, Orbits L & R, Backloops... the list goes on. This runs insane!!!

Chonka claims the win after a very impressive final ride

Celebrations all around

Chonka wins his 3rd World Cup event, securing the World Cup title with a ride that will see him remembered in the minds of those watching and in the history of freestyle. Unbelievable!

Peter takes his title after 3 consecutive wins

The day ends, the World Cup series ends but for over 200 athletes, with less than 12 month until the 2013 World Championships back here at the NOC, training begins.

NOC site of the 2013 World Championships
Sept 6th - 9th 2013

What an incredible experience and event. Thank you to everyone involved in making this happen. Its was a fantastic experience a great World Cup series. Thank you.

Claire O World Cup Series winner SqW

The overall World Cup Freestyle Kayaking 2012 series winners are...

K1M – Peter Chonka (SVK)

Peter Chonka World Cup Series K1M 
K1W – Emily Jackson (USA)

SqM – Dane Jackson (USA)

SqW – Claire O'Hara (GBR)

C1 – Dane Jackson (USA)

OC1 – Seth Chappelle (USA)

Jnr M – Hunter Katich (USA)

Jnr W – Nuria Fontane-Maso (SPN)

For me its... 

5 wins out of 6 events.

World Cup Series 1st place Squirt Boating & World Cup Series 2nd place Freestyle Kayaking

What an event

I would like to say a personal special thanks to PeakUK, Jackson Kayak, TEVA, Murky Waters, VW Van Centre West Yorkshire, Mitchell Blades, Maui Jim, G Form, Alpkit, Robie Robes, Clay Wright, Dennis Newton my coach (Sweet Water Coaching) and everyone involved in helping run, organise and support this event; for making this whole experience possible.

Thank you

Sunday, September 09, 2012

World Cup Finals

World Cup Series Final
What an awesome end to a great 3 weeks of competition out here in the USA. 

This morning I won the squirt event and then won the Freestyle event at the Nantahala this afternoon in a super tense and exciting final. 

Claire O throwing down at the NOC
Ruth Gordan Ebens threw down some incredible rides raising the bar, followed by Emily Jackson. It was only during the last ride I managed to pull out some big tricks and links to take the win. 
Fun times :o) 

Check out my final ride at 33mins 30 secs here...


Overall I won the Squirt World Cup series and finished 2nd in the Freestyle World Cup series... sweet

Awesome rides for Team GB from Bren Orton to finish 1st in the Jnrs and Brandon Hepburn who won the Bronze :o)

Islay Crosbie and Christopher Noble also showed loads of style with some great rides on this the World Cup Finals Finals Day :o)
Comedy photos of each of the athletes as they perform... Islay!

Peter Csonka once again dominated the mens with an incredible final ride

Next stop Fascination Alley and the Gauley Festival...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

World Cup No 3 – Nantahala Outdoor Centre, NC (NOC)

NOC site of the World Cup Finals 2012
and World Championships 2013

Fresh from the Pigeon we arrived at NOC on Sunday afternoon, excited and ready to go. The NOC is not only hosting the final of the 2012 World Cup but will also be hosting the 2013 World Freestyle Kayaking Championships, so it is a very important event. For me my goal here is to suss out the venue and feature as part of my preparations and the beginning of my training for next years big event.

Training begins

The event officially starts on Friday so for the first time during this World Cup we have several days off official training slots. Team GB have been allocated a slot with Team Canada and we spend the first few days figuring out how to paddle the feature. The feature has been being built for over a year, with diggers regularly in the river trying to tweak and improve this river wide hole. At the moment its a fun but testing freestyle hole that allows all moves but really needs you to be on your game, and it makes you think. I like it loads. I can't do all my tricks here yet but it definitely has a lot of potential and i'm really enjoying having this full training practice week.

Brandon sets up for a sweet combo move

Around the feature, off the water the set up it great. Theres bars, restaurants and shops all over looking directly over the feature and loads of cabins and things to do all around. We have set up base in 'Base Camp' a bunk house / youth hostel style cabin complex just a few minutes walk from the wave. The weather at the moment is not great, its very British with regular rain showers and grey over cast skies but is a nice break from the last few weeks intense heat and is due to clear up as the week goes on.

Islay flys high during training
As well as training for freestyle I am also back on the water training for the squirt boating event. The squirt boating is taking place at the same spot as the freestyle. Its going to be a very tricky squirt feature but with a deep river left eddy and a powered up mystery drop of the surfers right shoulder of the wave it should work out to be quite good fun... or at least a very interesting event!!!

The event kicks off again on Friday and will be live streamed on...


Keep an eye on the following websites for news, info and write ups on the event...


For now I must go get ready to practice as my next training slot begins at 6.30pm

World Cup 2 - Pigeon Hole, TN

Day1 – The event begins

Arriving in style at Pigeon
After a recovery day in Rock Island with Islay and Clay we arrive to start training at Pigeon Hole, but the way the water release is working we are straight into competition. So Tuesday afternoon 1pm the water arrives and the event kicks off.

Claire O loving the feature
Pigeon hole is an incredible feature, super stable and super sweet so rides are really impressive from the start. All paddlers have the chance to show of the best of their paddling and its super impressive to watch the rides. Due to the lack of training time its noticeable how much each paddler improves during each ride as they figure out and adjust their style to suit the feature. Men are up first followed by Women. I love this feature and make the cut in 1st place. Pring and David also make it through to the next round with some impressive first runs.

Day 2 – The heat(s) continue

Bradon arrives and goes straight into action
Next day and its time for the junior classes, C1 and OC1. Bren absolutely tears up the feature as does Brandon in his first International World Cup event.

KC Jackson cheers on his big brother as he heads out to do his runs

The day finishes with the squirt boating heats on a sweet little seam just downstream of the main feature. The freestyle hole is closed during the squirt event so everyone comes and watches creating a great atmosphere. Again there are a lot of freestyle kayaks in the squirt heats but there are also 8 squirt boats (4 men and 4 women). The Pigeon spot has a great mystery seam that Alabama and Clay have been working on developing ready for the event. The event kicks of with the ladies and me, Motoko and Islay make it through as top 3 for the finals.

Clay doing what he does so well... disappearing!

In the mens its Clay and Dane who dominate with some sweet rides and mystery’s with Thomas not far behind in 3rd place.

Day 3 – Quarter and Semi Final time

Everyones having fun during the Ladies Semi Finals
Day 3 and its quarter and semi finals time. The mens quarters is a really hard cut. 20 paddlers all capable of throwing 1,000 point + rides all battling for the top 10 spot. Its another day of super exciting boating and in the end its Me, Pring, Bren and Brandon from Team GB who make it through the semi final cut.

Day 4 – The Day of REST!

No water at Pigeon = busy day on the Green
Friday comes and we have a day off! Because the river is completely dam release dependant and the Dams not scheduled to release today everyone has a day off. Loads of people head out to paddle at NOC and on the Green river. I opt to stay at Pigeon and have a chilled out day. Mid afternoon and theres excitement at the Pigeon camp. They have just released the dam so we do have water. Everyone who's left jumps on for some last minute practice. I chill for a bit then do 1 freestyle ride followed by a mystery session. SteveO helps me figure out the spot and i'm rewarded by some sweet 10 second rides.

ICF Judge Mark Sheppard enjoys the chance to get out of the judges stand and onto the water

Late that evening Clay and Islay return from the Green. Unfortunately Clays injured. He took a massive hit to his shoulder on one of the big 3 drops on this classic american creek and has damaged his AC joint. Luckily its not broken but he's in a lot of pain.

Day 5 - Finals
Claire O tears it up in the squirt finals

Finals day comes and we are kicking off the day with the squirt finals. I'm super excited to throw down a decent mystery during the event. First two rides I miss the head under mystery but throw down some sweet flat water routines using my stick (paddle). Then for my final ride 'victory lap', as I have already done enough to win, I switch to hand paddles. I set myself up in the eddy and wait for the seam to appear. Theres nothing there, I sit and wait and then see it approaching, rolling down the eddy line. I go, hit it and sink. The water lower today so I have to work hard to keep the boat down and make it spin. I'm under, i'm under, i'm under, i'm out of breath! I resurface throw an exit kickflip and then take a gasp of air and hear the spectators erupt with cheers. I have still got loads of time left so I then throw down a mix of flat water freestyle squirt tricks.

Motoko dropping deep into the mystery seam
Islay and Motoko also throw down some great squirt rides and mysterys taking the 2nd (Motoko) and 3rd (Islay) place. A nice start to the finals day here at Pigeon. Next up its the mens. Clay paddles with only 1 hand! And its another super impressive display of flat water freestyle and squirt boating tricks. 

The guys line up in the eddy ready to compete
Danes really maximises on the bonuses on the score sheet throwing down some super impressive squirt routines combined with a nice mystery taking 1st place. Clay somehow pulls out a huge 700+ point run using just 1 hand finishing in 2nd and Bartosh wins the flat water freestyle throw down against Thomas and Quim to take the 3rd place spot.

Quim throwing some massive flat water freestyle tricks

Quickly everything then moves back to the top feature for the freestyle finals. Junior women start us off followed by the OC1. To say that this is one of the best demonstrations by these paddlers of how far this sport has come is an understatement. All the paddlers lay own some huge rides with Mcnastys, Space Godzillas, Helixs and Loops not only being scored by the Junior Women but also the OC1. Nuria takes her 2nd World Cup win and Seth shows extraordinary canoe skills to take the OC1 win.

It not often we see air under an inverted OC1

Then its time for the flying Bren. He has some great competition in the Junior mens from Hunter and the other young paddlers but Bren is on fire at the moment and flys during his rides laying down some massive combos leaving even the judges looking shocked cruising straight into the Gold medal spot.

Bren effortlessly throws down some of the hardest moves in the sport to take the junior win

After Brens victory rides its the C1. Another impressive battle between some World Class Canoe paddlers. Its not surprise as World Champion Dane Jackson takes the win in his 2nd of 3 finals of the day.

Dane makes C1 look far to easy in the finals

Then i'm back on for the women's finals. I'm super excited to paddle the hole again and try and lay down a complex, hard, high scoring run. The line up in the eddy is impressive, its the same as the World Championships final results last year which really shows the high standard here at these events. My first ride is Entry, McNasty, Loop, Space Godzilla, Felix, Space Godzilla, McNasty, Split, Phoneix. Its a super fun run. I don't score everything but get over 580 points which is enough to take the win. Emily, Ruth, Nina and Hayley are also throwing down some massive runs and Emily takes Silver with Nina getting a great second ride to secure the Bronze.

Claire O sets up for a phoenix monkey during the ladies finals

The action on the water comes to a final peak in the senior mens finals. Impressive, fast, dynamic, insane... these words don't even given full credit to the standard of rides being laid down in these runs. The guys all fly. Each using slightly different techniques and routines they try and up their scores to take the win. In the end its the powerhouse from Slovakia Peter Chonka that takes the Gold, his second World Cup win, with a massive 1,416 point run!!! Close on his tail were Dane and Quim and not far behind them where Stephen and Pring.

Csonka celebrates his 2nd World Cup win

In keeping with the lovely, fun, all inclusive style of the event, the Pigeon World Cup event comes to an end with the awards ceremony. Each athlete is lead up to the podium by a local youngster who awards them with their medal whilst other local kids raised their national flag. A fitting finish to another great event.

Bren takes a well earned Gold medal home in the Jnr Mens

Claire O celebrating the ladies win with Emily and Nina
Islay celebrates winning her first ICF medal
Thank you once again to everyone involved in every aspect of this World Cup competition, especially the local raft guides. It is incredible to think that a year ago this feature did not exist. This whole event was made possible by the hard work, determination and drive of a few local raft guides who had a vision for their river and took the time to hand build the feature by moving hundreds of rocks.

KC Jackson practises climbing onto the podium.
Its not going to be long until this is a regular scene ;o)
Nice work...Thank you!

Thank you to James Bebbington & Katya (RiverZoo.com), Philip Robert, Jackson Kayak, Nuria Fontane Maso and others for the great photos