Thursday, May 16, 2013

Plattling European Cup Event 2013

This weekend kicked off the 2013 international freestyle kayaking circuit with the Plattling, European Cup event in Germany. The European Cup is a 3 part series that runs the same year as every World Championships. Unlike the European and World Championships it is not a national team only entry event so as well as the usual big team paddlers it also attracts a wide variety of new names. This years event coincided with the German Championships and the national team selections so it was a largely German dominated in every field. That said there was also a very international representation with paddlers coming from as far a field as New Zealand, Korea, Russia and the USA to take part.

Reunited with friends from across the globe
The weather in the lead up to the event was amazing, beautiful blue skies, warm weather and sunshine. But as the event drew closer the weather took a turn for the worse and with the exception of the finals the entire event took place in bitter cold winds and pouring rain. Despite the weather the atmosphere was positive and everyone went out and threw down hard. With the excessive amount of rain Plattling, the normally friendly feature became a very difficult flushy hole. Scores were significantly lower across all fields compared to past events and it was a relief for paddlers (myself and Pringle included) to make it through each round with some well known top level paddlers not making the cut to finals.

All cameras on Pringle

Arriving only a few days before the event with a serious case of jet lag I got in as many training sessions as possible before the event started. It was great to be back in a boat and transitioning back to Plattling style paddling with all the memory’s from the last world championships still fresh in my mind. By the time the competition started I was back to full energy and ready to throw down. With the change in water levels came a change in strategy. My first rides in every round became a gauge from which I could adjust and build on my routine to best suit the feature at the time. The quality of paddlers combined with changing water levels made it one of the most challenging events I have competed in for a while.

Throwing a big clean air loop

Loading up for a Space Godzilla

The squirt event saw my first return to my tiny 'slip' squirt boat since December 2012. Squirt boating is such an incredible sport it felt amazing being back on the water throwing such a smooth flowing boat around. During my first run my mystery took me by surprise, as I disappeared under water I remember thinking to myself that after six years in the sport I should really know better. I had forgotten to take a breath before my decent and was rapidly shooting back to the surface gasping for air.

Reunited with my squirt boat this time in the rain

Overall the paddlers from Great Britain had a great start to the series with James 'Pringle' Bebbington winning bronze in the open Mens K1 followed closely by James Weight and Ryan Liquorish with George Younger not far behind. Josh Wedgewood claimed 5th place in the C1 finals and Sam Stevenson was crowned king of the wave.

James Weight Dropping in for his first ride

Pringle loading up a sweet entry move

Bartosh (POL) and Jason (NZL) celebrate
In the end the Germans dominated the podium taking gold in all but two fields, squirt and K1 women’s. Reliving the dream of my 2011 World Championships I had a great finals day bringing home gold in both disciplines.

Celebrating with Max (SWE) and Jeong (KOR) from Korea

Winning the freestyle keg

Thanks to the organiser for putting on another great event and kick starting the 2013 international freestyle circuit in style.

Winners Podium (GBR & GER)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Over 13,000 miles... Sydney to Plattling via the UK

Sydney life

The last two weeks in Australia went by in a bit of a blur of adventure filled fun. The Aussie Junior Nationals took place on a beautiful British day, with a grey cloud filled sky and the heavens open from start to finish, but this didn't faze the young paddlers who came out and threw down for the national title and to win their place on the 2013 team.  For some it was their first event others were seasoned competitors and they all showed great skill and attitude as they showed off their moves on the Skippy wave.

Juniors no deck race in the rain

Loving the weather : 1 bad day in 4 months is ok I guess

After the event life continued as normal (Aussie style) with a mixture of boating at the course, biking in the beautiful blue mountains and wake boarding and SUP'ing at Cables. Before I knew another 2 weeks had gone past and it it was time to go home, but with talk of snow and rain and very low temperatures in the UK v's the 25 degree +and sunshine in Sydney I just couldn't do it. So I changed my flight and stayed and extra 8 days.

The 3 sisters and the Blue Mountains

Bondi Beach

Penrith WWC
Sydney Olympic Park

Sydney Opera House at Night
This was a great decision as it gave me the chance to hit the coast and surf some famous bays and on my last day I had the chance to go on a trip of a lifetime up the Sydney harbour bay and out to the ocean at Manly with the Taylor family and Jez on their private speed boat. The perfect finish to another incredible trip.

What a view for my last day

The change of dates worked out perfect as I arrived back home on the 2nd May to 20 degrees and sunshine, Hurley on 2 and HPP in the sun. Getting in some quality good old British boating and having chance to have a good old catch up with some great friends.

Hurley time

Now 6 travel days and over 13,000 miles later I find myself back at a very familiar destination 'Plattling' for this weekends European Cup event and guess what.... 'its raining!!!'

Heres a link to the video and interview I did with Rob van Bommel from Sport Scene whilst training in Australia about my last 5 months and training for the 2013 World Championships.

In this 20-minute documentary Sportscene Director Rob schmoozes over the growing popularity of kayak-trick disciplines with World Freestyle and Squirt Champion, GB's Claire O'Hara.