Monday, June 24, 2013

Payette River Games 2013

Stephen Wright going huge in 2012

Last year I saw this photo of Stephen Wright and knew that this was a feature I would really like to visit. Then in September at the World Cups I was told about the 2013 Kelly's white water park event, a big white water festival that would be hosted at the end of the US freestyle tour. 1 year on and I am out here in Idaho having just competed in the first annual Payette River Games event.

Kellys White Water Park

The Payette River Games is the brain child of Mark and Kristina Pickard. Mark funded and built the Kelly's Whitewater Park to celebrate the life of his Kristina's sister Kelly, who was tragically killed in a car crash in 1997. The park which was built to celebrate her spirit and love of the river and the great outdoors has revolutionised the small idaho town of cascade and now draws hundreds of paddlers each year.

Kelly Brennan Memorial

Hosts of the US Freestyle Kayak Nationals in 2012 they decided to increase the event size this year and make it a multi sport event. So this weekend saw hundreds of athletes, from golfers to volleyballers, kayakers to stand up paddlers, climbers to lumber jacks and fitness fanatics, travel to Idaho to compete in a whole array of events.

Training begins on the brand new Volleyball court

Over the course of the weekend I competed in 3 events (freestyle, sprint and boater cross) completing my own boating triathlon. The sprint and boater cross was quite a shock to the system as training for freestyle I rarely paddle forward anymore. So the 1.5 mile flat water sprint really tested me physically and mentally as I raced against some very experienced sprint competitors. In the boater cross I had great fun battling competitors young and old to try and be the first across the finish line and progress through each round.

Competitors wait for the boater cross shuttle

And in the freestyle well, Kellys Top hole is amazing. A tough yet awesome river wide hole with the perfect wave shoulder capable of allowing athletes to throw every possible wave and hole move. It was great to be out here in America competing against all my US tour friends again especially to see how much they had come on since last year.

Plugging for a big loop

In the freestyle competition despite leading all the prelim rounds I couldn't bring it together to match Emily Jackson's first ride in the finals. She threw an awesome wave routine and at 8 months pregnant took the win. However I was very happy with 2nd place and my rides especially after having had only a few days practise here at Kelly's before the event.

Courtney Kerin (NZ) throwing down in the finals

In the end the Sprint and Boater cross results were combined and US downriver champion Adrivene Levknecht took the win with a clear lead and, in a big boat for the first time in almost a year, I was again very happy to take another 2nd place finish. Especially after a super fun and well fought boater cross final battle with young US paddling super star 12 year old Sage Donnelly.

Loving life in Cascade Idaho

All in all it was an amazing event at an awesome whitewater park on a beautiful sunny weekend. Thousands of people came out to celebrate and watch all the athletes compete for the massive prize purse (the biggest kayaking purse in the world) put forward personally by the Pickards.

Mark and Kristina Pickard enjoy the event

And the original inspiration for me coming to the event, Stephen Wrights huge loop. Well this weekend at the first annual Payette River Games Stephen Wright set a new World record for the highest score in a 1 minute ride using the US scoring system with a huge 2160 points! What an event!

Stephen Celebrates his winning ride

I have to say a massive thank you to a number of companies and individuals who have played a huge part in helping me be able to attend this event. Special thanks to Sweetwater Coaching, Peak UK, Jackson Kayak, Teva, Alpenglow Mountain Sport store, Phillip Robert, the Donnelly family and of course Mark and Kristina Pickard and the team at Kelly's for creating such an awesome white water park and putting on such a massive fun event.

All photos by Phillip Robert.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Training in Nottingham

2013 thus far has been a whirl wind tour jumping from country to country leading up to the 2013 freestyle kayaking world championships. Creeping into June the UK stage of preparation is coming to a close and in less than a week I fly to America for the final stage of training before the big event.

Fun times back at Nottingham

Over the past three weeks I have based myself at the National Water Sport Centre in Nottingham, arguably one of the best training grounds in the world. I have been working closely with my coach Denis Newton (Sweet Water Coaching) and training along-side extremely talented paddlers including international athletes Jason Searle (NZ) and Maria Lindgren (SWE). It has been a very productive few weeks.

Jason throwing a big clean air loop

My return to Nottingham brought new focus. Under the guidance of Den I poured everything I’ve got into technical development, fine tuning existing skills and developing new ones. In this short amount of time I have significantly boosted my repertoire of available (competition ready) moves. I arrived in Nottingham with the goal of honing my Space Godzilla’s and Phoenix Monkeys to a higher level of competitive confidence. Not only did I achieve this goal but I surpassed my expectations opening up the Tricky Wu and Lunar Orbit two extremely technical and difficult moves to master.

Sessioning the Space Godzilla

Challenging myself with these new moves has allowed Den to work with me on many technical, tactical, psychological and physiological skills vital to my performance at the upcoming world championships. Motivated by Den and the local paddlers Bren, Brandon and Rob I have also pushed my boating to a new level trying crazy new combos and links a major step in making my style more adaptive and flowing.

Recovering and video reviewing at the Peak UK cafe between sessions

If you haven't yet had coaching I would highly recommend it. The difference it can make to your paddling is out of this world. In the 5 days I have spent with Den I have improved more than in the last 6 months of just boating full time!

Training with Den

Looking back on the past three weeks I can see a dramatic improvement and a newly restored confidence to my paddling. Thanks to Den and all the dedicated paddlers who have helped me stay positive and focused on attaining my goals you helped make them a reality.

Looking for the tricky wu

Here’s a quick highlights video showcasing the best of the action from my time here at HPP...

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Game. Only one can win. Freestyle Kayak Movie ... now online

2 years ago whilst training in Plattling, Germany for the 2011 World Championships I meet Polly Green who was filming her journey to become the next freestyle World Champion. It was amazing spending time with Polly and finding out about her journey to the competition that I was also competing at. Its always interesting in freestyle meeting new paddlers and making new friends especially on the competition circuit when these same paddlers and friends are also the your main competition. What is great and what I have learnt over the last few years paddling is that it is about more than just the competition. Polly and I both competed at the World Championships along with many of our other friends and fellow paddlers from across the world. Even though we all competed in the same class at the same event we all had different experiences and different outcomes competitively from the event, yet we all learnt so much through the experience and our lives very much changed as a result.

Friends and competitors

It was an incredible event and really showcased how far women's freestyle has come. Polly documented the whole thing with help from Sportscene and has since spent a lot of time putting together a movie about the journey upto, during and since the event. The movie is called 'Game. There can only be one.' It is a movie about freestyle and about winning, but it is also about so much more than  that.

Filming in New Zealand
It is a result of a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication by Polly and I hope that it goes onto inspire a lot of future paddlers to go out, follow their dreams and reach their best and more than anything enjoy the rivers and this wonderful sport.

Check out a great intro and review of the movie here on sportscene...

Heres the Trailer...

Game Kayak Movie Trailer from polly green on Vimeo.