Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 Mystery World Championships

Clay Wright prepares for action as
Claire O drops for a ride in the distance

They say theres a spot called the Leslie deep in the Great Smokey Mountains that offers some of the the best rides in the World. They say its the deepest, smoothest seem out there and offers some of the longest timed rides. They say its clear water and you can see everything as you go. They say its epic... Its true!

An amazing array of boats gather for the event

This weekend the 2013 Mystery World Championships took place on the newly discovered Lesley mystery seam. With over 50 competitors it was by far the largest squirt boat competition held to date. With legends in the sport, old and new, turning out to take their rides. It was a showcase of the best mystery squirt boating in the world with athletes travelling in from all across North America and as far away as Japan and the UK to compete.

Claire O and Jim Snyder

Squirt Boating is a very specialist form of white water kayaking in which super low volume custom designed kayaks are used to tap into the 3rd dimension / level of the river, exploring the realms of flow deep below the waters surface. The mystery move, which is what this event is all about, is the process of paddling into a river flow and driving the boat deep below the river surface using the underwater currents to take a journey under the river.

Super low volume custom squirt boats

For a mystery World Championships the athletes, 'Zombies' as they are often know, have to stay under the waters surface for as long as possible. Each athlete has 5 attempts, with their worst ride being dropped and the rest combined to give their overall ride time. The time starts each time the top of their helmet disappears below the surface and stops as soon as their helmet reappears.

Steve O drops in for a ride

Jim Snyder designer, legend and pioneer of the sport
watches as a paddler disappears out of sight

Amidst a flotilla of rafts and duckies the event kicked off mid afternoon Saturday on a beautiful hot, sunny day. The Leslie is at an isolated spot halfway down the Hiwasee river so everyone who came to watch and compete had to float in downstream and spend the day chilling on the newly created raft village tied to a small island in the middle of the river or hike the 2 miles into the river and sit and watch from the a large rock over hanging the seem on the rivers side.

Its quite a gathering

Team Japan cheer from the Island

Unlike most events where athletes had to get psyched up before each ride and crowds holler and cheer, this event required a much more peaceful, relaxed, mellow, at times silent, chilled out feel. As athletes tried to get as calm as possible, lowering heart beats, maximising breath control and preparing to go deep and hold their breath as long as possible in order to gain the longest ride.

Steve O prepares for his rides

Rider after rider the paddlers cruised up to the seem and disappeared. Everyone watching trying to spot the glimmers of colours as the boats spun round and round below the surface of the water taping into the hydro flows. Athletes working with the currents trying to stay down as long and deep as possible. Before eventually either losing connection and being released, or purposely driving their boats skywards resurfacing gasping for air.

Claire O takes a last gasp of air

It quickly became apparent that this seam was really really good. It was World Class. As time after time paddlers broke the 10, 20 and 30 second ride limit and as the athletes with a dive watch read in a few 14 foot + deep ride. Although actually depth doesn't count, generally the deeper you go down the longer you can stay down (so long as you keep it spinning and stay calm). Try holding your breath for 40 seconds. Now try whilst skipping gently or walking across a slackline, thats what is like whilst mysterying. Except your also trying to stay calm whilst having the water pressure pushing on you from all around and whilst constantly working trying to keep the boat spinning so as to remain deep under the water. As soon as your boat stops spinning your ride is over as the squirt boat will loose pressure with the water and quickly come back up to the surface. It's similar to a helicopter propeller spinning and the air pressure keeping it up a squirt boat must keep spinning in order for the water pressures to keep it down. Stop the spin and the helicopter falls from the sky or the squirt boat flies back to the surface.

Motoko resurfaces from her ride

Shona keeps the boats spinning as she tries to tap in to the seam

The event ran from 1-6pm with so many riders it took a long time to get through all the rides. In the ladies class Claire O'Hara (UK) set a new women's world record and took home the Women's World Champion title with some sweet 18 second long rides, with a female class of 7 athletes it was the best turn out in the ladies event ever at a Mystery Worlds.

Claire O wins with a mixture of paddle and hand paddle rides

Claire O resurfaces with a kick flip exit move
Mystery World Champion Claire O'Hara

In the mens there were some epic rides with all the top 20 competitors having rides over 20 seconds and the top 8 all getting 30 second or longer rides. When local Tennessee Mystery Squirt Boating super star Taft Sibley (USA) took his rides, each over 30 seconds, and hit one at 39.18 seconds the crowds went wild. They knew they had just seen something special, as he set himself a place in squirt boating history winning his second Mystery World Champion title and setting a new World Record for the longest mystery ride (recorded during a competition) beating his own previous record not just once but two times!

Tennessee local squirt boating super star Taft
drops in for the first of many epic rides

Leslie Squirt Boating Gathering Champion Taft Sibley presented by
event organiser and superb squirt boater Jeremy Pou

Mystery World Champion Taft Sibley

Lone Wolf Longest Ride Champion Taft Sibley

After all the action finished on the water the gathering moved back to the campsite where everyone tucked into some great food and great beer as the organisers worked out the results and presented the awards.

Everyone gathers for a apres sink taco

Claire O, Motoko and Ken Team GB and Team Japan

Everyones gathers and enjoys the free beer

Claire O and super coach Den (Sweetwater Coaching)

All in all it was an amazing event and a great showcase of squirt boating. Its exciting to think how far this sport has come and it will be awesome to see it continue to progress, with new boats, new paddlers, new limits and new spots, and thrive in the future. As the Zombies keep searching for the ultimate ride.

Zack Parker maximum record mystery time (mens) 59seconds
Claire O maximum recored mystery time (womens) 24 seconds

Thank you to all the organisers, sponsors and everyone who came along and made it such an awesome event.

Who will take home the amazing trophies next year. Den?
Special thanks to Den for being my coach for the last 4+ years and for coming along to the event with me and taking all the awesome photos 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

15 days to go...

Time is disappearing as we quickly approach the start of the World Championships. I have now been based back at the NOC for 2 weeks and paddling almost everyday. The decision to come back again so early has worked really well. Everyday more and more athletes are arriving from across the world which means the line ups are getting bigger and the way in which we can train has had to change. Having spent four weeks now at the NOC at varying water levels I have already been able to get in some quality training and have had the time to work out the feature and really develop my moves. It is going to be difficult for the athletes arriving in future weeks who will be arriving to a very busy hole.

Chilling with Sydney and Cheryl (CAN)

I am now in the position where I am able to work on putting together links and sequences and will soon be putting together my competition routine. This weekend my coach Den Newton (Sweetwater Coaching) will be arriving to help me future out the finer details and really help me tidy everything up. Having Den here is a critical part of my training and preparation and I can't wait until he arrives.

Dialling in the basics in my new 2014 Rock Star

With so many paddlers already out here I have begun to really notice how high the standard is this year, across all disciplines. I have seen my competitors throw a whole array of great moves and impressive rides. Moves that used to be being thrown by only a few ladies are now being thrown by almost all the athletes and even the hardest of moves and combinations are now being worked on by several of the top athletes. This standard rise has not shocked me, as I knew it would be happening, but it has excited me that it has happened so soon and across a world wide depth of paddlers and not just with a handful or few. It is encouraging to see all my competitors and friends paddling so well and I am using this step forward to help motivate me to train harder and smarter. Its going to be important to be able to paddle even better than before in order to stay at the top of the game.

Nina Csonkova (SVK)

Courtney Kerin (NZ)

Katya Kulkova (RUS)

Risa Shimoda (USA)

With training everyday comes injures and aches and pains so I have been really trying to work on getting into a routine of good stretching, strength conditioning exercises, boating and resting to help me stay in one piece and help aid my recovery been sessions. With the help of local massage therapist and chiropractor I have been able to give my body the best chance of staying fit and healthy and being able to cope with the paddling and intensity as I train.

Loving life on the water

Last week I took advantage of an active rest, alternative activity, day to head over to the Hiwassee river and check out the Leslie squirt boating spot and train for next weekends Mystery World Championships. Road tripping with Motoko and Alabama we spent the day in the beautiful Hiwassee valley with several local squirt boaters. The Leslie is an incredible squirt spot. A 30 minute hike down a small track brings you to this subtle squeeze amid a number of large eddies. Guarded by a large overhanging rock on the river right bank the seem requires a precise chop to drop the boat down the first few feet into the power realm but then allows a number of different rides and lines. All of which are super smooth.

Road Tripping with Motoko and Alabama

The Leslie

Within no time I had figured out the chop, forgot about the gnarly rock and begun to enjoy the tranquil underwater rides. Once again a lack of breath hold ability meant that I had to hit the up button for air most rides. But with some guidance and coaching and real focus and thought I soon began to push the 15 second ride barrier and eventually for only the second time, yet, I broke the 20 second marker with a new personal best, longest ride yet, a 24 second ride.

24 second ride from 36 seconds onwards

Mystery Champion Trophies

Reaching this level in my mystery squirt boat is a mile stone in my boating career. It is my goal to be able to challenge the mammoth ride times accomplished by the top guys. In order to do this I need to improve my lung capacity but more importantly be at one with water and learn how to stay clam whilst deep below the river. This was one of the first times I managed to go towards achieving this. I look forward to working on this and hopefully achieving many more 20 second + rides.

Next weekends adventure

After the days distraction at the Leslie it was straight back to the NOC to train in freestyle once again. Using a video camera to record and then analysis sessions I am definitely making big progress with my moves and am trying to work towards putting together some high scoring routines. Heres a video EJ shot last week of me in training and a Meet the Athlete write up by the event organisers.

Link to Article :

Off the water I have had some fun non boating adventures including a trip to Waynesville and Asheville, a visit as well as speech at the Bryson City Rotary Club lunch, a great night in Stecoah watching the Jim Little Trio, a big dinner party up at the house, plus two visits by 'Dynamite', the Tribbles neighbourhood bear. One was a relatively peaceful day time visit and the next was a night time bird feeder smashing trip. It was pretty amazing to have the chance to see and experience this beautiful yet powerful animal. We will be happy for him not to come quite so close again though.

Mountain Life

Dynamite aka Tucker

Dynamite jumps of my bedroom balcony
and heads back into the Mountains

Homemade Ice Cream

Left over scene after Dynamites second visit

Guess who came to visit

Back to training

Thanks to Jez and Green River Photography for the incrediable photos

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Life in the Ottawa Valley

Life is good

Big water bacon beat down Thursday, 8 ball Coliseum, Thunder Dome, speech night, Garb, McCoys, Push ups, competition Friday, the log game, break!!! It means only one thing... It's Keener Time. I have just taken two weeks off from training at the NOC to head north and spend sometime in the Ottawa Valley squirt boating, surfing waves and guest coach on the OKS Keener programme.

Keeners 2013

I've been invited up for the 2nd year in a row as a guest coach to share my knowledge of the rivers and freestyle and help develop these kids into safe and skilled paddlers. The OKS Keener Programme is one of the best whitewater coaching programmes for teens in the world. Based on the banks of the famous Ottawa river. The kids get the chance to paddle big water, surf awesome waves and be coached by world class paddlers everyday. 

Claire O sharing knowledge with a young Keener

Keeners take on the Log Jam
(photo by David Hughes)

Overseeing the Pour Over challenge

Clay Wright teaches river safety to the Keeners
(photo David Hughes)

Keeners creeking and safety training at Garvins

I arrived almost perfectly in time for a heat wave a nice change from the last week of storms rain. But the excessive heat (35 degrees + and 80 % humidity) brought with it its own problems and we had a few days of massive lightening and thunder storms, huge winds and even a Tornado which hit a local town. The water on the Ottawa is warm so it was great to be able to hit the water everyday in summer gear and really enjoy the summer boating. In two weeks I got to boat with some awesome young paddlers, catch up with some friends old and new and really enjoy life in the Ottawa Valley.

Loving life with Valley local and boating super star TC

Checking out the local cuisine... Sushi!!!

It was awesome being back in my squirt boat and being able to attend my first ever Jimi Cup competition. I got some good rides in training hitting a few 18sec + rides and hitting a 14 sec ride in the competition finishing 11th overall and beating the Jimi Cup women's record which was pretty cool. Clay Wright won the event with some massive rides including a 32 second ride taking the title from former Jimi Cup champion Stephen Wright.

It maybe a tiny boat but it definitely is awesome

Jimi Cup Gathering 2013

I'm now really looking forward to the Mystery Worlds and have discovered a few new skills that I need too work on over the next few weeks. Mainly holding my breath!!! and ... I need to figure out how to stay calm before an event. I'm used to getting pumped up and excited as I approach a big event and this definitely does not work for a mystery event where you need to stay calm and conserve energy and air and almost peace out as the whole goal is to spend as much time as possible under water. It turns out its really difficult to do a long mystery move when your hearts beating loads as your excited to go in for your rides!!! My coach Den taught me a few years ago that 'If you can control your breathing you can control everything.' In squirt boating mystery events this is so so ture.

Claire O dropping in for a mystery

Whilst up in the valley I also got chance to test out the new 2014 Rock Star. The new small wasn't quite ready yet so I jumped into a competition spec new medium and was amazed at how it handled. On a wave it was awesome; flying high, releasing well and retaining everything, I got some awesome rides hitting blunts, back blunts, flashbacks, pan am's, the occasional helix and even some airscrews. Then in a hole it looped massive and surprisingly, even though I was a little small in it, I could cartwheel, split wheels, mcnasty and almost tricky wu it too. I'm super excited to get hold of the small :)

I've been too busy to get photos of me in the New Rock Star
but heres Dane showing us how it well it works

As soon as my trip to Ottawa started it seemed to come to an end and i'm now back down at the NOC. Every day people are arriving and it now really feels like the build up stages to the big event. With less than 30 days to go its getting exciting. I now have the new small Rock star to test out, a routine to plan out and a maximum breath hold of only 45 seconds!!! Its time to train ;)