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