Friday, September 27, 2013

Home & the 2013 British Championships

Back to the UK

After all the excitement of the World Championships it was time to head back home. A quick stop in New York and my 88 day USA tour came to an end, as I landed in London and hit the road north. Its strange coming home after a big event and coming back after such a long time on the road and such a big event definitely hit hard. Arriving home to a big welcome and a number of celebrations and gatherings with friends and family helped my settle back into UK life.

Battle Back Centre, Lilleshall

Then a week of work at the Battle Back Centre; a Help for Hero's and British Legion funded project that works to help rehabilitate injured, wounded and sick soldiers through a week long adventure activity based residential; really helped me put things into perspective and value even more the incredible life I am currently so fortunate to lead.

Working with some very inspirational coaches and soldiers
on the Battle Back Programme

Inspired by the Battle-backers determination and drive, by the weekend, I was well and truly ready to get back in the water and back into training again. After 8, yes 8!!!, full days off the water I finally hit the water again, this time back at HPP with good friends Rob Crowe, Brandon Hepburn, Matt Chadder and Islay Crosbie on Friday night, for a last minute floodlight lit training session ready for the British Championships.

Warming up with Islay and Kim (photo by Eric Walters)

The weekends action kicked off on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning with the Club Championships. Paddlers from clubs across the UK came to Nottingham to take part in a weekend of freestyle and whitewater kayaking based fun. Starting with freestyle coaching sessions led by myself and Alan Ward the day then moved on to an array of competitions and events including cartwheel and big air comps, an extreme slalom and boater cross race and an 'Iron Boater' triathlon style race and even a photography comp.

Smiles allround (photo by Dale Meares)

Paddlers battle head to head (photo by Dale Meares)

Fun stuff (photo by Dale Meares)

Then on Sunday in 28 degree's of heat with blue skies and bright sunshine the British Championships took place. Starting with Jam style heats on the twin waves, the top five were then selected to take part in a Super Final on Inlet gate. Whilst the heats took place the Club Championship Freestyle event took place on the Inlet gate followed by the Squirt Boating British Championships event at the Pyramid pool. Then mid afternoon all the action moved back to the top of the course and with a big crowd watching and cheering the Super final took place.

Kick Starting my run (photo by Dale Meares)

All Action (photo by Dale Meares)

The standard across the whole day was very high with athletes in most classes setting personal bests and new British records. By the end of the afternoon the seven 2013 British Champions had been crowned. Rob Crowe (K1M), Claire O'Hara (K1W), Brandon Hepburn (JM), Kim Aldred (JW), Josh Wedgewood (C1), Ben Aldred (SqM) and Claire O'Hara (SqW).

British Champion 2013 (photo by Dale Meares)

The event finished with a big prize giving with awards for novice, open, Club Championship and British Championships events. In the end it was Sudbury Canoe Club who won the overall Club Championships event, for their 3rd consecutive year, taking home a brand new Wavesport kayak. Full scores, photos and results from the event can be found on the GB Freestyle Kayaking facebook page

Photographers at the ready. Photo comp results will be out soon
(photo by Dale Meares)

I had an exceptionally great Sunday with friends and family coming down to cheer me on and support me at the event. Thank you to my Dad, my Aunty Catherine and Uncle Mike, my cousins Rebecca, Maria and Steve and mini judges Indie and Rohan and Olivia and Sooty, Lindz and Jakey for making the journey to be there with me.

Indie enjoying the day (photo by Dale Meares)

Watching the sunset over the lake whilst taking my young cousins Ro and Indie on their first kayaking adventure was a great way to finish the weekend.

The sun sets behind the new British Champion Rob Crowe
 (photo by Dale Meares)

Special thank to Peak UK, Squarerock and Wavesport for sponsoring the official event, Head Judge Shep and everyone else involved in organising and running the event.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I did it! Double World Champion again...

I have just doubled the double and it feels unreal. This weekend I competed in the ICF World Freestyle Kayaking Championships at the NOC in the USA and defended my two World Champion titles.

Double Double Champion

In the Squirt Boating I had some of my best performances in competition by far smashing my previous personal bests in every round and setting the highest overall ride score of the event (mens or womens) in the semi finals with a massive 1,257 point ride.

All smiles as the competition starts

Claire O begins to flow the moves together

In the finals I lead from the start with a massive 1,153 point opening ride and had two victory laps where I threw down routines that incorporated some of the new crazy bonus combination moves I have been working on. Hitting my first super clean heli split wheel in competition, a screwing around sequence with a switch wheel start (not 100% on purpose) and several tricky switch wheel and split switch wheel combo's. In my final ride after an almost perfect flat water routine I missed my mystery multiplier which would have taken me well over the 1,300 point barrier breaking my personal record again but it wasn't to be this time.

Screwing Around with a Switch wheel

But I had already done more than enough to win my 3rd consecutive Squirt Boating World Champion title. In 2nd place was my good friend and squirt boating specialist Motoko from Japan, who also got several personal best rides during the event, closely followed by her team mate Yoshiko also from Japan.

Motoko, Claire and Yoshiko 

After one exciting and emotional win I grabbed a bit of rest before heading back to the water for my second final, the K1 womens event. Having already got a personal best score (810 points) during the prelims - one of my goals for this World Championship event was to put down some awesome runs that showcased what I had learnt and can do in both boats- my focus moved back to my other goal, my ultimate goal, of defending both world titles.

Loading up a McNasty during Semi Finals
Loading up for a Phoenix during the heats

Last up, I got to watch the others perform and couldn't help but be very impressed and proud as I saw Hitomi from Japan lay down an awesome 650 point ride. The second highest score of the event so far. Instantly I knew that the challenge was on and winning this title again would not be easy.

Setting up for a move

Cameras everywhere capturing the action

I went into my first run calm, collected and ready to perform. I missed a few big tricks but still got a solid routine giving me a 556 points. It put me straight into 2nd place but not 1st! Suddenly my nerves started to go as I realised that to beat Hitomi, I would have to not mess up anything and would have to lay down a massive ride.

Huge loop

Setting up for a McNasty

Mid run action

We all took our 2nd rides and the scores remained the same. I was on the medal table but in 2nd not in first. The 3rd rides went and I was last to go. Sat in the eddy Den spoke to me and helped me prepare for my final ride. 'What if I don't win' I remember asking him. ' Then you don't win. Nothing else will change.' It was then that I realised that what I had always believed could happen was about to happen. I was about to be beaten by an awesome ride and only then did my mindset change and nerves disappear. If I was to loose the World title today it would be to Hitomi, a well deserved competitor who had trained very very hard, improved massively in the last few years and just put down a very impressive ride and that would be, ok. I would be beaten by a world class athlete and a world class performance, a new World Champion. Fair play.

Den the legend
I looked up at Den and he said 'You can do it. Just do what you do.' I looked around and for the first time in the finals took in the wonderful view. Banks full of spectators, family and friends all cheering, smiling and enjoying the show. I looked one more time at Den and smiled. Got the thumbs up and smile from the Head Judge Sneak Pete and set off into the hole. What happened for the next 45 seconds I couldn't tell you. I knew that I threw tricks, lots of them. Landing some, missing others. I knew it was better than my first two rides. But was it enough. I did not have a clue.

Keeping things moving looking for more points

Loading for a massive space godzilla

The buzzer went off. It was over. My world championship journey had finished. I had done it. I had given my all into training for the last two years to be here today to give it my best shot at defending my world title. I looked at Den he smiled and gave me the thumbs up. I looked at my family and friends all around. Had I done enough? I had no idea. Could I have done anymore. No. That was my best, that was all I could give here today. I threw one last sweet back loop as I left the hole. Everyone was buzzing, but no one had a clue on the score. We waited and waited and waited as the judges double and triple checked the scores.

Hugs all round as we wait on the results 

Then they announced it... The World Champion is...     Claire O'Hara!!!

We'd done it!

I had done it. I had doubled the double!!! With 708 points I had snuck back into the lead and won my 5th World Champion title. I had moved back up to first. I was the reining world champion again. Hitomi had the silver and local boating superstar Adrienne had the bronze.

Competitors and Friends


Celebrating on the Island

Hitomi, Claire and Adrienne

I had achieved my ultimate goal. I had won both golds!!!

5 x ICF World Champion Claire O'Hara

Other highlights from the day had to be; coaching and watching Jez from Australia win the bronze in the OC1 event, watching Kim a super young talent from the UK win the bronze in the Junior women, watching Ben Aldred and Alan Ward from the UK both compete in the first senior world finals, seeing Jordan Poffenburg, C1 genius, win his double gold taking the C1 and OC1 titles.

Dane, Jordan and Jez take to the podium for OC1

Watching local junior rippers Rowan Stuart and Hunter Katich take the Junior titles, supporting my great friend Clay Wright as he broke the1,300 point barrier and re claimed the Squirt Mens World title (his first was in 1997) and off course watching the phenomenon that is Dane Jackson step it up in his first year as a senior to win the mens K1 title and take the final gold.

Clay v's Claire ICF Squirt Boating World Champions 2013

What an event. What a year.

Check out all the footage, results and a whole load of write ups and photos online by following the link below to the website.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible all the organisers, officials, staff, volunteers, friends, family, athletes, sponsors and supporters. This was a World Championships that will not be forgotten.

Celebrating with my mum

But most of all I would like to say a personal massive thank you to my coach Den, my Mum and Dad, Arthur and Lori Tribble, Jez, Islay, Jason, Lisa, Laura, Mary, the GB team and all my friends here and at home who supported me and shared this experience with me. Thank you x

Thank you everyone for your support

Thank you also to Green River Photography, Nantahala Outdoor Centre, Chris McEnriy, Rhona Dempsey and Tom Zacks for the amazing photos.

Mission Accomplished

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Worlds in Full Swing

Clay v's Claire both leading the way into the finals in the squirt boating class
(massive thanks to Chris McEnriy for the photo)

So the last few days have been crazy. Non stop action and competitions here at the NOC and its all about to get even wilder as in just over an hour the K1 Women and Mens finals will be kicking off under floodlights.

I've already competed three times making the cut to finals in squirt boating and the cut to semi's in freestyle. Leading the way in both I have managed 3 personal best rides. Two 1,000 point plus rides in squirt boating (HS 1,257) and a massive 810 point in freestyle.

However this is only the start I have 3 rounds left starting with the semi's tonight and some great paddlers and friends to compete with, I can't wait.

All the hard work and training is paying off and i'm enjoying every moment competing and throwing down what I have learnt.

Because its been so busy i've been struggling to blog so check out the event website and the following links for live stream footage of the event as it happens and write ups on all the action on the event.

Tonight i'm on at 9pm (US time)

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The World Championships begin...

The last 10 days have seen over 180 athletes arrive and begin training at the Nantahala Outdoor Centre. For the last 8 days each of the 30 nations have been designated an official training slot giving the athletes 3 minutes each of quality uninterrupted training time.

30 nations competing. Over 180 athletes training

Crowded eddies as training commences

As each nation trained other competitors gathered to watch and see how their competitors were performing as they plan and prepare their own routines. Coaches watched, filmed and fed back to the athletes helping fine tune their performances ensuring they are completing each move perfectly to the ICF descriptions, as every second is vital during the 45 second competition runs and every move needs to count.

2011 World Champions Pringle and ClaireO
As the week has gone on the excitement around the event has been building. The bleachers have gone up, the lights now surround the feature, the judges stand, media and coaches stand have been built and a massive TV screen has been set up overlooking the hole. Accreditation has been issued, meetings are being had. TV interviews are happening, photos, blogs and last night the final piece of the picture; the opening ceremony in Bryson City. The official opening of the 2013 World Championships event.

Islay is ready!!!

Thousands of people came to the small mountain town to meet the athletes and watch the parade and entertainment. Local children lead each team carrying placards with the countries name on it and a big flag. The streets were lined two or three people deep with family, friends and spectators. The organisers, town officials and ICF gave speeches welcoming athletes and spectators alike before a Cherokee group lead a fantastic traditional dance session and introduced us to the history and culture of the area. The official World Championship brass band played out the national athems before the evening continued with live music and a big air ramp kayak display of the main town bridge.

Cherokee Dancer

A local Cherokee youngster watches on

Athletes fly through the sky of the big air ramp

Then today the action moved back to the NOC as the event kicked of with the Junior Men and OC1 prelims. We already have 10 juniors through to the semi finals and 6 OC1's through to the final. Its is official the 2013 World Championships have definitely begun.

Jez competes in the OC1 heats

Check out all the action live on livestream at and get all the news from and

Time to battle

I am starting my World Championship journey tomorrow kicking of the action as the first paddler up in the first heat in the Squirt Womens class at 11am (USA time).