Sunday, July 20, 2014

Adventures in Idaho

Sunset over the Payette lake

As I sit in Ottawa airport waiting for my next adventure, training on the Ottawa river for the 2015 World Championships, to begin. I have had chance to reflect on my time in Idaho since the PRG's came to an end.

Memories of an awesome event

Starting only a matter of hours after the games the fun began again and until today has not, even for a second stopped. I left the park with Jason and Jez and drove with them along the amazing Payette river pass to drop them off at the airport early Monday morning. Jez heading back to instruct at Falling Creek Kids Camp and Jason heading to Europe to the 2014 Freestyle World Cup.

Claire O and Jez (photo by Phillip Robert)

After saying goodbye to the boys. I got picked up and taken to another awesome freestyle facility. Boise city's own WWP. A man made wave designed for freestyle and river surfing. We arrived at the river to find the park busy with loads of paddlers and surfers, big crowds and a lot of media enjoying the 95 degree plus heat and sun. All out to enjoy the river and be part of the opening festival for the Phase 2 development of the park. It will soon host a number of new features and a slalom course. Its great to see so many recreational river facilities being developed across the US. Then hitching a ride with river surfing legend Eli Mack and his crew we blasted straight back to Cascade as the next morning the Kelly's Academy kicked off. The Kelly's Academy is a free coaching programme for local kids, funded by and run at the Kelly's White Water Park.

Kayak Surf Training at Kelly's

Lead by a team of professional athletes the Academy gives local kids aged 9 - 17 the chance to take part in surfing, sup'ing and kayak classes on the park. Teaching river safety and awareness as well as technical skills its great program opening up this awesome facility to the local community and giving an unbelievable opportunity to the kids. The level of coaching being delivered and the result, the awareness and standards of the kids is crazy. We had a number of local and national talented Junior rippers Hayden, Sage and Peyton helping out and it was amazing seeing them coach and inspire the other kids. Its no surprise this years PRG's had the biggest cadets class in history with over 25, 13 years old and under, kids taking part. Every day was jam packed and the kids just kept on coming back wanting to learn more and more and spent every minute possible in the river ripping it up on the rapids and waves at the park. Every adult that walked by wanted to be part of the class.

'Alec style' seal launching the kids

Trusting the young un's to do rescues

What a stunning place to learn to kayak

It was great honour and pleasure to be part of Academy team and to be able to coach alongside and learn from Clay Wright. Troy Wilson, Alec Vorhees, Eli Mack and Nicki Gregg.

Fun times coaching with this crew

Then every evening after Academy it was time for us to play. Hanging out with some awesome friends (old and new) we made the most of being in the adventure paradise that is Idaho not wasting a single moment as we took part in a whole variety of fun activities on offer. From wave surfing to hole boating freestyle, river surfing, wake boarding, wake surfing, kayak wake surfing, supping, river running,  natural pool hot tubing, cinema trips, fireworks displays, amazing meals out and even a cooking lesson with a professional Miami personal chef! I was a hard decision each night which activity to do as we didn't want to miss out. So the fun never stopped and the weeks just flew by.

Clay learning to cook

If you haven't yet tried wake surfing you should its awesome

Nikki showing me how its done

Trish ripping it up

Cold River / Hot Springs with the Banks'

Great nights out

Ice Cream Alley antics

4th July Fireworks show from the boat

Happy 4th July

More surfing this time in a boat

Beginning to dial it in

Another Epic sunset

5th July fireworks display

Only in America

Testing out healthy living

Stunning views over the lake and boats

And now 6 weeks after I arrived in Idaho I find myself in Canada with another chapter over and one more about to begin. For the next 7 weeks i'll be based on the Ottawa. Getting fit, training hard, competing in the Jimi Cup and Canada Cup, learning from others who are up here and of course from Den albeit remotely over skype this time, as he will be heading to Europe with the GB team for some European Championship action and fun. I'll also be helping to develop the next generation. I'm going to pop in and give some advice to the Keeners and help out every other paddler I can whilst i'm here.

Kayaking is awesome. The life its gives us in unbelievable. I'm so grateful to have the opportunities and I would like to once again thank everyone who has been a part of it with me and helped this dream become a reality.

Peyton (age 13)  sums up his week helping coach SUP
with SUP Pro Nikki Gregg at the Kellys Academy 

Here's some pictures and mini videos that sum up some of the action of the last few weeks.

Lincoln (age 7) ready to taking his first ever
kayaking and body boarding lesson

Thank you Idaho. I will be back :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Payette River Games - Wrap Up

Payette River Games Athlete Swag Bag

Having chosen not to do the World Cup series this year, to focus instead on developing my wave boating skills, ready for next years World Championships on Garb my biggest competition on this years schedule was the PRG's at the Kelly's White Water Park in Cascade, Idaho. USA.

Big Wave surfing at Kellys (photo by Phillip Robert)

This massive sports and music festival designed to celebrate everything great about being by the river and whitewater life saw over 600 competitors from all around the world come together to compete. There were beginners through to Pro's in a whole variety of sports.

Awesome NC band Mipso Trio kick off the music festival

I competed in three out of the four kayaks events, 8 Ball, Boater X and Freestyle. It was a super fun and action filled weekend. The sun shone and as the music pumped from the Red Bull DJ and the live bands all the athletes took part in hours after hours of intense and highly skilled competition. It was great to see so many friends from around the world at the park for the weekends event. Jez (Australia) was back on the Mic, Jason and Courtney (NZ) and Jen, Joe, Sara and Brandon (UK) we're all on this side of the pond and Arthur and Lori (NC, USA) had made the trip over to see us all and cheer us on.

Yeah buddy the Unicorn is back

Sara James styling it in the SUP events

My great friends and biggest fans Arthur and Lori Tribble from NC
and of course Jez :)

In the 8 ball race I set off well only to instantly come face to face with young 8 Baller Brody Kellogg who had been hiding behind the river bank. We collided hard and I got knocked straight into the meat of the hole. A bit of tandem surfing with 8 baller Natalie Anderson and freestyle later I eventually exited the hole in time to see all the other girls in my heat cross the finishing line in the distance way ahead of me. Now 8 ball isn't all about the winning. Its about the tackles and battles. So, despite being completely out for the race I had to continue to battle through the gauntlet. Taking hit after hit from 8 Baller Tino Specht before having a final battle with fellow brit, a smiling laughing Sara James. Then, and i'm not sure how long it took but lets say, awhile later I crossed the finish line with a big smile beneath my full face helmet . It was a fun battle and I was glad to have done it and too still be in one piece.

Crunching is the best way to describe the hits by the Unicornous- Rex

After the 8 Ball the Boater X race felt relatively easy. Setting off four at a time from the launch ramp I battled well around gate 1 and 2 before getting caught slightly of guard and dropping in for another long creek boat freestyle session in the main hole. Carrying a shoulder injury from training I got caught out on my left side and didn't have the power to escape. Much to the entertainment of the crowd and the announcers I spend another minute or so in the hole before eventually spinning my boat around and getting onto my stronger right shoulder where I was easily able to paddle my way out. Once again I made my way to the finish line in last place.

Battling towards Buoy 4 in the Boater X race

The judges watch closely and make sure we don't miss the gates

Luckily in the Boater X sprint qualifiers I had got a good time which meant I wasn't completly out. I got a wild card place into the semi finals. But due to my wild card position I was in a very stacked heat. That said somehow in a lucky break of genius I made it straight through the hole and then got a break away from Sage and Adrienne and they battled head to head with each other through the last half of the course and I finished in first place. That meant I was into the finals. Sat at the top of the ramp alongside 4 extraondiaryly talented top extrememe races and Olympians I felt honoured to have the chance to race again and was stoaked with my 4th place finsh. What a race.

Nikki Gregg chilling in the hot tub watching the comp
Between kayak events theres awhile load of other events to watch

Announcing the Mens freestyle semi finals with Jez

Then my main event, the freestyle. The feature at Kellys is epic its a powerful hole with a green wave shoulder. It has previously seen world records smashed and is one of the best features in the World. However that said its not easy and that really showed at this event. Alot of the girls struggled with its power and the need for precise set ups and absolutely perfect technique. In the prelims I had one great run in which I pulled together a mixture of wave and hole tricks that I had been working hard on, but in the semis and finals I couldn't ever quite get into the flow. Only getting 2-3 trcks in each run It was 2-3 big tricks each time though so I was able to still secure 2nd place behind defending PRG's Champion Emily Jackson who put down consistent solid runs. Mixing up wave and hole tricks in each and every ride to take a well deserved 1st place.

Jas stands in for Den helping keep me smiling and ready for my rides

Throwing a back stab

Hucking a back stab right

Crowds watch on as I hit a nice loop

Celebrating a great event with Emily

There were a lot of highlights during the events. It was a fantastic weekend and I really recommend everyone who can to come along and take part next year or at least follow all the action on the live stream online.

Mathieu wins the mens freestyle event with a huge 2,000+ point ride
This is the new big event. The one not to be missed and its just going to get bigger and bigger. Did I mention it has well over $105,000 in prize purses up for grabs over the weekend.

Womens freestyle podium

If you missed the action this year you can still watch it online. Check it out at There are also some great photos and write ups on the and on the Sports Illustrated website.

Getting my first feature in Sports Illustrated

Thank you Mark and Kristina Pickard, Jeff Banks and the rest of the Kelly's White Water Park and Payette River Games team including all the judges, announcers, volunteers and organisers for putting on such an awesome river festival event. Bring on the PRG15

Big smiles around after a great event.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Interview in the Paddler Magazine

Thank you Paddler magazine for interviewing me and producing this great article and Peak UK and Peter Bishop for providing the images.