Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wave Training – The Build to Worlds

In 8 months time the ICF World Championships will be taking place on 'Garb' wave on the Ottawa river in Canada. The Ottawa River is renowned amongst freestyle kayakers as one of the best training venues and is home to some of the best surf waves in the world. In the summers there's warm water, sunshine and a mixture of small and smooth and fast technical waves and in the spring its home to some of the biggest most challenging waves ever surfed.

Surfing the awesome Garb wave

A test to its quality and standard, this will be the third time the river has been selected to host a freestyle kayak World Championships. In 1997 the Rodeo World Championships took part on the waves on the Mc Coys rapid, then in 2007 the first ICF World Championships took place on the Lorne rapids Bus Eater wave and now in 2015 it will host another ICF World Championships again on the Lorne rapids but this time on Garburator wave. 

This, my fourth World Championships and my second on the Ottawa river, will be one of my biggest competitive challenges yet. I will be returning as the three time and defending squirt boat world champion and two times and defending freestyle kayak world champion to battle for gold in both events. That a challenge in itself I will be competing against the best paddlers in the world, in category's where the standard is rising rapidly week after week, on a wave!

Throwing the Helix on Nile Special, Uganda

I grew up paddling and competing in holes across the UK and I have become proficient in hole boating. Winning my two freestyle world titles competing in holes. Now, for the first time in over 8 years I will be competing in a wave worlds. I finished 11th in 2007. In 2007 I could count the number of days I had spent surfing waves on one hand. I was new to competing and new to surfing waves. I enjoyed the event and did really well but still didn't have much grasp on how to paddle waves, let alone how to paddle them well. In 2009 I skipped the freestyle worlds, a wave event, to concentrate on squirt boating where I won my first gold. Now in 2015 I have the challenge of competing against some extremely talented and experienced wave boaters on a extremely technical, fast wave.

Clean Blunting on Garb, Canada

Over the last seven years I have been aware that my wave boating level and experience has been significantly lower than my hole boating skills. In the last few years with the help of my coach Dennis Newton (Sweetwater Coaching), I have gone about doing some specific wave training trips to Uganda and Canada to work on developing these skills.

Dropping in to surf Habitat 67 wave, Canada

At the start of 2014 the standard difference really began to show again as I started nailing some crazy combos in the hole but still didn't fully have much grasp of the basic wave skills. So we set about creating a plan for change. We looked at the year and set about creating a wave training and development strategy and plan that would see me spending as much time as possible training on waves. We noticed that all four of the major events on the freestyle tour were once again on holes and during the main wave training season in North America.

So with my goal (as it has been for many years) to be the best paddler I can possibly be and with a focus on the 2015 ICF World Championships it was a relatively easy decision, I had to miss the ICF World Cups and European Championships and go and spent the summer training on the waves. To some it was a big call but to me and Den it just made sense. It was the only chance I would have to really gain the wave boating experience I needed in order to give myself the best chance to be as good as I possibly could be in time for Worlds.

Training on the White Nile, Africa

So now over a year on and after spending a full summer on waves, I realise the decision we made was the right one. It was so worth while. Over the last 12 months I have had some major break throughs. I have begun to develop an understanding of wave boating. I have not only begun to be able to throw a whole range of different moves but I have also learnt to adapt them to the different styles, speeds and shapes of the different waves. With the help of Den and many other paddling coaches and friends around the world I have now thrown almost every wave move (left and right). I have medalled in a number of wave competitions and been able to lay down some solid routines and rides. I have made massive progress in my paddling and confidence on a wave and I am beginning to feel ready for worlds.

Competing in the Payette River Games, USA

My challenge now, with 8 months left to go, is to take what i've learnt and to keep applying it to a whole mix of different waves. To get these new wave moves consistent and technically perfect, and to be able to perform them on demand as part of a routine. This is a challenge, a fun challenge, a big challenge. One I am enjoying and one I can't wait to put to the final test.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Claire O'Hara 2015 Calendar

To celebrate another epic year of paddling I decided to turn all my favourite paddling pictures into a 2015 calendar. If you would like a copy you can download it for free from my website or if you would like to buy an official printed copy email me at

Happy New Year

The last few weeks have absolutely flown by and with all this sunshine and hot weather it's hard to believe we've already had Xmas and we are into a New Year.

Check it out… Sydney at night

As always things have been non stop and there's been a lot of adventures and activities going on. This Xmas was my first Xmas away from home. Jez made sure I didn't miss out and I got to experience my first Xmas in true Aussie style. With sunshine and blue skies outside we opened presents in front of the roaring aircon instead of a fire. Then we had a lovely family dinner, swapping the British Xmas tradition, of Turkey and all the trimmings, for some amazing fresh seafood and salad. Xmas Aussie style. The day finished with a quick Skype call and a catch up with everyone back home.

Prawns and Sunshine!?!?

Boxing Day and it was time to set about ending the year with as many fun adventures as possible. Over the next few days we went kayaking at Olympic white water park, paragliding, running and swimming along the awesome Sydney beaches, wake boarding with amazing friends on the Hawksbury and Nepean rivers and biking in the blue mountains. The year finishing, as all should, watching fireworks exploding in the sky.

Running along the beach with Jez flying over head

Secret swim spot in the Blue Mountains
BBQs on the balcony
Watching the Taylors tear it up on their skis

Fun times blasting the rapids at the course
Wakeboarding selfie on the Hawksbury river

This time though, watching 'The Fireworks! Of all fireworks! The Sydney fireworks, bringing in the year in style.
Fireworks over the Sydney Harbour bridge

My New Years resolution as always 'to give up chocolate' got broken the first day!!! But my New Years goal to live every day to the full and share awesome experiences with great friends in great places continues for another year. Starting in the blue mountains again with Rich. The year kicked off in the same way 2014 ended non stop action and fun.

Jumping in the Taylors awesome pool after a long bike ride / push
Big Yacht racing in the harbour with Jez and Den
Helping out the crew on this amazing yacht
Den working hard to keep us upright
Dens first ever trip to Sydney!
All in days work for the lads
Sharks call off play!
Which means only one thing… its time to get the bikes out!
Earning the downhill with some good old uphill at Manly Dam

Now 17 days in and I'm shattered. I'm sat recovering from an epic training session with Den. Looking through the pictures and video I can't believe how well we are all paddling and how lucky we all are. 

Healthy, safe and living the dream. This year already has been amazing and it looks like it will continue in a similar way. Den is here until mid February and we have an intense training programme planned. We'll be zipping over the pond to NZ for a week or so and spending the rest of the time here. Training at the Olympic park on Australia's own mini Garb and off the water at AnytimeFitness Newington and Zenbu Judo with the awesome 6degreesfit team. Then in March I'll be heading to Uganda with Den for the World of Champions ASP camp and eventually in the summer I'll be heading with him to the USA and then Canada and the 2015 Worlds. 

For now though it's time to review some airscrews and back pan ams and throw some homemade burgers on the barbie.

Claire testing out an off side airscrew
Den nailing a massive airscrew on mini Garb
Jez nailing a massive back Pan Am
Claire O loading up some big air
Stay safe, stay healthy, look after and spend as much quality time as possible with your friends and family and live everyday till the full in the best way you can.

Happy New Year 2015 from Claire and Jez