Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to train for Freestyle

For the last 4 weeks the awesome Dennis Newton has been living and training with me and Jez in Sydney and New Zealand. Dens arrival in early Jan kicked off this years training in style as he set me up with a plan aimed to get me ready for this years worlds. Not only that the goal was for Den and Jez to also train ready for their own selection events and the forthcoming season. Within hours off arriving Den had us rolling around the lounge floor. Chatting through moves, techniques and key components Den preloaded us with information, and troubleshot our existing techniques, getting us ready for when we hit the wave.

Running through movements and techniques prior to paddling

Now Australia isn't known for its freestyle but it doesn't happen to have a little gem of a wave known as 'Mini Garb' (formally known as fryer). Mini Garb is a fab little wave situated at the bottom of the Penrith whitewater course. It is fast and steep and has many dynamics and components of the 2015 World Championship feature Garb wave on the Ottawa river, Canada. The only main differences being that mini garb is a little smaller and a lot shallower so you really have to learn it and work it to earn your big tricks and air not giving you the insane height and power naturally that you get from Garb. 

Claire O making the most of the waves energy

Jez ripping up Mini Garb

Den getting some seriously big air

Jez loading up a big back Pan Am

Training kicked off at Mini Garb and then moved overseas to the Hawea waves where we caught up with the Kiwi boating crew and Anna Bruno from the USA. In NZ the waves were slower and deeper so it gave us a chance to real look at and further break down the different moves. Again we would run through drills and chat over techniques off the water before testing them out on the waves, Using a video we could analyse our progress each evenin setting goals and plans for each day. Within no time we were making big progress. Improving and hitting new moves and beginning to link and sequence them together during rides.

Todays move goal sheet - Pistol Flips

Its important not to take it all too seriously

Claire O working on her Clean Blunts

Max watches on as Den demonstrates a move

One of the main moves we focused on during the week was Airscrews and we had a fun session practising them in the lounge, on a trampoline and on the beds as well as the wave. Using the bounce of the mattresses and trampolines and filming each go. We could imitate the movements, compare techniques and see the body movements which are often hidden in the boat.

Practising the movements in the eddy

Video analysis comparisons of the water

To keep our body and mind fresh we mixed up training with a range of other sports. Aimed as 'active rest' we made sure the activities weren't too high in intensity and didn't involve being in a boat. A mixture of biking, sailing, surfing,and yoga helped us keep busy in between surfs.

Showing Den the Sydney Harbour Bridge in style

The  boys enjoying the views and sunshine

Riding the trails around Manly Dam

Bruno squirt boating in our pool

Hitting the surf at Bondi

Mid Airscrew GoPro head cam shot in the Ocean

Planning for the year whilst taking in the views of the Blue Mountains

Before we knew it the month had flown by and it was time for Den to go back to the UK. In two weeks time he will be competing along with the rest of the UKs top boaters for a place on the GB Freestyle Team on at the Lee Valley London Olympic white water course and Hurley Weir.

So with Den gone I now have four weeks in Australia to work on tweaking what i've learnt and focus on my fitness, nutrition and flexibility before I next meet up with Den in March in Uganda for the 'World of Champions', our ASP freestyle training camp number 2.

Next stop Uganda for the World of Champions Training Camp

Top tips for training for freestyle
  1. Get yourself on the best features that you can.
  2. Set yourself goals for each session
  3. Break down the moves and practice them on and off the water
  4. Use video to help you track your progress and analyse your rides
  5. Get advice and help from a coach
  6. Mix it up with other fun activities
  7. Smile and enjoy every single surf

ASP Claire O'Hara Training Plan 2015

Den is an exceptional coach and friend and I can not thank him enough for supporting me all these years and for taking a month out to come to Sydney to train and coach me and Jez. This is only Stage 1 of our 2015 year long training plan. This year Den will be working with me on four (month long) training camps. Den will be flying out to join me and we will be training at some of the best freestyle wave destinations around the World.

Stage 1 : Aus & NZ : Jan / Feb.

Stage 2 : Uganda : March / April

Stage 3 : UK & USA : May / June

Stage 4 : Canada : July / Aug

Stage 5 : ICF World Championships, Canada : 30th August - 5th September

Outside of this time Den will be coaching Whitewater kayaking and freestyle around the World.

Check out to find out more about Den and the ASP program

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Hawea Academy

Two years ago on one of my trips to New Zealand, local paddler Gordy Rayner planted the idea of us running a Keeners style kids camp at the Hawea waves. This year we made it happen. At the end of January 17 kids took part in a week long camp, 9 development kids (new paddlers with limited whitewater kayaking experience) and 8 Academy kids (experienced young kayakers with a white water roll and basic surfing skills), and had an amazing week of whitewater kayaking fun on the Hawea White Water Park near Wanaka on the South Island New Zealand. 
Inspiring the next generation. Multi World Champion Claire O'Hara watches on as 13 year old Lotty surfs and practices new moves

Contact Energy worked hard to organise the perfect water levels for us and myself, Dennis Newton and Anna Bruno took the lead in delivering a week long programme designed to enhance the kids freestyle knowledge and skill and love for paddling. Each morning started with a Yoga stretching sequence in the park followed by full day down at the river and then a review and goal setting session each evening.  Out on the water we taught all the tricks from loops and spins to Mc Nastys, Phoenixs and Airscrews. The kids just absorbing all the info and applying it straight into their skills. Improving minute by minute, day by day.

Yoga a great way to start the day

Den watches on a Justin hits his first Space Godzilla

Making goal sheets

As we ran the Academy program Max and Gordy Rayner led the Development team. Coaching nine super motivated kids aged 11 - 13 who had only recently started kayaking and had dreams to be freestyle kayakers. As the week went on these kids progression was huge. They went from wobbly and swimming to surfing and rolling in just a matter of days. Each morning we would take it in turns to go and run master classes and help them out. By the end of the week every kid had surfed and hit at least one roll. It was amazing to catch their excitement and energy as they became more and more hooked by the river and the sport.

Maddie showing of her new skills

Max and Jack tandem surf the top wave

Warming up and getting ready to roll

As the week finished the Academy and Development kids were surfing the waves together, running safety for each other and self coaching using the knowledge they had gained to help each other learn. This one of the biggest goals of the week. To help increase the freestyle standard in the area but also to help the kids grow in confidence and be able to interact and communicate and work well with each other and to understand how to safely enjoy the river.

Ollie talks Fraiser through the lines

Theres something amazing about growing up by the river

Now its time to send them back to into the New Zealand boating community and let them share and spread their passion and new knowledge and skills. I'm looking forward to returning next year and seeing how they have all got on.

The 2015 Hawea Academy and Development Team

Heres some more of my favourite photos from the week.

Roles switch as the kids coach the Pros

Maddie learning to roll

Local ripper Aiden (11) surfs the main wave with Claire

No mater what the trick the feeling of success is the same

Party surf

Heres to making great ideas a reality