The epic 6 stages of the Whitewater Grand Prix event in Canada finished over a week ago now.
The event comprised of 3 freestyle and 3 creek competitions on huge rapids and waves to determine the overall winner. Hers how it all went down…
Stage 1:- Big Trick contest – Gladiator Wave, Ottawa River
We did expect some big water & waves here in Canada, but the first event held on the Gladiator wave on the Ottawa river showed it can be even bigger.
Here in Canada people enjoy huge tricky waves in the middle of the rapid, it also must have a huge hole behind for extra excitement!
You paddle out and down through the top half of the rapid then onto the wave do your best to hold on and throw a move then paddle as hards as you can to avoid the ledge hole.
Most paddlers took quite a few attempts at the wave before they mustered up the courage to catch it and with such a big, surgy wave to surf getting a move was never easy. I managed to get a big Air screw as my best move that placed me 11th. Ben Marr (1st), Dane Jackson (2nd) & Rush Sturges (3rd) had the best moves of the day for sure.
Girls event was about who manage to surf the wave and longest surf wins. Lou Urwin 1st, Emily Jackson 2nd, Katya took 3rd, was very glad she did surf it at all, as even after one day not every competitor managed.
Stage 2:- Big Water Boatercross – Gauntlet on the Rouge river
Next up we headed to the Rouge river for the big water boatercross, big waves and big water awaited us but it was no where near as intense as Gladiator had been so they decided to do a mass start boatercross to cut the bottom 6 then 4 at a time head to heads to decide the rest.
The mass start was full on with 22 paddlers trying to race together down through the chaos, I had a great start reaching the first main rapid in 2nd position but that all went a bit wrong as i tried to dodge around Casper and ended up in the main hole, I never really made it back up after that so got cut out of the future rounds with the other bottom 6 paddlers. Top 3 was Nick Troutman 1st, Bryan Kirk 2nd and Anton Immler 3rd.
Ladies had not as mass start, it was only four of them, but made it to the finish with some carnage and one swim. Katya had two runs with a good line, ended up on 2nd position.
Stage 3:- Steep Creek time trial – Petite Bostonnais
Third up was a creek race time trial on the Petite Bostonnais 2 runs best 1 counts. On the drive up there was water & flooded out areas everywhere we passed through so it wasn’t a suprise to get there to find way too high flows to paddle safely but luckily for the actual competition day they managed to get the dam to reduce the flow for the event with just enough time to scout and do one practice run before the race.
The run was the hardest creek I’ve ever paddled never mind raced on. At the top was a double drop waterfall followed by a tricky third drop and then an absolutely massive rocky slide maybe 250m long with a big hole near the bottom.
My practice went well, apart from missing my boof on a top drop, and i really felt there were many opportunities to hurt yourself on a slide, where I felt no control and couldn’t see very much at all except from white foam. So I wasn’t too sure about running it again in the race with already quite a few swims by some top creekers on their practice run but then i decided to at least do one run and take my chances.
I was fourth to go and on the radio as the paddlers before me set off i heard that all 3 had swam, pretty unnerving for sure but i felt good as I set off I didn’t paddle like a race at all. I took it slow got my boofs and only really started to speed up towards the end, got really good lines down all the drops/ slides but wasn’t super fast on the flats. I was the first to make it down to the finish line and was super fired up! I decided not to go for a second run being happy enough with my first. I finished up 14th in the race with the top 3 being, 1st Even Garcia, 2nd Dane Jackson & 3rd Ben Marr.
In total their were 12 swimmers during the race so I was pretty happy to have made it down fine especially since I’m not really a creeker, you know the section is full on when solid creek paddlers like Tyler Curtis, Joel Kolwalski, Nick Troutman and Aniol Serrasolses end up swimming!
White Dog Wave between the Stages
Also we got to surf some other waves in between competition stages. We went to the White Dog wave on the Rouge river in the other day, it was the best spot here for freestyle as we know it in Europe – with eddy, no hassle to get on, but still big, green and fast 🙂
We kept been blown away by the scale of the rivers here, we’ve never seen so much water and rivers in an area!
Stage 4:- Downriver Freestyle, Hawaii on the Mistassibi River
On one of our rest days we came and paddled down the Mistassibi to check out the Black Mass wave, huge water greeted us along with a green mound of water where the wave would have been if it had been a lower level. So the planned wave event got turned into a Downriver freestyle on the Hawaii rapid.
We had 5 runs down the rapid to throw whatever we wanted off the huge curling wave in the middle of the river. You wanted to go as close to the curler as possible in order to get any height on your moves but too close and you’d get slammed into a horrible hole that managed to pummel a few of the paddlers and even forced Bryan Kirk to swim taking a big beating then big downtime afterwards.
I did a few kickflips & wavewheels and placed 15th, but Ben Marr went right over the curl to throw a huge kickflip in his creekboat to take 1st with Dane 2nd, Joel 3rd.
Katya won the ladies with a wavewheel over the curl. Lou 2nd, Marie 3rd.
Stage 5:- Big Wave Challenge, Pillars Wave on the Ashuapmushuan River
The Pillars waves are two waves just after a railway bridge the first is a huge shoulder that can give you massive air but can also be a little tricky to catch and needs to be surfed a little until it sets you up at the top then moves can launch incredibly easily. After the first wave is the second wave which is pretty big still but not quite the same level as the first, it can be tricky to get the timing for moves there but again can launch you really high if you get it right.
We had 6 rides with the best 2 counting.
Katya was the star of the day getting two huge airscrews and a pan am that would have placed highly in the Men’s and won the womens event no problem. When she landed the first huge one completely flat and straight on the hull we all went crazy shouting and cheering, it really showed that women can go just as big and hard on the waves as anyone!
The mens event went pretty much like usual with Ben Marr 1st, Dane Jackson 2nd but finally a European Mat Dumoulin styled 3rd place with his easy style!
Stage 6:- Giant Slalom, Bras Louis – Chicoutimi
We arrived at the site of the slalom the day before so we had a chance to scout the run with out the gates and we all thought it looked pretty alright nothing to scary for once, a few people got on and ran down said it was a bit pushy but nothing too bad.
The next day we arrived to 30cm higher water level and a much more full on looking course, top creeker Evan Garcia ran down and gave up on hitting the gates after the first few in exchange for making it down safely. The main thing that was scaring everyone was the last double drop a sloping fall of about 8m then a tricky last drop which had a pretty terminal looking hole in the middle. Quite a few of the men opted out of doing the slalom due mainly to the last double drop at the end.
I was really not sure whether to go or not since i’m not really very experienced in creeking and many of the hardened creekers were thinking pretty hard whether to go or not…I tossed a coin to decide, it said no but i decided to go anyway.
We had 2 runs best 1 counts, I took it pretty easy not racing too fast, messed up a little in the middle of my run and missed 3 or 4 gates but got back on track at the end and had a good line down the double drop. Wasn’t nearly as bad as i was expecting but with World Champs approaching I decided I was happy enough with making it through the 6 stages in one piece and settled with my existing run. I placed 16th. Top 3 was Evan Garcia 1st, Gerd Serrasolses 2nd and Dane Jackson 3rd.
The ladies event decided to finish just above the last two drops so not quite as full on but still a very challenging slalom run. Marie got 1st, Lou 2nd and Katya 3rd. Lou even fired up the last 2 drops after her race run and had a great line!
Event Wrap Up
Mens top 3:- Dane 1st, Ben Marr 2nd, Rush 3rd.
Women top 3:- Lou 1st, Katya 2nd, Marie 3rd.
I would describe the event as the most full on 2 weeks of my life and also the best showcase of Kayaking ever. The Grand Prix team did a fantastic job of pulling off the event amazingly well for the first one of its kind.
For me I realised a new side to kayaking really and a whole area I want to improve and train in – Big waves mainly and I also want to really get into more creeking too. The event really opened my eyes to a new style of competition and i think it really is the future of our sport if we want to show ourselves in the best light.
The media team did such a good job of capturing all the action of the event and are making a full TV show that you’ll be able to see soon.
All the paddlers involved really stepped up and Dane was a very worthy winner he was the only paddler at the event i never saw getting scared and he threw down hard at every event going huge on the wave or flying down the creek he is going to be ripping up the kayaking world for many years.
The ladies also showed they can go just as hard as the men with Lou styling the creeking events and Katya stomping the freestyle it really opened our eyes.
I really look forward to the future of this event and me and Katya definitely want to be apart of it!
Thank you to everyone involved, particularly Pat Camblin & Julie Crépeau-Boisvert
Pringle & Katya
For full size photos go to:- http://www.flickr.com/jamesbebbington/
For more photos, videos and reports check out http://www.whitewatergp.com