Time to pick our hot favourites for Worlds


It’s now just 2 more days of training left before the 2013 Freestyle Kayak World Championships kicks off here at NOC.

Everyone is here now and has had a chance to get used to the hole and various paddlers are really looking good. I actually think this will be the most hard fought Worlds ever, there has never been so many paddlers training full or almost full time with such good equipment: carbon boats, cagdecks, lightweight plastic. Most teams even have 1 or 2 coaches working with them.

It’s hard to really pick one favourite not just in men’s but in all categories. The problem is that the standard is so high. On their good days upto 10 paddlers in the men’s could realistically win here. I think the key will be who manages to keep a good attitude, enjoy themselves and not get too caught up on the idea of winning.





Personally, I had a breakthrough in my paddling a week or so ago when GB team coach Dennis Newton arrived and ever since I’ve felt on fire. I’ve had 3 rides I think would stand a very good chance of winning so am feeling confidant. That said it’s going to be hard for sure. Having won last time I feel no pressure to win here I just want to do my personal best rides and enjoy the event.

Katya has been looking really good, she had a rest day yesterday and today she totally ripped, if she keeps paddling like she is doing she will be a very strong contender for the Gold.

Also from the GB team & Palm team Bren Orton has been getting some top rides, I haven’t watched him too closely as we paddle at the same times but he is easily capable of a medal here and can throw some of the nicest moves of anyone. Then there is Alan Ward the 2005 Junior World Champion, who is getting better and better here, I’ve actually always admired how he paddles and he seems focused this year so I reckon we could see him right up there too.


Here is a video Alan threw together of our 2nd team training:

BUT if I was forced to choose some possible favourites beside myself, Bren & Alan here are my top tips on who to look out for.

Senior Men


Peter Csonka: 2012 World Cup winner and twice World Championships silver medallist I think Peter wants this one more than anyone. He won the World Cup event here last year and if he’s at his best will be the most difficult paddler to beat.


Dane Jackson: Dane is in his first year competing as a senior at a World Championships and he is going constantly huge on at least 2 or 3 moves a ride, he will be one of the most impressive to watch regardless of score but we’ll see if he’ll be able to fit in enough moves in the 45 seconds to take the win. In my eyes he’ll be on the podium for sure, just which place is a mystery.


Mathieu Dumoulin: Mathieu the double European champion loves smooth flowing sequences of linked moves, it’s very beautiful to watch. Sometimes he might miss the angles on a few things but I’ve seen him hit some winning rides in practice and if he is careful with making sure he scores everything he can possibly do the highest scoring ride of anyone.


Sebastien Devred: former Junior World Cup winner, he is a very powerful methodical paddler and looks very in control. His rides seem to be coming together and he’ll go for every move possible. It lacks a bit of the flair of some of the others but he is very consistent whereas everyone else is more up and down.


Nick Troutman: the 2009 Men’s World Champion, he’s a great competitor and very strong, fast and snappy. You can really tell he has done a lot of work this last two years as his hole paddling is right up there now. I’d say Nick could really fly if it all comes together in one ride.


Jason Craig: the 2009 Junior Men’s World Champion, he has one of the snappiest styles of anyone and loves going big, in my opinion if he focus’s and really concentrates on a smart ride he will be in the medals.


Tomasz Czaplicki: Tomasz from Poland is one of my favourite paddlers to watch, I’ve admired his style for years and has had some good results in Europe and I think this year might be the time for him to finally show his potential internationally. He’s just started using the carbon Dagger Jitsu and is literally flying in it. If he can show in the comp what I’ve seen of him so far he’s going to cause some big upsets 🙂

Senior Women

In women’s it looks like the battle for the medals is wide open. Every girl would sell her soul for some consistency. No one seems to paddle the same level every day, but I will at least pick the ones who’ve showed some potential during this couple of weeks:


Claire O’Hara: the current World Champion from GB is still the toughest one to beat but the other girls are really biting her heels.


Katya Kulkova: she is my wife so I’m biased, but for years I’ve seen how good she is in practice and this year she’s really started to flourish in competition. (She was on the podium in every event this year). Here she can really thrown Mc’Nasties, Fonix’s, Godzilla’s all very nice and big. She has had a few rides I think would win but its still not every ride like this. She’s my top pick for the one who will cause some big surprises.


Marlene Devillez: the double European champion showed the other day a couple of potentially winning rides; mc’nastys both ways, Loops & Godzillas all nice, big and aerial, but it’s hard to tell if she will be able to pull it off in competition here. (the spot is hard).


Japanese Girls: Two Japanese girls especially Hitomi have been showing themselves as the most consistent when they’re fresh. It’s very nice to see them doing so good and I very hope to see at least one of them in the final.


Ruth Gordon: the 2007 World Champion, she’s doing some top scoring moves occasionally and of course you can never discount a competitor as experienced as her but we’ll see if she maintains the focus she used to have with the distractions of having a real job and slower lifestyle now.


Nina Csonkova: she is capable of high scoring rides if things come together for her. Knowing how good a competitor she is we expect her to get to the finals at least.


American Girls: This year US women’s team is not as strong as usually with Emily Jackson absent but their is potential for new stars like Adrienne to get their hands on a medal, but in general they start to look a bit tired after a week straight of team training.




In the Junior men’s I haven’t watched everyone but the stand out paddler for me it’s between Frances Thomas Richard who looks very good at his best but a bit inconsistent and Max Karlson of Sweden, he’s my fellow team Dagger paddler using the carbon Jitsu and simply he looks incredible, every move is huge and so snappy, I think win or not win he’s going to leave a fantastic impression on everyone who sees him. He is going to be a top paddler on the freestyle world for years if he keeps paddling how he is.


For the Junior Women’s USA’s Rowan Stewart is throwing some perfect Fonix’s and Mc’Nasties and really looks good, I’m just not sure if her consistency is good enough to topple Nuria Fontane of Spain who will be formidable for the other Junior’s to beat.

Now it’s time to get rested, have a last few easy sessions and prepare for World War 3 to kick off 😉


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2013 World’s lead up: First Descents Pro-Am comp…


Tomorrow we are one step closer towards kicking off the 2013 World Champs as the 8 days of official nations training begins.

Yesterday was chance for everyone to have some fun in aid of a good cause at the NOC Pro-Am WorldKayak throw down. All to raise money for the First’s Descents programme. (A kayaking based cancer charity that takes cancer survivors out kayaking to help them re-build their lives).

The idea is that two amateurs (usually kids) join up with one ‘Pro’, the pro coaches the kids in the morning and then we all compete in the afternoon. Each team member get’s two rides, then the average is worked out based on all the team members runs. It was all a bit of fun but so close to Worlds it was a good chance to see how we’re all stacking up in competition so far, with Dane Jackson, Bren Orton, EJ & Nick Troutman all leading teams.








I was fortunate to get two great young paddlers, 11-year-old Isaac Hull & 16 year old Kenya Ingram. Both could already throw down some great loops, cartwheels and splits and were working on mc’nasties. In Isaac’s practice run he impressed everyone with a textbook paddle throw loop and then followed it up with a paddle-less backloop…. I think Junior’s are just getting better and better. I certainly couldn’t do the things they were doing at their age.












It was nice to paddle together, see if we could improve and cheer each other & everyone’s teams on. A real good atmosphere. I just went in and had a good time throwing the moves I liked to do and the kids did the same, so we came away as the top placed team in 1st position 🙂 Hopefully it’s a good omen of things to come in 14 days time….

After the comp was the prize giving and a silent auction to raise even more money for First Descents. It was really good being out on the water, having fun with good people in aid of something worthwhile. Thanks everyone for such a good day especially Isaac & Kenya, you guys rock!













Now we have just 12 days until men’s prelims & 13 days until Women’s prelims, I’m feeling really good, my comp rides keep getting better and better and I feel like I’m just enjoying myself trying to see just what I can do in a ride here. I’ve grown to really love the hole here. Katya is similarly stepping it up with her Phonic’s & Mc’nasties getting more and more consistent so both of us are just really enjoying our paddling. Now almost everyone is here and team training kicks off tomorrow so we’ll be able to really see who’s doing what so will update you soon on the continued progression of all the top kayakers ripping it up out here 🙂

Till next time,


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14 days to go – Lead up to the 2013 World Champs!


It’s now just 14 days away until the 2013 Freestyle Kayak World Championships kicks off in Nantahala, USA.

We’ve been at NOC the rafting base/ comp site for the last week now and it’s good to see all the faces old & new showing up and getting the hang of the hole.

It’s like a rainforest here, it’s rained consistently everyday! The upside is that it’s quite warm and the area is lush with forests so it’s very scenic all around us but it does make it hard to get our new thermals dry 😉





The hole is quite tricky for some moves, but everything goes and because of the challenging nature it’s fun trying to figure out all your moves here.

It feels quite fresh and exciting this year, all the companies have new boats to show off and the number of paddlers ripping is higher than ever. It really feels like freestyle’s booming again.


Speaking of standard it’s quite impressive how much Women’s and even Junior women’s have come on in the last two years. It’s not unusual to see junior girls throwing Mc’nasties or Phonic’s and now it’s many senior women regularly throwing the big moves, I think there scores will be much closer to the men’s than we’ve ever seen. Even open canoeists are throwing mc’nasties and lunars!

In the men’s it’s going to be the battle royale, there are European Champions, WW GP winners, World Cup winners, multiple former World Champs and many new comers all fighting it out to get there best rides ready, it’s a very open competition so far, I predict the winning ride is going to be quite an insane ride & score.

Team Palm members that are here so far are myself, Katya & Bren. Personally I’m very happy with how I’m getting used to the hole, rides are going great but I still need to get some consistency in my Lunars & Tricky Whu’s to give me the extra jump up to stand a chance of winning but there is plenty of time for me to put the finishing touches to my ride. Bren fresh back from creeking all summer has got back into playboating without any struggle by the looks of it, he’s looking powerful as ever and has been getting some rides that could get him a medal already. Katya has had a great year of competition so far, and straight away has been doing rides that will let her go far, she’s just been working on getting her mc’nasty and phonics consistent which would give her a winning ride, she actually got one ride today that I don’t think is beatable 😉








So to wrap my blog up here are my current tips on who else is looking good:

Dane Jackson, it’s no surprise but he’s really throwing some very nice moves and rides and he’s almost certainly going to be on the podium.

Peter Csonka I haven’t seen too many full rides of him yet as I think he’s mostly getting all his moves dialled in but he won here last year and of the full comp rides I’ve seen him go for they’d be tough to beat, he’s also in my eyes the best competitior in freestyle, no one steps it up like he does under pressure.

For women’s – Claire O’Hara is looking strong, but not all of her main competition arrived yet, it’s also nice to see quite a few new girls coming up and paddling well. Japanese girls very impressed us with their progress from last year, some American girls like Adrienne learned new moves, and many strong paddlers from Europe. So I think in the women’s it will be a tough fight as well.

So back to training for us 😉 we’ll have an update up again soon as more faces arrive and team training’s get started, this would be the time to pick our favourites and let you know how we’re looking!


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Pringles Summer Sessions – Video

Training hard in my Carbon Dagger Jitsu the last few weeks in Salt, Catalonia & Millau France.

See how much this boat rips! It’s incredible! http://dagger.com/jitsu/

A big thanks to Quim, Nuria & family for housing us, showing us around and being so good to us!

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Salt Sessions – Beautiful Catalonia!


We’ve spent the last week paddling, training and enjoying Salt in Catalonia. After the Natural Games we didn’t know where best to go to to train for the next week. Quim Fontane Maso (European Champion) suggested to come to his home spot in the city of Salt.


The hole which Quim and his Dad built themselves has been perfect for training – not too easy, some tricky aspects but gives some good pop and good competion practice. Also paddling with Quim & Nuria in their home spot really pushed us and was good fun too.

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The area has been stunning from the medievel village Besalu where we stayed to, the sights of Girona and Barcelona. We’ve seen buildings by Gaudi, paintings by Dali and Picasso and bridges from Eiffel but I think what I liked best of the area was the crystal clear water and deserted beaches…rest days were not hard to fill here! With such good kayaking, company & scenary it’s been a joy to train here.

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Quim, Nuria ,Teresa (mum) & Dad (Joaquim) were amazing to us – I’ve never had such good hospitality – from housing us, to showing us all the best bits of the area to inviting us to particpate in there floodlight night session and mass river descent the next day. They were fantastic.

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We even made it onto the local TV: http://tvgirona.xiptv.cat/ultima-hora/capitol/campionat-del-mon-de-kayak-free-style

Now it’s time for us to leave and head to Sort where we have the next competition looming, sorry to leave what’s been my favourite spot of the year but looking forward to getting another chance to compete.

Here is a video of my training from here & Millau:


P.S. A huge thanks to the Fontane Maso family for inviting us here and looking after us!

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Tevasphere Training – Getting ready for Worlds

Teva provided me with the ultimate training shoe for this season. The NEW Tevasphere.

See how i’m putting it to use in my run up to Worlds this September 🙂

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Natural Games 2013


The Natural Games is a big sports and music festival held over four days in Millau, France. Every day there are competitions and activities in all sports powered by Nature: Kayak Freestyle,  Kayak Boatercross, Kayak big air ramp,  MTB Downhill, MTB Slopestyle, Paragliding, Climbing, Dragon Boating and Slack Line. Then every evening different artists and DJ’s play  to huge crowds. The event draws in over 60,000 spectators over the 4 days!!! It’s a really good atmosphere with so many people coming together here competing, enjoying their sports and watching all the action and music.

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Me & Katya were here in 2010 and had a great time, I even took the win which isn’t easy at these french events (the standard is very high) so we were very happy to be invited here again this year!

First up in the kayaking was the Friday evening Boatercross, everyone was given Dagger Mamba’s to use so we were all in the same boat making it fair. We raced just as it was getting dark and the really big crowds were arriving for the music to kick off. We raced in fours with the top 2 going through. Both me and Katya made it through the first round, but got eliminated in the next, racing was very brutal with fierce fighting, paddle’s clashing and blood being spilled (literally in my case: my finger got a bit sliced open by someone’s paddle blade 😉 all shown on live french TV. From the freestylers Quim Fontane Maso, Mathieu Dumoulin and Tim Biere’nard lasted the longest providing some fantastic entertainment as Quim & Tim’s ferocious battle eventually knocked them both out but none of the freestylers made it to finals. In the end the final was all down to serious racers and Raphael Thiebaut took the win.

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That evening all the invited athletes from the different sports got a taste of stardom as we were all introduced on the main stage to a huge sea of Frenchies 😉

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Saturday was the day of battle for us Freestylers. The number of paddlers here is amazing, there are so many kids kayaking (& adults) and generally the standard is high. There were so many competitors in fact that it would take a whole day of solid competing to get through the Cadets, Juniors, C1, Womens & Men’s Prelims, 1/4’s, and Semi’s.

Katya paddled very well in prelims to comfortably make the Women’s Finals in 2nd behind 2xEuropean Champion Marlene Devillez.


For us men we had a real marathon having prelims, quarters and semi’s all in the same day. We had Mat Dumoulin 2x Euro Champ, Quim Fontane Maso current Euro Champ, & Junior World cup winner Sebastian Devred all here, meaning the standard is like Worlds level. The hole here is quite unusual to me, it’s narrow meaning you have to land moves in a very short area in order to stick them. The prelims and quarters I felt good and had good moves but wasted too much time flushing but enough to get through easily, in the Semi’s I hit a great ride scoring 1510 to take 2nd behind Sebastian Devred.

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Finals came the next day and the level didn’t disappoint with Junior girls even having high scores with Nuria Fontane taking the win, then in Junior Boys Thomas Richard, a local paddler who really impressed me easily won too. In the women’s I thought Katya had it, she paddled great but judges said Marlene won. Katya (& I) was happy anyway with her getting 3 solid rides.

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They have a different judging system here which means sometimes it’s a bit hard for us to work out what scores what, it rewards lots of linking of moves and cartwheel based moves very highly. It does seem a bit softer on the actual moves but overall it’s fair (just a bit random for us who are used to the international system).

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In the Men’s final I didn’t have my best day coming 5th out of 7, I just didn’t feel in my usual groove but guess that’s the way it goes. The scores were incredibly high as was the standard. Mathieu, Quim & Sebastian were on fire getting great rides and incredible scores. It was close but in the end Mat took the win with a huge score of 2350!!! Sebastian was 2nd with 1900ish and Quim 3rd with 1790ish.

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We came here primarily for training and to see how we’re doing in our preparations for Worlds since their were quite a few of our main rivals here. It’s turned out to be a very good place to train, this hole is unlike anywhere we usually paddle which has made us work on our weakness’s, the french paddlers are very good and really know this kind of features so we got a good taste of Worlds level competing with paddlers on their best.

I’m not too disappointed with my result, training is going well and it’s good to get these blips out of the way before the big events 🙂 Before here training & competitions had felt like they’re going well on the way to Worlds, and by coming 5th here I discovered a few weakness’s and areas I need to improve with plenty of time to solve them. We have a newly updated regime for me and i’m looking forward to seeing how I can improve before the event in Sort, Spain in a few weeks where quite likely we’ll see the same main rivals + Dane Jackson all of us fighting for good prize money so I imagine it’s going to be tough 😉

The festival overall was great to be a part of, they put on a fantastic show, it’s also good to see that in France the Kayaking gets quite a bit of attention and coverage from the media and the public. We enjoyed being here again! Big thanks to the organisers and all participants for making it what it was!


Check out the videos below to get a feel of the event:



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