The World Championships for Whitewater Kayaking comes in four forms- Slalom, Wildwater, Freestyle, and Extreme racing. Wildwater World Championships were in August, Slalom in September, Freestyle in September, and Extreme racing in October. While there are few athletes that do more than one discipline, there are some for sure. We’ll see several paddlers from the Slalom World Championships in the Extreme World Championships, including past and present slalom World Champions and World Cup Champions. We will also see some of the top Freestyle paddlers in the Extreme World Championships in Austria this year. Dane, Nick, Joel, and I will be competing in both this year.
Multi-discipline paddling is a great way to keep sharp, have more fun, and broaden your horizons. Whether you do it competitively, or just for fun, there is something special about getting out of a creekboat and into a play boat, or vice versa. Getting into a slalom boat, getting onto a SUP, or any change in the craft you are paddling and ideally even the river you are on really does spice things up. For me, it has been a way of life for so long that I can’t imagine doing without any of my different boats and paddling types.
I am up to my eyeballs in training for the World Freestyle Championships, an event that I have been very successful at winning in the past, being the only men’s K1 to win more than one, but hoping to win my 5th this year. The challenges of winning this event are enormous. dozens of talented top competitors from around the world, and the straight up “do it now” format where you enter the arena and there are no second chances. Watching all of the best paddlers in the world train for this event is very inspiring and makes me want to learn some of the little techniques that have been developed and employed by different paddlers. My son, Dane, has his own technique for a couple of moves that is proving to give him bigger air than anyone else in the game right now. He is the only paddler cleaning his McNasty and Phonix Monkey moves on the loop, due to being so high up in the air. I didn’t develop that technique and while I have tried it, I am not consistent enough with it to use it in this event, most likely. I have my own strategy and techniques, however, for getting top scoring ride in each round, that I hope will get me into finals and then on top of the podium again. The physical side of the training right now is quite different from extreme racing, which will start in a week or two.
In freestyle, if you are in the Men’s K1 class and throwing moves from the second you enter the hole until you get out, you are pushing way past aerobic and are getting good lactic training on each ride. 60 second practice rides are like running a 1/4 mile if you are going as hard as you can. The World Extreme Championships in Austria will be a 60 second course as well. This part is very similar. The difference is that in freestyle, we are pushing, pulling, lifting, dropping, and rarely breathing properly as you are in and under the water regularly. In extreme racing, hopefully you are forward stroking the entire time with your upper body, using those muscles much differently than freestyle, but no so much that freestyle doesn’t make you fast. In extreme racing, you are also using your core all of the time with hard boofs, and turns and edging that adds a ton of oxygen use to the already full on upper body work. Being on-line is still the most important thing in extreme racing and the fastest paddling in the world doesn’t do any good if you miss a move, a boof, or a line. Same with freestyle- few paddlers, only the top ones, are capable of full speed paddling for 45 seconds without slowing down, and fewer can keep their technique intact on the hard moves at the end of their rides due to being tired.
It is funny that I am already thinking about the Extreme World Championships and the Freestyle is only about to begin. It is certainly not a distraction that is unwelcome, as a head down focus on one thing for too long makes me stale and callous. I am just excited that there is an immediate switch of focus after the freestyle worlds and the Karma will be back on the water.
Here are a few articles from past World Championships that I wrote… the idea is the same- show up to the venue, and learn the water, train hard and do my best to be ready, have fun paddling on that water and with old and new friends, and see the surrounding area for what it is and appreciate that I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do, everyday.
Here are two videos: one of one of my runs in the Freestyle world Championships- one of my runs on the top of the course at the Extreme World Championships- such different disciplines!
Training Run GoPro POV:
I can only find this low quality video online that just shows a run during the worlds….
Time to get ready to train this morning!
Can’t wait to throw some ends!!