165 competitors from 24 Nations entered this year’s World Extreme Championships in Austria. 134 competitors ended up competing, some dropped out due to high water, some got injured (like Nick Troutman). By the time the competition started, the roster was stacked with incredible racers.
High water provided entertainment for specators looking for paddlers to be offline, crashing, surfing, or generally having a tougher time looking smooth. The qualifier was as it always is, a race on the bottom section, which includes two tough spots to race well through, followed by a 60 second class 2 run out with challenging race lines to be fast, but easy whitewater to negotiate. This is actually a fitting section to race to separate those who should race the run from the top, and those who should not.
Crashing down this course gets ugly quick and that isn’t what the organizers want. Given a choice, everyone would race perfectly online, or close to it, and the fastest paddler would win. Even after eliminating the bottom 100 paddlers and only taking the top 48, there are swims, surfs, injuries, but usually just broken egos when things go wrong. In the women’s class- there were 11 competitors from 7 countries. Nouria Newman had two solid runs, winning on both runs to become the “Sickline Queen”.
In the men’s class- Dane and I finished .01 seconds apart after first runs (I was ahead) but then he beat me by 1 second on the second run to win get 11th in the qualifier and I was 16th (yes, 5 people were in that single second on a 2:20 course!). We both made finals. Sam Sutton had a great run to win the qualifier, two seconds faster than my best run. Mike Dawson had the course record on his second run in his new Karma just ahead of Sam’s best run. Joel was in 60th place after his first run but had a great second run to move up to 34th place and make the finals. Hunt had two consistent runs to get in the 30’s as well.
Saturday was a long day. Mandatory practice run at 9am, followed by our quarter-finals run 1 hour later. I was against Tomas Andrassy from Slovakia in the head to head format (eliminates ½ of the field) and I beat him by 2 seconds having a good run up top, but messed up Champion’s killer. Dane beat his guy, and Joel had the only one to drop out from Friday to Saturday due to rising water and his guy had not been having good runs up top. Joel got a free ride to the next round. Mike Dawson surfed the big hole and got knocked out in the first round, a big upset. Some other upsets were Fabian Dorfer, Germany, (2012 World Champion slalom racer), Vavre from Czech (2013 World Slalom Champion) who hurt his ribs and while he raced, it didn’t go well.
In the semi-finals- I managed to have my worst run yet, getting pushed over the rock at double drop and not getting back to the center before the big hole. Didn’t go well and I was knocked out handily. Joel beat his guy to move into the “Super Finals”. Sam Sutton and his brother Jamie were both looking super strong in the earlier rounds. Joe Morley from England, on their slalom team, was second in the qualifier and had potential. Daniel Klotzler from Italy started off finals by putting down a super fast 56 second time. Nobody was touching it for some time. Eventually Joe Morely beat it with a lower 56 second time. However, Jamie and Sam both had to go and while they certainly were capable of beating it, the mistakes were visible on the way down and clock showed them to be slower. Egor from Russia had a great run to come in third place with Jamie and Sam in 4th and 5th. The top three women were Nouria Newman, Martina Wegman, and Toni from New Zealand.
There was a party at “Jay’s Cantina” after the race, where “Chainsaw” was the DJ and played lots of EJ music. I had one elbow pad on, and Vavre had my other one on and there was plenty of slam dancing, stage diving, and body surfing for just about anyone’s taste.
We followed that up with packing up and heading to Munich for the final day of Octoberfest (Sunday) and fly home. Looking forward to trying to win the World Championships next year…