By Eric Jackson
Paddlesports is a flip flop wearing, spend your money on kayaking trips and equipment type of sport most of the time. Not last night in Augsburg, Germany, however. Last night was a red carpet, black tie, night in the “Golden Room” which is the city of Augsburg’s city hall built in the 1600’s. Amazing live music that reminded me of Cirque du Soleil music (awesome). Amazing food, and an amazing amount of the “who’s who” of the world of paddlesports from so many disciplines. Slalom, Downriver, sea kayaking, marathon, freestyle, sprint. Being held in Europe, it was very euro centric, but still had South Africa, Nepal, England, North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand present. Whether it was the 1957 World Slalom Champion, Manfred Vogt, or 7 time (a record!) Olympian, Bridget Fischer, from Germany who has won 12 Olympic medals (ranked 7th among any sport), to the younger generation, Jessica Fox, who at only 21 years old is the dominant female slalom racer in both C1 and K1 and is likely to break many slalom records in the years to come. It wasn’t all about competitive paddling as Freya Hoffmeister, former bodybuilder, “Miss Germany” contestant, and long time Sea Kayaking extreme distance paddler proved. Freya has circumvented Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (just finished that recently) and more. Here undertakings are not for the faint of heart, and she has proven time and time again that she can endure what others who tried before her, could not.
The evening was a combination of music, short speeches by the Mayor, by the main organizer/brainchild of the event- Rob van Bommel, 5 Time World Champion slalom racer- Richard Fox and more. The paddlers being inducted had amazing people introducing them as well. Each of the presenters were decorated paddlers themselves and it was an honor for all who received their award to have such amazing presenters.
My presenter was Lisa Micheler- Jones, who was racing slalom at the same time I was in the 80’s and early 90’s. Lisa won the 1991 World Championships in Tace, Slovenia, and the next year’s Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. She is now a slalom coach here in Augsburg, Germany.
While there have been plenty of amazing kayaking events held over the years for video premiers, awards, etc.., nothing has come close to what this group put on for these awards in terms of having so many people from such varied sectors of the sport, as well as creating the first true black tie atmosphere I have seen in our sport. I, of course, thought I would be over-dressed when Kristine showed me what she packed for me to wear before I left on Friday. When I arrived at the “golden Room” I realized that I was one of the only people not wearing a tie. While I am quite happy that I live a casual dress life (uh, more like no shirt or shoes most of the time), having an event like this once a year is a welcome addition to our sport.
The trophy/awards we received are carbon paddle blades made by Nelo kayak company in Portugal. It is a fitting trophy that is both unique, and very classy, and of course the paddle blade says it all.
While I was honored to be invited to be a part of the “Academy” as a “lifetime achievement” winner, I declined my invitation, not because I don’t want to be a part of the organization, but because I am still in the game and want to continue to play as a participant. Whether I ever win another World Paddle Award again or not is not important, but staying in the arena, competing, and trying my best as a participant is. Love what I do!
Here is a photo essay that is better than writing…
It is 11:30 am German time (2:30 am TN time!) and I have my first heat of Boatercross in 90 minutes. I need to get my gear ready, warm-up and go. I am racing 2 World Medalist slalom racers and one relatively new paddler, who has not won anything big, but still is fast)… Will my USA created strategies, skills, speed work against primarily Augsburg trained slalom racers/boatercross racers? I guess we’ll find out. I have only raced boater cross one time in Europe, 2006 Wave and Wheels in Bremgarten, Austria and I did win that event. I am borrowing a boat and paddle as I didn’t bring them thinking I could get what I wanted… I am racing a large Villain and using a Kober paddle. The Villain isn’t very fast compared to the Karma or Zen, but I can use it as a blocking device and ramming tool. The Kober paddle is a bit odd, but with a good warm up it will work fine as it is a great paddle, just different from my Werner Double Diamond.
The start is a cool ramp above the river that will get everyone fired up. 5 gates/obstacles on the course make it more interesting and opportunities for lead changes….. OK, time to go…
Here is a video I made from the weekend. I hope you like it!