The interesting part is that in each and every whitwater kayak discipline you need elements from the other disciplines. That is a truth that a pure freestyler, a slalom kayaker or a creek boater can never escape. Then I again wonder: Why do so many focus on only one of them?
There was a time when big waves were constantly in my life; playing on the Ottawa in spring and fall, and surfing Nile Special for weeks on end in Uganda. This spring I felt the itch again and I booked my ticket to Canada within days. Stepping into Katrina van Wijk´s huge truck at the Montreal Trudeau Airport reality suddenly snapped back in place.
My next reality check appeared at the Ruins, a fast, challenging and tricky wave in the middle of Ottawa city. The locals and imported locals were talking non-sense like “too foamy”, but luckily we didn´t believe them! It really is hard when you have the best waves in the world at your door-step. Not good enough for the locals is very often amazing for others, and I rediscovered my passion for big waves as Katrina was discovering a surprising passion for freestyle. The days were good to say the least..
Upon picking up Nouria Newman the energy level in the group rose even more. We were on our own program, who cared about the boys and what they were doing, if they were lucky they showed up and joined the show. Actually, Devyn and Kent did quite regulary, which was great. It was really cool to see Devyn styling the Ruins with 12 minutes long surfs, and there is nobody more stoked than Kent on surfing Gladiator. You guys rock!
There is something else that makes these two women special. They enjoy all aspects of kayaking. This is something I have been advocating for a looong time. I remember back at the World Championships in Graz, in 2003 or so, I was defending myself to various people for not just focusing on either playboating or creekboating. I had come straight down to compete from a great roadtrip in Norway with my friends and filming for TGR and “Valhalla”, easily opting out of training freestyle in Europe that spring.
My words back in Graz were the same as I have used also in Canada for the Worlds in 2007, and that I remember repeating to Nouria in Thun in 2009. She was deep into slalom and faced problems when wanting to also do a bit of playboating at the World Championships. I told her to not care about what the coaches said and do it all: “They say we can´t do it all, I say at least we can try!” I then watched her go on to becoming Junior World Champion in freestyle, and to excel to greatness in slalom and creeking.
The Ottawa XL was well organized and amazingly fun. Yes, surfing Gladiator is terrifying. However, I have never wanted to surf a wave as much as that Saturday during the XL. I kept missing the ferry out to the beast. Thinking I was in the right spot, I would relax for a second, then realise that I missed it again. Poof, goooone, another half an hour wait in the eddy before a new chance would come. Rush kindly explained to me in the eddy what to do after looking at my sulking face halfway through the competition: “Dude, just before it hits you, try and do a boof stroke upstream!” The amazing thing is that it worked..
The ride I did get felt amazing, and there was no choice but to flash the peace-sign to the crowd while screaming my lungs out with joy on every bounce. Lukicly I did in the end remember to try a trick as well. I was supposed to be competing after all… The move I threw felt big, I landed it, spun around a bit too quickly and spent the next 10 seconds trying to roll up before the infamous Ledge.
Upon rolling up I did see Matt Hamilton racing to my aid in case of swimming in his Superman jet-boat… C´mon, Matt, it was only four roll attempts! I can not wait for next year and another chance at playing with this BEAST, as I earned myself a spot at the Whitewater Grand Prix with an overall 3rd in the XL. Bring it on!
The Boater-X on Sunday was way cool, though I wish the flatwater had been a bit shorter…. Nouria had a greenish color in the eddy before starting, due to the overtake of her new breakdancing Alter-Ego the night before, and Katrina was surprisingly quiet with the odd “yeaheeee” to sort of wake herself up… 🙂 Nevertheless these slalom girls are FAST in the flatwater! I stayed on their tail and as I dropped into Coliseum I saw Nouria flying backwards toward me as she got nailed in a braking wave. The phrase “Flying Frenchie” was re-defined!
The surfing was amazing, but really what was the most amazing, was to be back together with people that love it just as much as I do. In the parking lots, on the waves, at comps and at parties I met so many old friends I haven´t seen for years, smiles all around, and it was as if it was only a few months back that I had been in Canada last.
Thanks to the van Wijk family for amazing hospitality, to Joel and Patrick for another sweet event and to Katrina and Nouria for general awesomeness!