… semi-final in canoe slalom just happened three weeks ago. It might seem like a small accomplishment, but to tell you the truth – I was (almost) crying on the conveyor belt back up to the top of the course after the run that got me through. Let me take you on a little journey.
I was 15, or maybe 16, but it doesnt matter. What mattered was this guy, Petter, who was doing his best to teach me how to do an eskimo roll. I didn´t get it. Not then, and not in the next three months. We did however start dating, and I kept trying to get the roll. I was bad at it. I was not a born kayaker. But I was stubborn.
In 2007 I was on the White Nile in Uganda, surfing one of the best waves there is. The boys were doing this move they called the helix. It really hurt when you got it wrong, and I got it wrong a lot. I also heard about the Pistol Flip. It looked awesome. It also hurt when you got it wrong. But guess what? After an insane amount of crashes, snot and a very congested head I started nailing them. Today I am happy to say that I can throw them pretty consistantly even with very little time spent in a freestyle boat.
In 2009 I narrowingly missed the podium at the World Championships in freestyle, after I had been top three in every single round. Placing fourth in finals was one of my biggest dissapointments in kayaking yet. When it gets to me (yes, it still does at times) I turn it around and tell myself that at least I was the nr 1 woman in freestyle one day, as I won the semi-finals.
The day after I drove with my friend Valerie to another World Championships. This time the discipline was canoe slalom. We were pretty much beginners in the discipline, but when we got the request from the Norwegian federation if we would like to give it a go we thought why not? We made it into a challenge to not get last! We got one hour of practise before the race…but guess what? We did not place last. But most importantly – I almost found it more fun than freestyle and creeking. That is an outragous thing to say in the whitewater world.. but I was ready, or almost ready, for a new challenge.
It still took me 6 years to finally take slalom somewhat seriously. What to say – life got in the way. So did waterfalls, first descents, expeditions, injuries, extreme competitions, education and travels. The normal stuff. But. The past five months I have spent about 90 percent of my time in the slalom boat and 10 percent in my creekboat. It has not been easy.
I decided to not go to the Worlds in freestyle that is currently ongoing on one of my favorite waves in the world – Garberator in Canada. I almost jumped on the plane – but reality hit and I realised that I simply was not willing to put in what it takes to do my best at freestyle this season. The realisation came when I surfed one of the best waves in the world, Milky Wave in Voss, this summer. It only comes in when the water is really high – and even if I was throwing my clean blunts, flash backs, back stabs, pistol flips and pan-ams like it was yesterday and not a year ago since I had been on a decent wave, (WWGP 2014) it just wasn´t as much fun as I imagined it would be. In fact, I found myself thinking I should go and have a slalom session instead or head up to do a high-water run on the river. And do you know why? I have done freestyle so much that felt a bit like routine.. And I secretly felt a bit bored on the wave.
I believe I will be back in freestyle soon enough though, but for now my mind is set on poles. But pretty please, let us have more World Championships on good waves…. It is so much more appealing to watch and so much more fun!
However, what connects all those little stories above is an ultimate drive to be challenged. In earlier years I went between creeking and freestyle, and of course heard many times that I will never become the best at neither unless I stop doing both. Well, I am simply not put together that way. It is something I can not accept. But the most important thing is this: As I got older I have realised that it is not about becoming nr 1 in a World Championships. That is still only being nr 1 on a given day. What about the other 364 days? My focus have drastically shifted into becoming my best – every day.
Pluss I get bored very easily so I really enjoy switching between the disciplines. So, this is maybe the most I have focused on one discipline since 2009 when I got my dissapointing 4th place at the Worlds, and it is exciting. And frustrating. And very inspiring.
So here it is – my run that put me in semi-final (30 out of 70 competitors) at the World Cup Final in Pacu, France. Afterwards my relief was huge, and all those double sessions I have done in my slalom boat became worth it. Since April I have knocked out about 250 hours in my slalom boat… That is a lot when you pull on every stroke during sessions.
At last I ended up 24th after a not so good semi-final run, but it still felt like a victory with the course being very tricky. My story is far from ended, and after I have paddled my two runs at the World Championships in Lee Valley, London in two weeks my focus might shift again. And that is what I love with kayaking – there is never a reason to not challenge yourself to become better.
I am not a natural born canoe slalom athlete – I am not really talented in the discipline – but you know what? I am stubborn. I am a hard worker. And I believe in putting bricks on top of bricks. So who knows the future? Not me.
PS:In the next column for Kayaksession I am sharing some insight from little Mexican ripper Sofi Reinoso who is also a whitewater kayaker on a slalom quest. Make sure to check it out!