On a whim I decided to venture out to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, NOC, for the 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships. Upon arrival, the Great Smokey Mountains do not disappoint in their namesake. It’s refreshing that the “smoke” rising from mountains each morning and afternoon does not result in any sort of respiratory issues or structure loss. The ever-present damp dominates the senses while the competition regalia fills every other space not occupied by the humidity. The NOC is packed with athletes, media, and officials while at the same time accommodating customers looking for rafting and zipline tours. In the scheme of things this competition isn’t much different from any other river festival save for the international complement of teams. 27 nation flags hang from the pedestrian bridge over the river.
Today marks the second day with Men’s and Women’s Squirt boats, and K1 Jr. Women preliminaries. While the usual suspects of the Jackson and Demshitz team members are present, the national alignment of competitors provides an extra layer of excitement and complexity. The complexity is helped along by the fact that the overwhelming majority of kayaks are Jackson 2014 Rockstars with Pyranha, Dagger, and Wave Sport sprinkled around here and there. The international feel is complete with the occasional Vajda.. No matter which athlete takes the gold, it’s clear which manufacturer is in the lead.
Yesterday’s Jr. prelims cut the Junior Men down to 10 from a field of 33. Our three US Juniors made the cut, placing 1st, 3rd, and 5th. For those who enjoy competitive freestyle, you can’t help but take a fair bit of pride in the fact that our paddling youth are quite capable against the world’s best. Today will show how our Jr. Women stack up internationally. Before the Jr. Women compete, however, the squirt boats will take to the hole and compete with confounding displays of submerged acrobatics.
The competition hole, to my eye, is nothing particularly exceptional. In talking with the competitors, I get the sense that, not unlike any given competition, the hole has its good and bad sides. A fair few competitors lament that the World Championships are being held on a hole feature rather than a wave feature. Even the official event poster has a kayaker featured in mid blunt as if to highlight the angst of those who desire big wave competition while being handed a modest hole.
Colorado is somewhat represented in this international stage. Chino of Costa Rica and Max Karlsson of Sweden call Colorado home for some or all of the year. Hobie is running around with a microphone as well, and you can see him on the daily feeds. Below is the link to the event where you can watch live feeds and daily updates. Tune in today at 11 eastern to “watch,” in a metaphorical sense I suppose, the Men’s and Women’s Squirt Boating heats. At 1pm there will be a downriver creekish race for fun, and then Jr. Women K1 will take to the hole for their prelims.