The world of freestyle kayaking is a close community, with barely a handful of people outside the sport really knowing what it is. One reason for this is the fact that the only kayaking events showcased at the Olympic stage consist of slalom and sprint. This is a real shame. Although slalom is an incredibly disciplined sport, requiring high levels of fitness and ability, freestyle takes kayaking to another level. It pushes the boundaries of technology, technique and the paddler’s skill.
But what exactly is freestyle kayaking? It consists of using a small kayak to surf a wave or a feature, known as a hole, in a river. Tricks are also performed such as cartwheels, front flips, and the more extreme, with each trick earning its own name including ‘McNasty’ or ‘Space Godzilla’. When a new trick is invented, the creator usually provides the name. One such example is ‘McNasty’, named after the creator repeatedly landing face-first in the water whilst performing the trick. This was considered to be nasty and was then discussed over a McDonalds, and the name stuck!!
To perform the tricks well takes dedication and incredible athletic ability. In a competition situation, the paddler is allowed three rides of 45 seconds’ duration to perform as many tricks as possible. Each trick landed perfectly will score points with different tricks being awarded different points.
One such competition was the main selection event for the Kayaking World Championships at the National White Water Centre, Nottingham on the weekend of the 23rd of October.The University of Nottingham were already assured a representative at the Championships in Germany next year with David Bainbridge, current C1 Freestyle World Champion, Nottingham student and paddling God, automatically qualifying. However, the event itself also showcased some of the University’s top athletes with Rob Crowe, Canoe club Vice President, Islay Crosbie, Canoe club member, and Ben West, Canoe Polo club member, all competing.
They all paddled the first day on top form. However, the feature on which the second day was based was poor and failed to showcase anybody’s talent. Even the current British Champion, James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington, was struggling. Despite this disappointment, Islay Crosbie performed brilliantly, winning the squirt event and securing her place at the Championships next year.
Freestyle kayaking is a great sport and I would urge you to go and check it. Hopefully, you will see for yourself this amazing sport and how exciting kayaking can really be when you’re not pole dancing in a slalom boat!
Canoe Club President