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2015 Freestyle kayaking World Championships

The 2015 ICF Freestyle Kayaking World Championships are Freestyle kayaking’s single most prestigious event. Occurring once every two years, out of every single competition in the world this event is the main focus of almost all freestyle kayakers.  The past two world championships have been held in small holes but this year we saw the event return to a wave. Some athletes are able to switch seamlessly between the two different features but most specialise in either a hole or a wave and it was both awesome to watch the true wave riders like Pat Camblin come out of the woodwork and amazing to see dedicated hole kayakers such as Tomasz Czaplicki improve so rapidly on a wave.

The competition was to be hosted by Wilderness tours and held on the Garburator wave on the Ottawa river. The Ottawa has been one of the most influential rivers in the world in regards to developing Freestyle kayaking and as such we have seen two previous world championships held on this river. Wilderness tours did an incredible job building grandstands, Judges tents, Media platforms and even putting in a dedicated wifi network for the event all in a location that whilst not quite being in the middle of nowhere, is pretty damn close.

I arrived almost 60 days in advance to the event for various reasons; To train and surf some great waves in warm water, but mostly to hang out in the Canadian sunshine and session one of the most famous rivers in the world every day. My summer was a blur of endless days spent on Garb and Corner wave and before I knew it we where coming into the final countdown before the 2015 worlds. I felt the familiar pangs of nervous anticipation before a big event as we marched through the opening ceremony.

Those feelings of nervousness carried with me right up until I caught the wave for the first time during the competition and then I don’t know what happened, The familiar feeling of dropping in, catching the wave put me at ease and weeks of preparation came to pass as muscle memory took over and I laid down an almost perfect competition ride. I could have made it into the next round just from one ride but instead I put down another almost flawless ride just to be sure and to ease any of my doubts that I had somehow had a lucky ride. I got to spend my next two rides fooling around and trying tricks that I would normally never pull in an event of this calibre for the likelihood of not landing them. Even the first cut was brutal from over 90 very talented kayakers down to just 20, I finished the day in third place and felt great heading into the next round.

I was so stoked on the previous days rides I went into the quarter finals happy and relaxed about making the cut and advancing to the next round. I threw down my highest scoring ride of the competition and advanced in second place just behind one of my heroes Nick Troutman. I couldn’t have been happier at this point of the competition but I was equally nervous about making the cut into finals with so many ridiculous kayakers sitting just below me in the standings.

Going into the next round was Brutal. A number of kayakers had stepped their game up in order to advance into the finals, Most notably Quim Fontané Masó from Catalonia had somehow found a way to tack on an extra 200 points to his ride and was sitting pretty in third place by the time it came for me to take my ride. With just two chances to make it into the finals I was pretty stressed. I had an okay first ride but knew I could better it. We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the results and I grew more and more concerned while waiting. I didn’t want to take my last ride until I knew whether I was safe or not. The results didn’t come in in time and I took my final ride not knowing whether I would move onto the next round. The announcers told me to treat it like I hadn’t made it on my first ride and I went for it. Sadly I threw too hard on my first trick and over rotated my airscrew all the way into a crash off the wave. I rolled up desperately looking for answers when my friend Nick paddled up told me he had done the math and that I was through to the finals in 5th place. I was so unbelievably happy, relieved and stoked!

Finals day came and I couldn’t wait to get on the water. After a disappointing two rides in the previous rounds I was fired up to improve on my score and hopefully lay down my dream ride. I was in fact too fired up and on all three of my rides I threw tricks too hard, over rotated and crashed off the wave. If ever there was a defining moment for me to pick out why I compete it was during the finals when I was having bad rides and the boys I was competing against where cheering me on, willing me to have a good ride and genuinely wanting me to do well. I don’t know many other sports with this level of camaraderie and it was both a pleasure and a privilege to be on the water with such awesome people.

My only goal for this event was to make it to the finals and have the opportunity to show the world what I am capable of. I got really close to my goal and whilst I feel disappointed in my performance in finals I am happy with how I surfed in the earlier rounds and understand that there are many phenomenal kayakers that did not even make it this far. The biggest example of this being Stephen Wright who unfortunately lucked out during his team trials but would undoubtedly have been one of the top contenders at this event. I have learnt a lot of skills from Stevo over the years; Pistol flips, The best lines on the Gauley, Mystery moves etc, but by far his biggest lesson has been how to be a good sportsman. You can read his blog on worlds and staying classy here –

I would also like to take this moment to thank everyone that helped the Ugandan Freestyle kayak team make it to this World Championships. From cash donations, emails to the Canadian embassy, to Canadians lobbying their MP’s. It was amazing to people come together to support this cause and even better to be able to watch Team Uganda throw down in Canada.

With my competition year officially over it is time for me to do some soul boating and work on some new tricks I dreamed up earlier this summer.
Sorry to all of the awesome people that cheered me on and where looking forward to seeing me shred in the finals… Hopefully, Next time!
See you on the water,