World Freestyle Kayak Champs Gearing up in Thun, Switzerland


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Who’s it going to be this go around? Will EJ retain his coveted crown? Or will he be usurped by eager-to-prove-himself son-in-law Nick Troutman, high-flying Bryan Kirk, airwheel master Stephen Wright, or some other freestyle aficionado from elsewhere on the globe? Find out Aug 29 – Sept. 6, when 400 of the world’s best freestyle kayakers gather in Thun, Switzerland, to compete in the Freestyle World Championships 2009.

From Aug 29 – Sept. 6, 400 of the world’s best freestyle kayakers will gather in Thun to compete against one another in the Freestyle World Championships 2009, which, sanctioned by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and sponsored by Keen and Volkswagen, is promising to be one of the best-put-together events yet, with live feeds, television coverage and more than 25,000 spectators expected to be on hand. The spectators will benefit from more than 5 kilometers of cable laid-out connecting the numerous big screens, which will provide live TV coverage throughout the event area.

Competitors from more than 30 countries are coming to Switzerland’s city of Thun to compete on its impressive Scherzligschleuse, offering a unique platform for the Freestyle World Championships. The wave of Thun is only rideable after the flood gates have been properly adjusted, an adjustment performed only once a year: last time for the VW Multivan River Jam in 2008. Which means that for the first time ever, all the athletes will compete under the same conditions, without any hometown advantages for anyone.

“World Championships bring out the very best in competitors, even more so for freestyle kayaking since we aren’t yet an Olympic event,” says ICF Freestyle Chairman Lluis Rabeneda. “Even casual spectators will appreciate the complexity of the athletic moves these athletes can achieve.”

Since 1997, Thun, located at the foot of the alps, has hosted various freestyle events, including the European Championships in 2002, the Mammut Masters in 2003, or the World Cup Finals 2008. For five long years, since 2004, organizers have been planning and bracing themselves for the World Championships. This year’s event will also include special events for spectators, as well as a Big Air Ramp for competitors.

“We intend to set up a unique wild-water-arena in the middle of this beautiful city,” says Press director Hannes Tronsberg. “We’ll also have umerous cultural highlights and freestyle shows, as well as different concerts and parties in the evenings, where everyone is welcome. It’s going to be a great event.”

He adds that as well as a top-notch competition, organizers are also stressing sustainability at the event, integrating classes from schools all across Switzerland. “We want to pass on knowledge about the environment and the importance of the sustainable use of its resources to our future generations,” says Tronsberg.

A PL Look at Who to Watch

Taking a closer look at this year’s field, the following is a synopsis, by division, of paddlers to watch as the Thun wave starts to boil from all the hot paddlers.

Men’s K1
Defending champ Eric “EJ” Jackson (USA) returns to try to win an unprecedented fifth world title. But Jackson, 45, faces stiff competition from his own family and teammates as well as other young guns eager to unseat the winningest kayaker in history. Heading the list are Jackson’s son-in-law, Canadian National Champion Nick Troutman and his fellow Canadian national teammate Billy Harris as well as reigning US National Champ Stephen Wright. Other serious threats to Jackson’s title include last year’s World Cup Champion, Peter Csonka (SK), French champion Matthieu Dumoulin (FR) and Anthony Yap (AU) who designed a new kayak specifically for the wave in Thun.

Women’s K1
Probably the biggest threat to defending Champ Ruth Gordon’s (CA) title is Team USA’s Emily Jackson. The 19-year-old daughter of Eric Jackson, Emily, won the junior women’s division of the last World Championship, won last year’s World Cup and is reigning US National Champ. Other women to watch include Norway’s Marianne Sather, Germany’s Jutta Kaiser and Emily Wall. Wall spent the past year training in Africa. Also a threat no matter what type of kayaking event she enters is Australia’s Tanya Faux, whose titles include 2006 World Cup champ, 2007 Australian Canoeist of the Year, World Championship silver medalist, and 2008 Australian Adventure of the Year for her first descent of the Moran and Mitchell Rivers in Kimberley, Australia.

Junior Men K1
Coming into Thun on fire this season is France’s Sebastien Devred, who won last year’s World Cup. So far this year, Devred has not only won every event he’s entered but he’s also done so with scores that would have seen him at the top of the senior men’s podium.
Aiming squarely at Devred are Team USA best friends, 16-year-old Dane Jackson (Eric’s middle child) and Jason Craig.

Junior Women K1
One of the few divisions wide open due to the absence of defending champs, the heavy favorite is Nouria Newman of France who won last year’s World Cup and is also a formidable slalom competitor. In fact, Newman will be arriving in Thun later than most competitors, and foregoing practice tine because she’ll be coming straight from a major slalom event. One freestyle insider described Newman as “55kg of pure talent.”

Watch for a trio of western Europeans to battle it out including European champ David Bainbridge (UK), veteran competitor Marcus Hummel (DE), and Alexandre Bessau (FR) who won World Cup last year.

This division that uniquely features a high number of homemade boats sports defending champ Stephan Paetsch (DE), last year’s World Cup champ James Weir (UK) and another German, Toby Huther (DE), who will be paddling a low-volume, converted unique low-volume twin-tip boat which will put a lot of pressure on his opening moves.

Brits are the primary force to be reckoned with in this division. Look for strong showings by James Reeves and Claire O’Hara.

The ICF Freestyle World Championships are scheduled Aug. 31 to Sept. 6. Other exciting paddling competitions during the event include the Jackson Kayak King of the Wave and Rafting High Ender competitions on Friday, Sept. 4, a Kayak Big Air competition on Saturday and a river surfing exhibition.

Click here for more info

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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