WA Success at the 2019 Sydney International Whitewater Festival

Paddle Australia hosted the 2019 Sydney International Whitewater Festival in Penrith, NSW from the 14th-17th and 21st-24th February.

Genie Collin, slalom (left), Kieran Simpson, wildwater (centre), Christopher Greed, freestyle (right). Photos: JGR Images & Scott Moorhen Photography

This first of its kind event saw competitors from the three most prominent whitewater kayaking disciplines gather at the Penrith Whitewater Centre for two weeks of Slalom, Freestyle, and Wildwater Racing. Each discipline had one major competition each weekend, with slalom hosting the Australian Open the first and the Oceania Championships on the second. The Freestyle National Championships occurred on the first weekend, with the first ever Oceania Championships happening the next. Wildwater also had some brand new competitions, with the ICF ranking events Wildwater Grand Prix #1 and #2 held on the respective weekends.

Western Australia had some of its top whitewater paddlers make the journey to Penrith to compete with more than 300 athletes from over 30 countries.


Slalom

Both the Slalom Australian Open and Oceania Championships served as the final selection events for the 2019 Australian Slalom Team. Canoe slalom is a discipline which has its roots in slalom skiing, consists of sprinting down a ~300m whitewater course with different coloured gates athletes must go through in a certain order. Paddlers must paddle downstream through the green coloured gates (with the flow of water), and paddle upstream through the red gates (against the flow). If an athlete touches the gate while passing through it they receive a 2s penalty, and if they miss the gate altogether (or pass through the gate in the wrong direction) they get a 50s penalty added onto their final time. These costly penalties often decide whether or not an athlete is deemed champion, or selected onto national teams.

The slalom competitions were packed full of international competitors, some including multiple-time World Champions. This pushed the Australian Slalom Team to their limits on the course they know best. At the Oceania Championships, Steven Lowther (AKC) finished 15th in the C1M semifinal, making him the top Australian C1 athlete and Oceania Champion. Steve’s impressive results put him in a strong position to be selected for the 2019 Australian Slalom Team.


Steven Lowther C1M (left), Steve receiving his trophy for C1M Oceania Champion (centre), Brodie Crawford C1M (right). Photos: Caromoda Photography & JGR Images.

Also competing in the C1M was Brodie Crawford (AKC), who had a great second run in the Oceania Championships heats. Unfortunately Crawford received a 50s penalty for missing a gate in his first run, a run which may have cost him a place on the national team. AKC’s Ben Pope was the winning open K1M in the invitational final of the Oceania Championships, and 2nd overall after finishing 0.34s behind Angus Thompson (NSW).

Junior paddlers Alexandria Choate (SCC), Jack Choate (SCC) and George Pankhurst (AKC) showed their diversity by competing in both C1 and K1 events. Jack and Alexandria had a great two weeks of racing and both look to qualify once again for the Junior Australian Slalom Team.


Alexandria Choate K1W (far left), Jack Choate C1M (middle left), George Pankhurst K1M (middle right), Ben Pope K1M (far right). Photos: Caromoda Photography & Scott Moorhen Photography

Already qualified for the Senior Wildwater Team, Georgina Collin (AKC) put some strong races in the K1W and looks to have earnt a place also on the Australian Slalom Team. Swan Canoe Club paddler and NSW resident Georgia Rankin competed in the K1W, C1W and even C2Mx events. Despite not attempting to be selected for the team, Georgia had some extremely good runs in both the K1 and C1. She teamed up with Estonian paddler Siim Peetris in the mixed C2 just for fun.

Jayden Hart (AKC) who has recently been selected for the National Development Squad, also performed to a great standard in the K1M. George Pankhurst and Jack Choate are also in the NDS, and will have training camps in Tasmania and New Zealand in the coming months. AKC paddler Alex Nevin (AKC) finished 7th in the K1M U23 invitational semifinal, and 20th overall.


Georgina Collin K1W (far left), Georgia Rankin K1W (middle left), Jayden Hart K1M (middle right), Alex Nevin K1M (far right). Photos: Scott Moorhen Photography & Caromoda Photography

All of these paddlers faced incredibly challenging opponents, and so should all be very proud with their results.

Results from the Slalom Australian Open and Oceania Championships can be found here. Athletes who have been selected on the 2019 Australian Slalom Team will be announced by next week.


Wildwater

With just two spots on the U23 Wildwater Team remaining, Kieran Simpson and Christopher Greed (both AKC) raced along the highly challenging course at Penrith Whitewater Stadium. The aim of Wildwater is to sprint along a 200m-1km section of rapids in the fastest time possible. Racers are allowed two runs along the course with the faster of the two times used in the final results. Like slalom, competitors must be able to ‘read’ the water and find the quickest path down the course. What makes Penrith so challenging is that it is an artificial whitewater course that was built for slalom, and so there is a very fine margin between taking the fastest line and spinning out in an eddy.

Kieran Simpson at the Wildwater Grand Prix #2. Photo: Caromoda Photography

The course at Penrith is very much a test of technical skill rather than power and speed, but that didn’t stop Kieran and Christopher from clocking speeds of 20km/h along the 300m course. At the Wildwater Grand Prix #1, Kieran finished in 8th place in the K1M, with Christopher placing 9th just 0.33s behind. The following weekend was the Wildwater Grand Prix #2, where Kieran bettered his performance and finished in 4th place behind Australian Wildwater Team members Alex McIntyre and Kaylen Bassett. With a respectable time in his first run, Christopher looked to place much higher after picking one of the fastest lines along the first 150m. However, an unfortunate spin-out on the infamous ‘Main Wave’ added over 15s to his time and potentially cost him a higher rank, again finishing in 9th place.

Christopher Greed at the Wildwater Grand Prix #1. Photo: JGR Images

Results from Wildwater Grand Prix #1 & #2 can be found here. Athletes who have been selected on the 2019 Australian Wildwater Team will be announced by next week.


Freestyle

For the first time in over 8 years, WA had one paddler compete in the National Freestyle Championships. Right after competing in the wildwater sprint events, Christopher Greed swapped out his long kevlar kayak for a shorter plastic playboat. Canoe Freestyle is perhaps the most dynamic ICF-recognised discipline, where competitors have just 45s to score as many points as they can by performing tricks with the kayak. The simpler tricks such as the flat-spin or cartwheel can score 10 to 20 points, while more advanced tricks where the boat is completely out of the water (such as the aerial front loop) can score anywhere from 60 to over 200 points per trick. Some of the highest scoring tricks have colourful names, such as the Lunar Orbit, Tricky Woo, McNasty, Phonics Monkey and the infamous Space Godzilla. Competitors can also receive a 30 point ‘air bonus’ or even a 60 point ‘huge air bonus’ for aerial tricks depending on the maximum height reached.


Christopher Greed performing a front loop and getting the air bonus. Photo: Freestyle & Boatercross Kayaking Australia

After scoring 0 points in his first heat, Christopher Greed jumped straight into his second run by throwing down an aerial front loop and being awarded the 30 point air bonus. He received a final score of 115 points and finished 11th, after completing a spin to the left and a cartwheel in his first ever freestyle competition. Also in the freestyle heats was three-time C1 World Champion Jez Jezz (NSW) and competition winner Tad Dennis (USA) in C1, as well as K1 competitors, Matt Hansen (NZL), Suematsu Yoshiko (JPN), and slalom paddlers Martina Wegman (NLD) & Sage Donnelly (USA).

Results from the Freestyle National Championships and Oceania Championships can be found here. Athletes who have been selected on the 2019 Australian Freestyle Team will be announced by next week.


Read more about the festival at Paddle Australia.