My Whitewater Grand Prix 2014 'Favourites'...
The 2014 White Water Grand Prix is less than a week away. The third of these events which is re-shaping what was previously defined as, the cutting edge of competitive kayaking. Some call it the ‘X-games of kayaking’ when describing the event to non kayakers. Whatever you call it, it is quite a spectacle, 33 of the best all-round whitewater kayakers in the world in a two week long, mulit-stage event to see who is the best in the world.
The 27 Men and 6 Women is filled with Whitewater heavy weights from all over the world. Some amazing paddlers, alot of whom I am lucky enough to call friends. For this article I put friendships aside and tried to pick out the 5 athletes who I thought would stand the best chance of winning the event or finishing in the top 5. Unfortunately there were so many amazing and talented athletes on the list I decided to pick my top 7, Because 5 just wasn’t enough. Oh and also my top 2 women to watch. SO read on to find out who and why in no particular order.
Dane is a pretty obvious choice for this list, he won the last two WWGP competitions, is an amazingly skilled all-round kayaker who is helping shape the future of kayaking. It was a pleasure to paddle with him last year on our exploratory mission in Michoacan, Mexico.
2009 ICF freestyle World Champion, Nick Troutman is another easy choice for this list. He is originally from Beachburg, Ontario which is just five minutes from the Ottawa river where the first stage of the competition is likely to be held which means he should have something of a home town advantage. Added to the fact that Nick travels and paddles all year round, all over the world and is coming into the competition after a hectic winter travel and training schedule from destinations including Mexico, China and Uganda. He is ready. However, Mr. Troutman did suffer a serious shoulder injury last year in training for the Adidas Sickline race in Austria and was out of hes boat for three months at the end of last year. Judging from the amount of paddling he has done recently this may not be a factor, but the nature of the Grand Prix events pushes athletes to their limits so it will be a factor to keep an eye on as the WWGP progresses.
Another Canadian making the list, Benny is one of, some would say THE top wave riding freestyle kayaker, in the world right now. He is pretty fast racer too as we saw at last year’s Ottawa XL event where he qualified for the Grand Prix. Benny had his share of injuries last year as well. With a mild back injury he went to Columbia to enjoy some intense Big Volume multi-day runs (See them HERE). Whilst he made it through the trip without issue, he picked up a gnarly round of leptospirosis for his troubles. YUCK. It looks like Benny is back in full swing now though and I think he has a pretty decent shot at taking the title from Dane.
One of the youngest competing in the 2014 WWGP, I have had the pleasure of paddling with Kalob whilst in Canada and Chile. His big water experience rivals even some of the oldest paddlers in the competition including the Rio Baker, White Nile, Zambezi as well as spots around Quebec. He did outstandingly well at the Ottawa XL last May, and throughout that spring demonstrated his big wave prowess on every feature he paddled. Kalob took a short break from paddling this winter inbetween being in Zambezi and Uganda to do some volunteer work on nature reserves in South Africa and Botswana. He will hit this competition with all guns blazing and I’m sure he wont disappoint. See his latest Video HERE
I have paddled with Joel all over the world, he excels across a range of disciplines and has competed in the last two White Water Grand Prix competitions, as well as finishing well at last years Adidas Sickline race. Working at Wilderness Tours through the winter means that since I saw him last in Mexico, he will have had a few months without paddling. However Joel is super active in the winter sports field and I am sure that will help him get back in the groove and ready to race quicker than most. He just returned from a quick kayaking trip to Iceland, so I think he will be a contender. Plus he has really long arms, thats gotta help a little.
The father of the Double Airscrew, Devyn is one of the smoothest wave boaters out there. I first met Devyn in 2012, right after he suffered a serious shoulder dislocation and had to take almost a year out. You can see a little more about that story HERE.
Luckily Devyn is motivated enough that a year out has helped him get stronger, and I have a sneaky suspicion that that will help out a lot during this event. His one big dis-advantage is that he doesn’t have as many races under his belt as some of the other athletes, but i expect that domination in the freestyle events will help compensate for that.
I have had the pleasure if seeing Bren progress and grow as a kayaker and an person. I remember paddling with him during British national events and at the 2009 Plattling Freestyle kayak world championships (where Bren took the Bronze in the Junior Mens category). Last year Bren was on the road almost the whole year from Uganda to an epic road trip around the US and Canada with the Demshitz crew. He even achieved Viral Fame with his epic and scary looking swim right above a 60ft waterfall. Re-live the terror HERE
Bren is the youngest competitor, and a ginger but I don’t think wither of those facts will stop him from dominating this years Whitewater Grand Prix
Lou is a Kiwi kayaker who paddles year round, spending half the year paddling on the Ottawa and in Quebec, and the other of the half of the year Chasing Kew Zealand’s best whitewater. The endless summer lifestyle, combined with the fact that she has competed in both previous WWGP competitions means Lou will be a force to be reckoned with at this competition.
So there you have it, my predictions for who will shine brightest from a field of stars. I look forward to seeing the event as it unfolds. You can keep a finger on the pulse by following White Water Grand Prix on Twitter and Facebook.
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