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Capped at 250 competitors and already having 38 countries registered, the second ever World Cup of Freestyle Kayaking is drawing near! Set in Europe in 2008, this bi-annual event consists of three events. The opening ceremonies, parade, and initial gathering of the world’s best freestyle paddlers for World Cup 1 will be in Prague, Czech. Hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Prague has been the producer of many of the best slalom paddlers in the world and the host of slalom world cup events since the 90’s. I personally will be visiting for my first time and am very excited to do so. The site is on a whitewater course built for slalom racing many years ago and home to the Czech National Teams for both freestyle and slalom. Many new faces will show up at this event in both the junior and senior classes. The Europeans have been going through an explosion of growth in the level of their paddlers at all ages. Last year at the World Championships on Bus-Eater they stacked up the top 10 in all classes, and got a silver in the Men’s K1 class. Are they better than the USA and Canadian paddlers now? That will be something we’ll figure out pretty soon!

The second event is in Augsburg, Germany, the site of the 1972 Olympic Slalom Race and the 1995 World Freestyle Championships, where German paddler Oli Grau won. I have been to this course many times, and the first time in 1984 as a member of the USA “B” Team for slalom. Jumping off the bridge into the “Zoom Floom” is quite fun! The bottom of the course is glass smooth and mossy and fun for swimming as well as paddling. I have many great memories from that town and course. The hole there is powerful, symmetrical, and open for all of the big moves! It should be an awesome competition.

The final event is in Thun, Switzerland. This event is on a larger river and is a wave that is supposed to be quite good. I have never been there personally, but have watched some videos and it looks great to me. Jessie Stone’s boyfriend is from a small town only 20 minutes away and gives Thun two thumbs up for a beautiful alpine town and a great playspot. This event will get the most attention as the finals for the World Cup and the event where the Prize Giving and Closing ceremonies will take place crowning the 2008 World Cup Champions. It is also the site of the 2009 World Championships, which is also a bi-annual event, coming off of the Bus-Eater Worlds in Canada last year.

The rules for this year’s event falls under the International Canoe Federation rule book and is a bit different from the rules used in international competition over the past few years. Click on the links to download your copy of the rules and learn more about them. The best way to describe the changes from what I can read into them and from training under them over the past week is:

1. The hardest moves have lost some value relative to the other moves increasing the risk to reward factor.

2. The scribe sheet allows for “doubling up” on moves, meaning doing the same basic move more than once- such as blunt left, clean blunt left, air blunt left and clean air blunt left if you so desired. This will allow the lesser skilled paddlers to do the moves that they are good at and unless they are really self motivated, to avoid learning all of the moves on the sheet.

3. It increases the value of the medium difficulty moves, which have been “off limits” for me over the past few years, where my goal is always to stick with the highest scoring moves for my full routine. Now I will be able to do more of the medium moves again, which I miss doing and I am excited about that.

Below are the highlights from the 2006 World Cup…

2006 World Cup Highlights

International Canoe Federation Rule Book

Master Appendix Rules

Move Values World Cup 2008
See you in Europe!