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October 8, 2008

By Jason Craig


World cup 2008 was held in Prague, Czech Republic, Augsburg, Germany, and Thun, Switzerland for the last three weeks in August. World Cup for me started long before I arrived in Europe though. I spent three weeks in the summer training with the Keeners to prepare for the play spots and competition. I only knew about the features from one or two pictures I had seen on the web, so I had near to no idea how and what moves to train for. Also, Europe has a whole different scoring system that I had to learn. That was all the technical stuff though, the best way to train my kayaking skills was to kayak, and I loved that. I spent awesome time boating with my friends on amazing Ottawa whitewater. My goals for world cup were to meet kids from around the world who love to paddle and to see how I would compete among the field of international juniors.

I flew into Munich, Germany on August 7th meeting the team at the airport. EJ rented two “mafia vans” for our team. We hit the gas and jumped on the famous German autobahn, which has no speed limit. After cars passed us going mach 10 and several sighting of wrecks I decided to never take my seat belt off in Europe.

Driving up to Prague all I could see were the hillsides of red roofs and the one-lane cobble stone streets, very picturesque of Europe. Welcome to World Cup 2008! We drove up at the course to find Maxime Renault destroying the hole. Maxime is from France and does some of the biggest Mcnasties and Phonix Monkeys I have ever seen. Maxime is one of the nicest guys I have paddled with and quickly became a good friend. The hole was one of the strangest spots I have ever paddled; it had a pile that went back about fifteen feet from the green making it almost like a sweet pour over. The eddies were only about 20 feet long, so I had to be sure to roll fast or I would be heading down the next drop. The kayakers all stayed in a campsite right next to the hole, it t was like a sea of tents and kayaks.

Prague was one, if not the coolest place I have ever been. This city is truly amazing with spectacular architecture everywhere and incredible detail to the buildings. Everywhere I looked I could see gargoyles perched on a roof looking down on me, or golden statues standing next to windowsills. In Old Town Square was the amazingly beautiful and detailed astronomical clock, which had been built in 1410. Wandering around the cobblestone streets of Prague is one thing that I will have to return to do again.

During the week it had been raining, or rather pouring so the water rose. Two days later I was sick. There was a bug going around the camp that week, we called it the Prague plague. Nearly all the kayakers got sick for the next week or two. Luckily just as I got sick my parents and grandparents showed up to see me, or now to help me get better. After medication, bananas, and two days of rest I was feeling well enough to paddle for prelims that morning. Although the world was still in a dizzy spin I got in my boat and paddled well enough to get third.

Up to this point, I had no idea how good the European juniors were. Well, they were amazing. It was awesome, and intimidating watching these boys destroy the hole with every trick the pro men could do. The junior teams from France, Spain, Australia, Netherlands, Britain, Austria, Poland, New Zealand, Belgium, and Czech Republic were out in force. My team mate Michael “LP” Palmer from the U.S. held his own in the heat coming up right behind me in 4th. The next day I took my family and LP into the city to show them the sites. After wandering around and getting lost in the rain for a few hours I decided to let the others lead and take me. The next day was the semifinals and I felt very relaxed. I had my first ride, my best, but I barely made it into finals. LP rocked it with an amazing ride putting him in first, followed by Sebastian, Maxime, Tom from Switzerland, and then me. The next morning I woke to find blue skys. It seamed like the first clear day in weeks and it was great. There were tons of people out looking at the course watching the ramp event and the competition.

After getting my gear on and doing a muscle warm up I was in the eddy waiting to take my ride along the rest of the boys. I think just before my ride was the hardest, and the most fun part of competition for me. Its when I had tons of adrenaline, and my heart is pumping. All I wanted to do is go into the hole and get it done, but I had to remind myself to slow down and visualize what I needed to do. That was the fun part of competing for me.

As I reminded myself all of those things, I dropped in and had my first ride.. Sebastian from France blew us out of the water beating my score by 450 points. I was then followed by Max, LP, and Samuel from Switzerland. It was a fun competition and I was stoked on it.

The finals results for juniors were:
1st Sebastien Devred, France
2nd Jason Craig, USA
3rd Maxime Renault, France
4th Michael (LP) Palmer, USA
5th Samuel Schwarz, Switzerland

Next one up soon,
Jason Craig

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