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KC Recovering from the Competition...

The competition is over…  I didn’t get to take any photos myself, but Dane and Nick did (but not of Mens’ kayak as you can imagine… they were competing!)  Look for photos in an article by them soon….

I still can’t express just how fired up I am about having the 2013 World Freestyle Kayak Championships in the USA again, and here at NOC!   The last time as world-championships was held in the USA was in 1993 at the Ocoee at Hell Hole.    I attribute the growth of whitewater kayaking and the evolution of the kayak to that event.    In 1992 you could paddle a Crossfire, Pirouette, etc.. and the design cycles were 3-10 years for a design.   For that world championships Dagger made a prototype Transition (which was truly the RPM), Perception made the Pirouette SS,  Prijon the Hurricane, Pyranha the Acrobat, Eskimo the Diablo, etc..   Everyone was hoping to have the World Championships winning kayak.   In 1994, 95, 96 and beyond these companies were in high gear trying to out design each other and the kayak improved each year.    It was awesome.     The world championships being outside of the USA for the past 20 years has insulated many of the biggest kayak companies in the world from arguably the biggest, most influential event in whitewater kayaking,  the World Freestyle Championships…    Dagger, Liquid Logic, Pryanha USA,  Jackson Kayak are all in the Southeast.    The impact of the world championships being held in North Carolina, only 1 hour from many companies, 4 hours from JK is going to be huge.     Ignoring it would be futile and not pay dividends.     We, as paddlers, will be better off as the companies focus their energies on making better boats and truly connecting with the sport out on the river again.   It will be another evolution, another inflection point, another chapter in whitewater kayaking, and kayak manufacturing…   Awesome.


Jackson Kayak employees will get a chance to see the action first hand.  They’ll learn just how important each boat is to the athletes that come from all over the world, training for years in hopes of winning their first world championships, or second, or in my case my 5th.. (yes that is my goal,  it is fun to have a goal, as long as the journey isn’t compromised)    They’ll be energized, committed, and better prepared to serve you as a customer.    Just like I am every time I see our product in action, used to its full potential…..


Back to the event…


NOC Shootout 2012- using the new NOC Hole, the new awesome electronic scoring system, and the NOC staff that will be producing the 2012 World Cup Final Event, then the 2013 USA Team Trials, and finally the 2013 World Championships.      It was a first dry run, testing things out.   But it wasn’t done in a vacuum.    The International Canoe Federation’s Freestyle Committee was there in entirety.    Lluis from Spain,  Terry from England, Ingrid from Germany, Jon from France, and Kristine (my wife) from USA.      They oversee the bidding process, and then the progress of the Event organizers for the World Cup and World Championships, as well as the rules, scoring, etc. etc..       They were very happy with the job that NOC has done, under the leadership of Sutton Bacon, and with the incredible staff they have under him.      They had plenty of constructive criticism for areas that they are experts in that NOC hasn’t the experience yet, but in exact words, “No host organizing committee was as far along in their organization of the World Championships at this point in time as NOC is!”    I can attest to that, as I have been a part of each world championships and seen where they were the year before at the Pre-worlds (old days) and now the “World Cup”.    NOC will set the bar at a new level in 2013.


The new Feature….


The first attempt to make a feature from scratch failed miserably and it was a black eye for NOC to have an entire winter where there was not a playspot in their backyard and the intention was to have a great one.    They could have had it sorted out quickly but their permit didn’t allow them to enter the river until April 16th again, so it had to sit in its dismal state.    Employees and visitors were bummed, but they remained hopeful that on April 16th, it could be sorted out.    The designers, and interested parties met at the hole and planned out the next construction phase over the winter and were ready to jump the moment the permit allowed.   That was this past Monday.    By noon on Monday- only 5 hours of construction- the water turned on and….  There was a hole!!!   It was fully playable and in my rating a 4 out of 10 (10 being the perfect hole and a 1 being what it was before).    It was fun, but not done, clearly.   The water went off and construction started again.   The designer (Rick McLaughlin), met with Daniel, TR, Dane, and myself, as well as many other paddlers and Lee the organizer and we created a plan for the next phase, which was done before dark.

On Tuesday AM more construction was done and we waited for the water.   The water went on at noon and it was much better- a really fun hole that you could do everything in!   It was now a 5 on my scale- a really good starting point (there are very few 5’s in the southeast- Eternity hole is a 5 or 6 in my book)     Everyone was now getting really excited-the danger zone had past, there was a hole for the competition and it was clear that this hole could be improved until it was World Championships ready!    Game on!!!


Heavy rains hit and the river wouldn’t turn off again any time soon- construction would have to be delayed for low water again.      Luckily the feature was super fun and worthy of the 2012 NOC Shootout.      We began training in it and there would be no home court advantage.   Brand new hole for everyone!


Tents got set up and computers put in the tents for automated scoring and jumbotron display, as well as live online and live TV feeds.    The horsepower behind the new scoring system is awesome.    Kevin and Raymond in NOC’s IT department hit a home run with this thing.   Freestyle has seen some good electronic scoring systems before, but this will set the new bar really high.   New technology, as well as user friendliness will make this one that everyone will be able to use in the future.   Each judge’s scribe has a computer to enter the moves as they are called out by the judge and the computer ads and averages them automatically.    The output is the cool thing.   It is a web based output that has a  score board of the top 5 scores and names, as well as current paddler, the time clock, and live  video feed of the current competitor in the hole.    A TV producer can pull this along with their cameras to create TV Show, NOC can do a live online showing, and websites can link to the score board for real time viewing.   The global audience for the 2013 World Championships will be awesome!    This system was being tested in a real event for the first time and any bug that could happen, happened, but it was all fixable and small.  For example, a prompt comes up “save this ride- yes/no”    what happens if you click “no”..   “Uh,, I guess I shouldn’t have done that!”    Eliminating some of the potential human errors that come from curious scribes or judges is an example of a change they’ll make.   But as a whole- it was awesome!


The event couldn’t have had much worse weather, unfortunately.    Intermitten rains all day Saturday, followed by very cold and windy weather on Sunday challenged anyone trying to hang outside all day.      Amazingly there were plenty of people watching and staying there all day!


Prelims took twice as long as they should have, as the computer system had to be learned, etc. etc.. and everyone wanted to get everything just right.   They went from 12pm-8pm.      Scores were in the 1,000, 1,200 range for the men’s class- some high scores!


Semi-finals were moved to Sunday AM.   Scores were not as high but still good.


Finals were Sunday Afternoon.    A big notation would be Hunter Katich who posted a 1,013 point ride as a 15 year old to win the Junior men’s class!   Not far behind him was Galen who posted a 736 point ride for second, and Jordon with a 500+ point ride for third.  Very strong showing for junior men.     Hunter’s 1,000 point ride raised some eyebrows!!


In the C1 Class- it was the USA Team that showed why they are on the USA Team!   Dane won with over 800 points, with Seth Chapel over 700 points, and Jordon with over 500 points in C1!!    (Dane in a Rock Star s, Seth in a Fluid Nemesis, and Jordon in a Liquid Logic composite boat)



In the Pro Women’s Class- Haley Mills was winning after first rides, but Emily’s second ride hit 780 points and third ride at 730 points put her strongly in the lead with Haley finishing 2nd with 390 points and 18 year old Courtney Kerin debuting in the women’s pro class (junior silver medalist last year- she is from New Zealand) got the bronze with 300 points.  (Emily in a Rock Star S, Haley in a Project X, and Courtney in a Rock Star S)


In the Pro Men’s Class-  Dane debuted, hot off of his Junior World Championships win last year, and now a senior (turns 19 this year) with an incredible win and score of 1466 points!   Nick not far behind hit 1405 points and I finished third with a 1206 points.     All three of us in Rock Stars (Dane in the Small and Nick and I in Medium) Mike Patterson was 4th, and Clay Wright took 5th– both with scores over 1,000!


There was prize money at this event- $1,000 for first, $600 2nd, and $300 for third in the men’s class, for example.


Now there is a good place to play or train at NOC for playboating/freestyle!    The next big  event here will be the World Cup Final the weekend after Labor Day on September 8/9th.      The hole will be completed by then, we expect, and instead of a 5 or 6, we hope we can make it a 9 or 10!      Some of the goals for the improvements on the hole are:


  1. bigger air
  2. Wider/easier “sweet spot”
  3. Less boils and turbulence on the corners.
  4. Easier to set up moves.
  5. No “dead zone” under the water


If you were waiting to see if the hole was worth traveling to check out and play in… the wait is over!!    The hole is adjacent to the NOC Store, Slow Joe’s and River’s End Restaurant, has ample parking, a liquor license, and both cabins and camping!     Awesome!       I am looking forward to spending some time here myself!


Signing off-  Congratulations to NOC and to Freestyle Kayaking- as there is a new game in town!

For the Photo and Video Essay of this event….  Look for Nick and Dane’s update as they took photos and video!