Whitewater Grand Prix: Grand Finale

Wrapping up a first-of-its-kind, two-week long whitewater comp in Canada

By Tim Mutrie

The first Whitewater Grand Prix wrapped up Saturday with a giant slalom race (see video, above) on a Class V section of gnarl on the Bras Louis River, in Quebec. As the sixth and final stage of the two-week long event, in Ontario and Quebec, Canada, the giant slalom also sorted out the final overall standings—with youngster Dane Jackson, 17, edging out Ben Marr by three points, for first place, and Rush Sturges third. In the women’s class, Lou Urwin, Katya Kulkova and Marie-Pier Cote finished 1-2-3, respectively. (See final results, below).

Today, C&K spoke with event organizer Patrick Camblin, of TribeRider.com, and competitors Dane Jackson, Ben Marr and Joel Kowalski, who were all dispersing by car on their next adventures. (See earlier C&K Whitewater Grand Prix coverage here: On a ‘Stakeout’, and Early Returns.)

PATRICK CAMBLIN:

Tired yet? “I’m pretty tired; just took a nap. I’m back in the Ottawa Valley unpacking now, and getting ready to head back out tomorrow. … Editing a TV show and then some more paddling, of course.”

How’d the event go from your perspective? “I think we fulfilled the vision as best we could on the first year and not quite enough money. But we got it done and we’ve got a platform now to build something bigger for the future.”

How did things play out in Saturday’s final stage? “Dane was two points behind Ben in the overall coming into it, then Dane finished ahead of Ben in the final stage, enough for him to move ahead. Dane definitely won the event, for sure, versus any other way. He’s pretty astounding, he’s the real deal. … Ben won three events outright, too, and Dane still finished on top.”

Will the Grand Prix be back next year? “We’re gonna do everything we can to make this an annual event. The main issue is funding. This year we did it for free basically, so we’re going to have to work to get better support behind it, but I think we’ve proven it’s something that gets attention and we’re going to try and capitalize on that and ensure that this is something that can continue indefinitely. And, as great as everything we did was, we can do it two or three times better if we get some better support.”

How about the ladies? “I was stoked on the women. They charged out there, and they stepped up each time there was a difficult event in front of them. That’s a a testament to womens kayaking; there are women out there charging and hopefully they’re inspiring more women to do the same.”

BEN MARR (while driving back toward home near Ottawa):

Pretty close race no? “That last race was close, and I unfortunately wasn’t in the top end of it; it was hard.”

Overall impression of the Grand Prix? “It was sick, perfect; perfect timing for an event like that to happen. It was a wicked fun time, and pretty sweet seeing all the paddlers come in from all over the world for it.”

This slalom race was unlike any other kayak slalom or what? “I think it’s safe to say it was unlike any normal slalom, though I don’t know much about it. The gates weren’t even up the day before. A local guy set it up the night before with some local guys helping him. The course wasn’t even up when we had our practice runs.”

Class V? “Yes. There were a couple dangerous spots: at the very top there was a big hole that could potentially take a swimmer, which didn’t happen. There was a big wipeout in the first rapid, and two other holes in the course. The bottom one was absolutely nasty. No one went in it during the race, but afterward someone went it, and ended up swimming. It was a pretty dangerous course. And the last drop, you had to ready to run it and have energy too—so that was also kinda dangerous.”

What can you say about Dane? “He just nailed it. The whole idea of the competition was to challenge everyone who went and have the person who could conquer all the challenges best come out on top—that person was Dane. His consistency is ridiculous; you have to crush the freestyle comps and place well in the races, which isn’t easy because there are so many smooth strong paddlers there.”

New tricks? “Not really, but there’s one thing that Dane’s been doing, and it happens to everybody, but when you’re bouncing down the wave, when you get a massive bounce… and I don’t know why, but he’d go almost all the way upside-down, then just before he landed his stern would catch and he’s be right on it again. Also, Nick Troutman was bringing back the Pan Am to Helix combo; that’s the first we’ve seen that since Marlow Long.”

Would you do it again? “Oh yeah, I wish there was one starting next week.”

Disappointed? “Not at all. I feel like I did my best at each event. At the end of every day, I felt good. I had so much fun. Winning was the goal, but getting second is a pretty huge accomplishment, and getting second to dane, well, he deserved to win. Also, I beat Rush and Casper, and that was another goal. The three of us were kind of bugging each other, a little rivalry, so it felt good to come out on top of that.”

Will the Grand Prix be back next year? “I’d definitely say it’s gonna happen again, and each year that it’s just only gonna get better. It was so well organized, and by people who haven’t done so much in the way of event-organizing. … Also the water’s still rising—Quebec’s still going off right now.”

Stage 5: Big Wave Challenge

JOEL KOWALSKI (en route to Ottawa with Dane Jackson and others):

Overall impressions? “It was incredible. Every event really pushed the envelope and it was a great showing of what kayaking can be. If this was anybody’s first impression of kayaking, I think they’ll have a pretty good impression of what kayaking is now.”

“Every individual event was a highlight, but the cool thing was the event’s focus was to have competitions on the best waves and race courses. And to do that, it had to have a certain flexibility. Just with the nature of kayaking, flows are something you can’t control, so to be able to have the best features and courses for the events, you have to have to be flexible, and this event was.”

As somewhat of a local, how familiar were you with the event venues? “Every year an extended crew travels around the area during the spring run-off and we sort of pioneered a lot of the waves and features that the events took place on, so we sort of took everybody around to show them the spots. That was pretty cool. All the athletes were patient with that kind of schedule, and especially all the support crew—everyone was ready to move on a moment’s notice, everyone understood that, and everyone had to be ready whenever. It made the whole thing really exciting.”

Tired or what? “Mostly, I think everyone is relieved. A lot of the events were… testing.”

Incidents? “The worst injury was a separated shoulder; Joey Hitchens, one of the competitors, who’s also from Ottawa. But really that’s about it. There could have been a lot more, but everybody stayed pretty safe and we had a good safety crew.”

DANE JACKSON (in the car with Kowalski and others):

What were your expectations coming into the Grand Prix? “I wasn’t sure what it was goinna be like, just because it was the first year, but Patrick and Julie and everybody did a great job; it was very well organized. And it went really well. Great locations for kayaking as well.”

Had you paddled this zone before? “No, I hadn’t been farther than Ottawa, so it was definitely cool to see what kind of rivers Quebec has.”

Meet the Athletes: Dane Jackson

Full on? “Every venue that we had it was definitely full on, the creek races were some of the scariest anyone’s been on, real manky. So it was exciting, everyone was on edge, but I think it made it enjoyable for spectators as well as the kayakers.”

Strategy for winning? “Coming into the event, I told myself, this is such a long event with so many stages, so no matter how well I do, just have fun. I felt good about the freestyle, because I have a lot of experience on waves and holes, but I did well on the creek events too. I w s fired up with how it went.”

What’s next? “This was the beginning of a six-month tour all over the place. We’re headed back to Ottawa now but then we’re headed out to Wyoming for some events.”

Did you know all the paddlers coming into this and how to the crew element work out? “I knew everyone there, some better than others, and a lot of people there we’d paddled in different places before. But having everyone there in one spot, we all got to know each other better. And it was just very cool to have so many people from all over in one spot.”

Thoughts on the zone? “I think it’s a much better spot for kayaking than I ever thought I’d be. I didn’t realize that until I got there—sweet waves and creeks all over the place.”

Slim margin of victory, no? “Ben and I were really close throughout the whole thing, right up together, except for the boatercross, but neck and neck the whole time. Going into the final stage, the giant slalom, I was only two points behind him. And we knew it’d be interesting to see what would happen.”

Pretty stoked then? “Yeah, I’m super fired up. I’m surprised with how I managed to get that top place, but to win the first one, that’s as good as it gets I think.”

Other quote-ables from the Saturday’s sixth stage, the giant slalom, from Aaron Capo Rettig’s report on the Whitewater Grand Prix’s website:

• “On my warm-up ride I missed like 10 gates and got beat down on the slide… And I was fresh.” – Evan Garcia
• “I will tell you in 30 minutes…” – James Bebbington
• “Survival Slalom.” – Tyler Curtis
• “ ….all the holes are Fu***** dangerous.” – Joey Hitchens
• “ Yesterday I liked it, today I don’t.” – Katya Kulkova
• “At a certain point you stop competing and just begin to survive.” – Nick Troutman
• “I just tossed a coin to see if I should go again or not … coins said no…. but I think I will give her one more run.” – James Bebbington
• “I broke my paddle on the first drop.” – Casper Van Kalthmout
• “That surf in the hole made me re-evaluate my life.” – Keagan Grady
• “Aniol… he excels on the burl…” – Evan Garcia
• “I got air on that.” – Rush Sturges
• “I got air on that… and then I pitoned the wall.” – Nick Troutman
• “I was upside down resting.” – Chris Gragtmans
• “I don’t know… what the f***!” – Aniol Serrassoles
• “I am just stoked they put on.” – Patrick Camblin

Final Results
Whitewater Grand Prix – Rivers of Ontario and Quebec
Six Stages, May 2011

Men
Place. Name: Total Score
1. Dane Jackson (USA): 112.5pts
2. Ben Marr (CAN): 109.5pts
3. Rush Sturges (USA): 102.5pts
4. Nick Troutman (CAN): 94pts
5. Bryan Kirk (USA): 91pts
6. Chris Gragtmans (CAN): 84pts
7. Gerd Serrasolses (ESP): 82.5pts
8. Tyler Curtis (CAN): 79pts
9. Aniol Serrasolses (ESP): 78pts
10. Tino Specht (USA): 77pts
11. Joel Kowalski (CAN): 74pts
12. Evan Garcia (USA): 70pts
13. Casper Van Kalmthout (NLD): 67pts
14. Keegan Grady (CAN): 66.5pts
15. Anton Immler (SWE): 61pts
16. Jonny Meyers (USA): 53pts
17. Tyler Fox (CAN): 45pts
18. James Bebbington (GBR): 43.5pts
19. Devyn Scott (CAN): 40pts
20. Logan Grayling (CAN): 33pts
21. Mat Dumoulin (FRA): 30pts
22. Joey Hitchins (CAN): 13pts

Women
1. Lou Urwin (NZL): 27 pts
2. Katya Kulkova (RUS): 19 pts
3. Marie-Pier Cote (CAN): 16 pts
4. Emily Jackson (USA): 4 pts
5. Katrina Van Wijk (CAN): 3 pts

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