US Freestyle Team Selected for 2015

Big air, new scoring system and a brush with rodeo's roots in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

The 2015 U.S. freestyle team.  Photo: Peter Benedict
The 2015 U.S. freestyle team. Photo: Peter Benedict

What began as a focused showdown of the country’s best freestyle paddlers ended in a exuberant return to the discipline’s roots Tuesday. Dane Jackson, coming off a round of wins at the GoPro Mountain Games last week, secured a spot on the OC-1, C-1, and men’s kayak teams; he competed in the final round without a paddle. Juggling occurred and brown claws were thrown.

The event was held at playpark wave in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and solid spring flows provided the platform for some huge aerial tricks from a field dominated by carbon boats. Jackson was the only selected team member on the men’s side that competed in plastic, though he still managed to outstep the field in the semifinal round by nearly 400 points.

Dane Jackson on the Glenwood wave. Photo: Peter Benedict
Dane Jackson on the Glenwood wave. Photo: Peter Benedict

Everybody who advanced to the final round was guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team, and in the finals “things kind of fell apart…or went back to the roots,” event organizer Peter Benedict told C&K. “The judges panel was out there yelling, ‘Go without a skirt! Go without a skirt!'”

“They were all out there having a good time, trying to go big, not caring about scores,” Benedict said. “It captured that original feel of why we all fell in love with playboating in the first place.”

Local paddler and 2015 U.S. team member Leif Anderson going big.  The 2015 U.S. freestyle team.  Photo: Peter Benedict
Local Pride: Leif Anderson, alum of the nearby Colorado Rocky Mountain School which sponsored team trials, earned a spot on the 2015 U.S. team. Photo: Peter Benedict

The five spots on the men’s team were filled by a wide range of ages from Clay Wright, 48, to Paul Palmer, 20.

On the women’s side, Adriene Levknecht, Emily Jackson, Jessie Stone all earned their way to the 2015 ICF World Championships, which will be held on the Ottawa River in Canada this August, and the junior women’s winners, Sage Donnelly and Darby McAdams, both put up impressive rides. “How many junior women’s finals have you seen with aerial blunts and helixes?” Benedict asked.

The junior men also had strong performances. According to Benedict, “Anyone of the junior men could have made it but point-leader Alec Voorhees paddled with a sprained ankle and still hit huge tricks on every pass.”

Jr. women's team member Sage Donnelly. Courtesy Sage Donnelly / Facebook
Jr. women’s team member Sage Donnelly. Courtesy Sage Donnelly / Facebook

Tuesday’s event was also notable for a new scoring program called Wave Monkey, which allowed three judges to input tricks onto Android tablets as competitors surfed. Scores were sent instantaneously to one central computer and results were calculated instantly.

The new U.S. team will meet back up at World Championships, which kick off August 30, 2015.

Dane Jackson on a practice run last weekend:

Full Results via usafreestylekayak.com
Note: Freestyle World Championships are held every other year. Champions from the 2013 competition were automatically offered spots on the 2015 team.

OC-1 Results
Jordan Poffenberger as 2013 World Champion
1 Dane Jackson
2 Brad McMillan
3 J.Laucks 1st Alternate

C-1 team
Jordan Poffenberger as 2013 World Champion
1. Seth Chapelle
2. Dane Jackson
3. Brad McMillian
1st Alternate Jeremy Laucks

Jr Women
1. Sage Donnelly
2. Darby McAdams
1st alternate Kady Kellog

Jr Men
1. Alec Voorhees
2. Hayden Voorhees
3. Michael “Kaito” Roemer
1st Alternate Jacob Walker

Women
Rowan Stuart as 2013 Jr World Champion
1. Adriene Levkevcht
2. Emily Jackson
3. Jessie Stone
1st Alternate Devon Barker-Hicks

Men
Dane Jackson as 2013 World Champion
Hunter Kaitch as 2013 Jr World Champion
Note the order of the folks below was not really decided. This was based on their preliminary results.
1. Paul Palmer
2. Brian Kirk
3. Dave Fusili
4. Clay Wright
5. Leif Anderson
1st Alternate Stephan Wright
2nd Alternate Eric jackson