By James McBeath
The world’s best freestyle kayakers got their chance to perform the Ottawa River’s massive, dynamic Garberator wave on Tuesday as the top OC-1 and Junior competitors stepped into the International Canoe Federation limelight and set the tone for the 2015 World Freestyle Championships. Unlike most years, Garberator wave has been in all summer, allowing athletes from many countries longer than average training times.
The 'Garb,' as it’s known in the Ottawa Valley, is a wave formed on the famous Lorne Rapid of the Ottawa River. Its fast tongue feeds into a big wave and retentive foam pile that allows for extended rides and big wave moves. Judges are expecting huge scores for this year’s event, mostly buoyed by the big air bonus and the ability to link moves.
The OC-1 crew kicked off the competition Tuesday morning. Ten of the world’s best hit Garb, instantly filling their open deck kayaks with gallons of water and making their first move the most important for each ride. Each OC-1er got 4 rides, with the top two rides counting. USA's Jordan Poffenberger, Dane Jackson and Brad McMillan along with local Canadian Andrew Hill and German star Jonas Underbred all threw big on the feature and advanced to Saturday’s finals. Moves included a unique Pan Am, and Poffenberger’s entry McNasty brought the crowd to their feet. As the mist cleared and the dust settled Poffenberger lead the top 5 with Jackson close at second. (Full results for OC-1 prelims)
Both 2015 Junior heats were among the closest in ICF history with one exception: 15-year-old Sage Donnelly (USA) who put up a score that is likely to rival the Senior Women’s level by throwing large blunts, back stabs and more. This is Donnelly’s first ICF World Championships (she was 13 at the last Worlds and not even eligible for the junior ranks), and she scored more than twice as many points as the runner up in the qualifying heat. Behind Donnelly, Darby McAdams (USA) led a close pack of junior women that includes two paddlers from the UK, two Australians, two Germans, two Spaniards and one Canadian. The top 10 go to the Semi-Finals. Unlike OC-1, the retention of these smaller, lighter and faster kayaks was high. There were very few immediate flushes and lots of big moves. (Full JR Women’s Results)
The Junior Men’s showdown was a full three heats of eight paddlers each from over 11 countries, making it the most international field to date at the ICF Freestyle World Championships. Hugo Scott of the United Kingdom was the early crowd and points favourite with massive, snappy air screws and Pan Ams on the wave. Hayden and Alec Voorhees both immediately stepped into the top 5 with not only some of the most dynamic rides but a great display of brotherly competitiveness. The younger brother had the MC and the crowd screaming when he threw some of the biggest moves of the day. The brothers theme continued with local Beachburg boys, Kalem and Quentin Kennedy who stepped it up in the first and third heats respectively. Kalem stunned the local fans with a few stunning Pan Ams and got all the Canadian flags waving madly. The after the final heat was over, things shook up a good bit; not only did the brother squads finish in the top 10, the international field came to play. Two UK paddlers, Charlie Brackpool and Hugo Anthony, stepped advanced to Saturday’s finals along with Fabien Lanao of France and Germany's Raphael Scheu. (Full JR Men’s Results)
Watch the Full Replay of the Event: