Adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009, Oetztal Valley, Austria–Slowly the sun rises above the trees to warm the valley floor on this wonderful Indian summer day.

It’s finals time during the 3rd Annual Adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship and 48 athletes are waiting for their runs down the famous “Wellerbruecke” section of the Oetz river.The day before they were selected from more than 100 starters in a couple of qualification runs. Among the finalists are the world’s top slalom and whitewater kayakers, including Alexander Grimm, gold medalist of the Beijing 2008 Olympic games.

Adidas Sickline Extreme World Championships

Among insiders the Oetz valley has been known for many years as one of Europe’s most beautiful kayak grounds. The Wellerbruecke section, also called “the Eiger North Wall of kayaking” is a difficult series of rapids rated between class V and VI. The race is carried out on a 200 m course below the famous Ach falls. Weather and water level were just plain perfect. Beautiful sunny skies made up for the ice-cold water of the mighty glacial river. Despite the water being almost at low level and changing through-out the day the river was still fast and pushy. Combined with the steepness and difficulty of the course it made for some tough battles and in the super final it was still anybody’s game.

Mike Dawson from New Zealand was first after the super final but in the end couldn’t beat Alexander Grimm, the 23 year-old German Olympic gold-medalist. The Kiwi finished in 2nd place just 0.6 seconds behind the winner (1:00.46 min) and 0.7 seconds before the third place finisher, Jakobus Stenglein. The German, who was the 1999 ICF Canoe Slalom World Champion, was racing with a broken rib. The best American finisher was 28-year-old Andrew Holcombe in 5th. The Team Dagger professional kayaker from Asheville, NC finished with a time of 1:02.09 minutes.

Organisation and security were top at this unique event. Beside the contest itself there were parties, movie shows and a little trade show as well as the Reload Center, where the athletes could get free physical treatment and massages from a team of physiotherapists and doctors.

Safety was a big issue because of the difficulty of the river section. There were water- and mountain rescue teams everywhere, waiting on boulders, hanging on ropes, at the shore, always ready to get somebody out of the water quickly if necessary.

Many fans from all over the world came to watch their friends and fellow kayakers. But they weren’t just there to see the race. You could see them running the river together with the pros the days before and after the contest. You saw them partying together or having a couple of beers at a local bar. They all had a great time and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere around the competition.

Hopefully the Sickline comes back to this mountain locale next year. I sure will be there! –Martin Kendler