By Emily Jackson-Troutman
Nothing is more important in a freestyle kayaking contest than the river feature it is held on. Next week, the ICF World Freestyle Kayak Championships will be contested on a newly created play hole at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina. It will be the first Freestyle worlds in the United States since 1993, and the first to be held on a hole feature–as opposed to a standing wave–in quite some time as well.
Hole features tend to produce an exciting gamut of moves and combinations. Holes typically drive the highest scores, even the playing field and makes for exciting combinations.
The Nantahala hole is a good one. One of the great things about this feature is that you can do every hole trick–every single one–and you can do them in each direction! Now while some people can perform every trick in the freestyle playbook, they still have to decide which of them come easier, score higher and fit within the 45-second time limit. Here is a run-through of the moves you’ll see at the World Championships, coming to you from Tennessee Sept. 2 to 8.
Cartwheels and Splitwheels:
They’re back! The last worlds was a bit more of a wave hole so we didn't see very many moves linked with cartwheels. To save time and score more points we have been seeing a ton of loops linked to Cartwheels, Space Godzillas to Splitwheels and Cartwheels into McNasties. Sometimes we even see Cartwheels linked with splits, linked with Trickywoos and then back the other direction. Dane, EJ, Nick Troutman, Mathieu Dumoulin, and a few others can be seen with cartwheel moves throughout their entire routine. As for the ladies, watch for Haley Mills, Ruth Gordon and Claire O'Hare to link some cartwheel moves.
Loops, Back Loops and Godzillas:
I must say this feature can offer huge Loops, but it can also offer Mystery Moves. Why? Because without the proper technique the green water takes your bow straight down and out of the hole. Some athletes are still struggling to figure out their big loops. This will be a make-or-break in the women's class, as well as the junior ladies. Space Godzillas require air, and it's quite tricky to clear your whole boat from the foam pile. You will see the best of the men taking time to work on their Godzillas just to ensure they get them. The back loop isn't seen often in the NOC hole, but when people do throw it they get a ton of pop. Hitomi from Japan has been working on them almost every session, so I do hope we get to see her pull one out in competition.
These moves require a lot of finesse and precision. So they are a very impressive move to watch. Lefty moves are more retentive in this feature so most people are working on them that way. But I must say it has been super impressive to see how many people are scoring Lunar Orbits, and beautiful ones at that. The Tricky Woo is underscored, so although people are working on them, most are being put at the end of their routine. Look for combos like Loop for the Split into Lunar Orbit, and Godzilla into Tricky Woo. The Europeans love their Tricky Woos, so we will see many from them, including from the junior men.
Phonics Monkeys and McNasties:
These are the prominent hard moves in everyone's routine. Why? Because they can score the highest (especially if you get big air) and they can be the most fun to throw. Some of the air seen on these moves has been absolutely crazy. We are seeing these moves in every single class, including the junior women which is a sign of how far that class has progressed. It used to be that you could win in the women’s class with two hard tricks in a routine. Now, you’ll need at least two just to sniff the podium–that is, if you nail the easier moves as well.
Jedi Flips, Reverse Tricky Woos and Backwards Phonics Monkeys:
Never heard of these moves? That’s because they’ve rarely been seen in competition. That's right, at this world’s we’ll see a whole new group of advanced moves. Jason Craig and Jordan Poffenberger have been working really hard to perfect their Jedi Flips. Jason has worked non-stop on this trick, but is saving it for the end of his ride as consistency is not something you see on any of these moves. As for the Reverse Tricky Woo, I have really only seen two people performing them, Dane and Eric Jackson. Dane won the national championships a couple weeks ago, and the trick that sealed the deal was the Reverse Tricky Woo. I will be interested to see if my little brother will attempt it at Worlds. Or maybe my dad will throw it–EJ has been including it in his practice routines, so watch for it. Backwards Phonics Monkeys have been around for awhile now but they are also rare to see. I haven't seen as many people working on them recently but I am sure we will see at least one attempt in the pro mens class.
All these tricks take a certain skill and awareness in this feature, so to watch some people successfully complete many of these moves and within 45 seconds is impressive. I will be curious to see whether the title comes down to more moves then everyone else, or more bonuses on the moves. I guess I have another week to find out!