Thirty of the world’s best whitewater paddlers have gathered in Chile, where they will spend the next two weeks testing themselves in the most extreme kayaking competition ever run. The second annual Whitewater Grand Prix kicks off Saturday, Dec. 1 in Osorno, Chile with the first of five stages. Set in some of the country's steepest creeks and biggest whitewater, the Whitewater Grand Prix is a grassroots competition, conceived by and for the planet’s best paddlers to push the limits of competitive kayaking.
"The stages are harder than all other races out there," says France’s Eric Deguil, two-time Association of Whitewater Professionals World Series champion and WWGP racer. "There were many swims at the first Grand Prix in Canada." By the end of last year's steep-creek survival sprint, one-fifth of the competitors had intense swims. This year will be just as challenging as paddlers face everything from cascades and waterfalls to giant waves, hydraulics, whirlpools, and dynamic boils and seams.
The WWGP is set in five stages. Kayakers will start the event with a downriver stage on the Rio Gol Gol in the first whitewater enduro. They will then compete in a big water boatercross, whitewater sprint, giant slalom and finish with another extended whitewater enduro on the Futaleufu River. Points will be totaled from every stage to determine an overall winner at the end.
Nineteen-year-old whitewater phenomenon and Team USA Member Dane Jackson placed first in last year’s inaugural Grand Prix in Quebec and will be competing again this year, along with 25 top male whitewater athletes representing 13 different countries. Women's champion Louise Urwin also returns and will compete against five of the world's best female paddlers. Qualifiers began in February 2012, and racers were selected from qualifying events in Italy, Norway, New Zealand, USA, and the Czech Republic. Other racers also qualified after sending a video application of their paddling voted on by previous Grand Prix athletes and AWP members.
The WWGP is a long-time dream realized for former pro kayaker Patrick Camblin. Having played a major part in the kayaking community and run many events and projects over the last 10 years including Tribe Rider and Rider of the Year Awards, Camblin wanted to take kayaking competitions to a new level.
"It is the most extreme competition the sport has ever seen," Team Pyranha paddler and WWGP racer Jared Seiler said. "It's pushing the limits of what has been done and displaying the possibilities and abilities of kayaking and kayakers. I am very excited and honored to be a part of it."
The Whitewater Grand Prix is supported by the AWP, and the event will be well documented and shared online for free through HD Vimeo posts of the events.
Stay tuned to CanoeKayak.com for the stage results and more stories as we follow the event. For more information including the athlete roster, go to www.whitewatergrandprix.com
Follow WWGP on Twitter – @triberider and on Facebook here.