This weekend kicked off the 2013 international freestyle kayaking circuit with the Plattling, European Cup event in Germany. The European Cup is a 3 part series that runs the same year as every World Championships. Unlike the European and World Championships it is not a national team only entry event so as well as the usual big team paddlers it also attracts a wide variety of new names. This years event coincided with the German Championships and the national team selections so it was a largely German dominated in every field. That said there was also a very international representation with paddlers coming from as far a field as New Zealand, Korea, Russia and the USA to take part.
The weather in the lead up to the event was amazing, beautiful blue skies, warm weather and sunshine. But as the event drew closer the weather took a turn for the worse and with the exception of the finals the entire event took place in bitter cold winds and pouring rain. Despite the weather the atmosphere was positive and everyone went out and threw down hard. With the excessive amount of rain Plattling, the normally friendly feature became a very difficult flushy hole. Scores were significantly lower across all fields compared to past events and it was a relief for paddlers (myself and Pringle included) to make it through each round with some well known top level paddlers not making the cut to finals.
Arriving only a few days before the event with a serious case of jet lag I got in as many training sessions as possible before the event started. It was great to be back in a boat and transitioning back to Plattling style paddling with all the memory’s from the last world championships still fresh in my mind. By the time the competition started I was back to full energy and ready to throw down. With the change in water levels came a change in strategy. My first rides in every round became a gauge from which I could adjust and build on my routine to best suit the feature at the time. The quality of paddlers combined with changing water levels made it one of the most challenging events I have competed in for a while.
The squirt event saw my first return to my tiny ‘slip’ squirt boat since December 2012. Squirt boating is such an incredible sport it felt amazing being back on the water throwing such a smooth flowing boat around. During my first run my mystery took me by surprise, as I disappeared under water I remember thinking to myself that after six years in the sport I should really know better. I had forgotten to take a breath before my decent and was rapidly shooting back to the surface gasping for air.
Overall the paddlers from Great Britain had a great start to the series with James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington winning bronze in the open Mens K1 followed closely by James Weight and Ryan Liquorish with George Younger not far behind. Josh Wedgewood claimed 5th place in the C1 finals and Sam Stevenson was crowned king of the wave.
In the end the Germans dominated the podium taking gold in all but two fields, squirt and K1 women’s. Reliving the dream of my 2011 World Championships I had a great finals day bringing home gold in both disciplines.
Thanks to the organiser for putting on another great event and kick starting the 2013 international freestyle circuit in style