Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jackson Kayak Irish Whitewater Race League

Race league PosterThis past season has been the third year of the Irish whitewater race league . The league has gone from strength to strength over the past few years with Jackson Kayak coming on board two years ago to support what they saw as a thriving whitewater community. For me personally the races have provided a way to meet new boaters and catch up with others, who I otherwise might only run into a few times a year. It is this side of the race league that will have me coming back year on year to each and every race.
This past season we managed to fit in six races with postponements, cancellations, too little water & sometimes too much water! With the fickle nature of Irish paddling we will probably never have a year where we get every race in, but when are we ever happy about the amount of boating we get done! With the number of solid races, organisers & sponsors involved, we will always have a base for the whitewater community in Ireland.
This year saw races in Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Limerick & Galway, with some great turnouts at these races. Crana Fest & Galway Fest have attracted the biggest crowds over the years with the lure of dam released water giving little excuses for not making it to both races. It is however, the races that are organised on short notice are those in which you really see the community rally together. Between time keeping, race starting, safety teams and general helping out, there is always people stepping up to lend and hand and make race days run smoothly.
This year Eoin Keyes was the man to beat, taking wins at Ennistymon, the Flesk and the Clare Glens. A sixth place finish in Galway Fest being his one and only blip on a other wise perfect season. A first, two seconds, and a forth place finish left me tied on points at the top of the table with Eoin on 295 points, however Eoin takes the crown having more race wins. Shane Little rounded out the top three with some solid performances over the course of the season.
In the ladies , Laura Griffin took top spot in the three races she competed in but had the title stolen from her by Roisin Millard who put in a solid showing all year to take the league honors.
Rob Kierans took the juniors class by storm, putting in times that would have him placing well with the senior men. He will have no problem making the switch and stepping up to the senior ranks in the coming years!
This year David Higgins & Aran Kilroy battled it out for the top unsupported paddler and brand new Jackson Zen that was up for grabs. After a close battle, David Higgins came out on top with a 5th place finish in the overall ranking, just a few points ahead of Aran, who finished 6th in the overall rankings.
The big news for the coming season is the switch of the free boat to the women's league for the top unsupported female. There is going to be a requirement that at least ten women compete in four of the races for the switch to happen but with Crana, Galway Fest & Wacko all surpassing this each year it should only encourage more Ladies to get out there and start racing!
Full league results can be found here  & anyone interest in coming to Ireland for some races keep an eye on our league page here

Friday, September 5, 2014

Euros Wrap Up

The European Championships  finished up almost a week ago now, however this trip will not fade in the memory fast. A closely knit group coupled with the largest support group seen in years made this the most enjoyable competition to date. This year the team was made up of a lot of new faces with a strong presence of Galway boaters coupled with some great paddlers from Cork, Laois, Killkenny, Wicklow and Dublin. From the start there was a great atmosphere in the group as everyone videoed, coached & helped out in any way they could. That coupled with the perfect location to hold a competition that Cuvono is made the trip for everyone.

Prelims took place last Thursday with most of the Irish Men off in the early heats. Team training had been going well in the preceding days keeping confidence up and settling the nerves. David McClure was first up for the Irish in heat two putting together some good rides that would eventually leave him in 30th place. I was also up towards the end of heat two. Having been getting through most of my ride in previous days I dropped in feeling good. I managed to score some of my bigger moves to edge through to quarter finals in 17th place.

Aran Kilroy and Andrew Regan were up next in heat three. Some strict scoring left them a little further down the order then their rides deserved coming in at 33rd and 40th position. Shane Little was the last of the Irish Men having to wait until heat seven to put down his rides. Throwing down some big moves Shane was just short of the cut to quarters placing 24th.

Senior Women were up next with both Aisling's and Niamh paddling hard to get all they could into their 45 second rides. The progression that they all made during their training was clear to see with a bright future ahead for all. Aisling, Niamh & Aisling finished up in 22nd, 23rd & 24th position.

Junior men were the last to go on Thursday afternoon with Calvin O'Brien and Sean Cahill flying the flag for Ireland. The junior men's class was hotly contested with Max Karlsson breaking 1000 points for a single ride during the competition! Calvin and Sean put in solid rides to place in 26th & 28th Position.

Friday morning saw quarter finals kick off at 9am with some rowdy Irish support the envy of all nations. Going into quarter finals I felt better then the previous day with some pressure off having made it through a round. Having three rides with the best two counting allows a bit more leeway then prelims were everything counts. I was able to throw down some good moves improving my overall score and placing from prelims moving up one spot to 16th.

Friday evening saw the semi finals produce some of the best paddling ever seen with Peter Csonka laying down the highest scoring ride of all time. The ride was a none stop combo linking trophy moves to every other move to set Peter well apart from the rest of the field . Coming in to finals on Sunday there was little doubt in anyone's mind who was going to take top spot. Peter laid down 1500 points in his first ride to ensure he was crowned European Champion for a second time.

Next up is the World Championships on Garberator wave in Canada next summer. Its been over five years since the last ICF wave competition so there is sure to be a big shake up in the usual order of things. Team trials are less then two months away and with lots of old faces planning on making a return to action it could be a very different Irish Team that heads to Canada next year. Hopefully the rain will return soon so the rivers return to good flows to get some training in!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

European Championships

Team training is in full swing here in Cuvono for the European Freestyle Championships. Prelims start on Thursday morning with only one more day of training for Men, Women and Junior Men. Training has been going well with everyone progressing while being able to train everyday on what is a deceptively tricky feature. The whole team has been here a few days taking as much time as they can to get used to the feature here. The hole is quite shallow with regular hits off the bottom common place, however it is quite retentive without being to violent giving you plenty of control to set up for your moves.

Our last training session tomorrow morning will be used to put the finishing touches on our rides, aiming to get every move in before the buzzer sounds. With a ten strong team our team training slots have been just under an hour long allowing everyone to get in six or seven ride. The water on the course is turned off at eight o clock every evening taking away any opportunities of training under lights but despite this everyone is looking well prepared.

Unfortunately it does not look like there will be live streaming for the event but with a strong crew of supporters out here updates will be coming thick and fast as prelims unfold. Keep an eye on Irish Freestyle Facebook for updates on Thursday morning!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Right Channel, Cunovo

First few days have been quiet here at the course however everyone seems to have arrived today with queues getting long. Luckily if you don't fancy waiting around in the eddy at peak times there is two awesome channels to paddle. Here's is quick look at the river right channel where the feature for the European Championships about half way down.

River left channel to come in a few days.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Clifden Beach Party

The best weekend of the summer has just passed and with it the world premier of Too High, a kayaking film put together by Joe Rea Dickens and Jamie Conn. But first back to the weekend. The Clifden beach party weekend is the highlight of the not so packed Irish summer paddling schedule. With a guaranteed working feature , a rare rare occurrence in anywhere but Galway during the summer months,  the Clifden beach party draws Irish paddlers starved of some good playboating from all corners of the country. A tried and tested formula, two days of boating with a night camping at Dunloughan beach thrown in for good measure, this weekend has been a staple of Irish summers for as long as I can remember. This year we had the addition of premiering Too High on Saturday night to make this unmissable weekend even better.

The weekend kicked off on Saturday afternoon with some flat water coaching on the salt lake before the tide began to rise and everyone headed for the hole. With a packed eddy every second of the tide was put to good use with paddlers still throwing down on the flat at the back of the queue. After a few good hours paddling in the sun the tide fell, the hole disappeared  and with it everyone headed for the beach and the bbq.

With well worn tracks over the sand dunes the drive to the beach can be a little tricky at times for loaded cars but with a bit of luck everyone made it with cars and roof racks intact. With Andrew getting off the water early he had everything ready for the bbq when all arrived. Tents went up and chairs came out and the crowd began relaxing for the night.

With the sun gone the scene was set, the night sky providing the back drop to our bed sheet duct taped to the side of a caravan. Add in a borrowed projector and sound system courtesy of UL and our make shift cinema was complete. The Film Too High went down a treat with some amazing whitewater segments from all corners of the globe. Too high will soon be available online and with proceeds going to charity there is no reason not to grab yourself a copy of this awesome paddling flick.

The party went on into to night but Sunday morning came and with it some slow starters for the surf comp at Dunloghan beach. With not much expected from the waves we were pleasantly surprised by some reasonable sets rolling in. The format took on a mass jam session with the line up getting steadily stacked as the afternoon drew on. Aidan McElhinney took top honors with some nice rides making the most of the waves before the crowd descended.

After the surf comp the tents came down and people slowly made their way to the hole for the evening tide. With the eagerly anticipated inflatables class due to close the show the onus was to get everything run off nice and quick for the main event. The women took to the water first followed by junior men, men's sport and senior men with old faces making some reappearances to battle it out against the new young guns.

Marie Harrington took top spot in the women's class followed by veteran freestyler Jackie Ferguson in second and Jayne Stephens rounding out the top three. In men's sport Aidan McElhinney once again took top spot with an impressive tally. Aidan being only 16 is sure to be one to watch for the future.

Senior men was the final warm up act for the inflatables with some big moves thrown down by all . Len Kelleher was on laying it down in his heat along with Shane Little, David Higgins and myself. I managed to throw together some moves as the heat wore on taking the lead by the smallest of margins followed by Len Shane and David.

Finally with the kayaking out of the way the main event got under way with inflatables off all sizes and varieties taking to the water. A race of two heats with bonus points for getting a surf went down and after some retrospective judging Cormac Roche took the coveted title of Clifden Inflatable Champion.

A big thanks to all involved in helping out over the weekend with UL providing most of the make shift cinema, Jamie and Joe for giving us opportunity of premiering Too High and to I-Canoe and Kokatat for providing some awesome prizes for the weekend.