In September last year I competed in the 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships out in Nantahala, North Carolina which was to be my first ever world championships; but hopefully not the last! The journey started back in April when I was selected for my 2nd year on the GB Team, since then I have been very excited at the prospect of competing at a worlds.

In September last year I competed in the 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships out in Nantahala, North Carolina which was to be my first ever world championships; but hopefully not the last! The journey started back in April when I was selected for my 2nd year on the GB Team, since then I have been very excited at the prospect of competing at a worlds.

Unfortunately just two weeks before I was due to fly out to America I had a big wakeboard accident colliding with a slider resulting in a few lost teeth which put the possibility of not being able to go to the worlds at all. After extensive dental surgery to stabilise my remaining teeth I was given the all clear to go to America, which was a great relief (I won’t share the photos as they are pretty gory!). Although I was told not to do any paddling whatsoever before I got to America which was very frustrating as I was planning to get lots of last minute training at the Nottingham White Water Course in before the trip!

After two weeks of waiting around not doing a lot and having to eat a softs only diet, it was time to set off leaving from Heathrow with fellow team members James and Rob. At the airport I seemed to receive endless searches as security wanted to endlessly look through the sheer amount of gear and camera equipment I had brought with me, I obviously just looked a little dodgy! After a long journey with a change in Charlotte, we arrived in Atlanta with all our boats and kit; to find the NOC shuttle bus ready to take us to our home for the next three weeks. We arrived to our NOC bunkhouse late on the 21st, but were up bright and early to go and see the feature, which the 2013 World Championships were to be held on, and quickly jumped on to see what it was like! I had just picked up my brand new 2014 Jackson Rockstar which had only just been released so it was difficult to get used to the feature what with a new boat, and feature but it didn’t take too long to start getting rides dialled in!

After a few days of open training, it was time for team training where each country is allocated its own time slot on the water, so from the 26th onwards I only got half an hour on the water and maybe 5 rides a day which was a little frustrating! These sessions gave me the opportunity to really get used to the new boat and feature and after a few days I was feeling more ready for the competition. With the help of team coaches Dennis and Sam, and the use of daily video analysis I was able to see what was going right and wrong in each of my rides and as the competition neared closer I started practicing full 45 second competition rides.

In between our daily training slot and video analysis we had time to do our own thing, spending time chilling out by the river or visiting some fantastic scenery up in the mountains or the local town. The opening ceremony was on the Monday evening in the local town, Bryson City. All of the teams lined up in their countries tracksuits and paraded down the main street, with many of the locals coming down to support us it really was a brilliant experience. The parade was followed by speeches, local Red Indian dancers and the big air ramp which I was lucky enough to test out a few days prior to the ceremony.

The C1 heats were not on until the end of the week so I had a few days to chill out and just watch the other classes compete, the standard was just so high this year with everyone trying new combos and big moves. The week went so quickly, Friday soon came around and it was my time in the hole to show everything I had been preparing towards. I got in my boat above the feature and had a quick chat to Sam about my competition routine, the buzzer went and it was my time to drop into the hole. Everything just went so fast and before I knew it my first ride was over, and it flashed up on the big screens that I had scored 90 points in my first ride, I wasn’t particularly happy with this and knew I could do better. In my second ride I scored 180 which I was more happy with, giving me a total score of 270. I waited eagerly on the bank to see the rest of the results from the C1 class to find I had finished up in 12th in the world, missing out on the cut to the semi-finals unfortunately. Despite not making the semi-finals I was happy placing 12th as I had not been able to train for the weeks leading up to the competition, I was just happy to be able to come out to America at all after the accident!

After my event it was time to chill out and enjoy the parties, the Saturday night held the night-time floodlit semi-finals for the men’s and women’s K1 class which proved to be a very tense competition with a lot of the big names who were expected to make finals being knocked out, leading to a very messy losers party in the bar! The finals the next day showed some of the finest freestyle paddling I have ever seen, with the stands absolutely filled with people eager to see who would become this years world champion in each respective class. Team GB’s Claire O’Hara managed to retain her double world title in both the K1 and Squirt disciplines which is an impressive feat for sure and one of GB’s juniors Kim Aldred got a bronze in the junior women’s class.

After all the events had finished and the medal ceremonies it was time to pack up as we were flying back to England in the early hours the next day. It was sad to be leaving America after meeting so many great people, and a lot of great memories here but it was an absolutely brilliant experience to have competed in a world championships and something, which I would definitely love the opportunity to do again!

Thanks for reading; I shall leave you with some photos and videos of my trip!

Jack

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