Inside the 2013 Freestyle Worlds with Stephen Wright – Report #2
The second day of freestyle competition went down today—quite literally, as squirt boating was the first event. Squirt boaters (or squirtists?) are people who are regularly asked questions by the general public such as, “where do your legs go?”, or “is that some kind of surfboard?”, or “you actually want to be under water?”. Even most other whitewater kayakers consider squirt boaters a bit odd. Squirt boats are very flat, long, custom-made composite kayaks designed and chopped to barely float, do freestyle moves without needing a wave or hole, and sink into the mysterious under currents of rivers. In the ICF World Championships, they are scored on technical freestyle moves and on how well they can get underwater and stay there. It was actually an exciting show here at NOC, as most of the athletes in squirt boats were able to do tricks in the eddies, in the hole, and do 2-6 second mystery moves (which is the technical term for intentional near-drowning in a squirt boat).
In addition to friends, family, and other spectators, hundreds of screaming local middle school students were bused-in to enjoy the show this morning. They definitely added excitement as they mingled amongst the athletes asking for autographs. With their added voices, a squirt competitor was overheard saying that “this is probably the biggest and loudest crowd ever to watch a squirt event!” First up was the unfortunately titled Women’s Squirt class, where current world champion Claire O’Hara (GBR) finished in first and nearly tripled the next closest score. Team Japan took the next two preliminary slots. In the Men’s Squirt class, current world champion and professional medal-winner Dane Jackson (USA) once again took the top spot in the qualifying round, followed by 2 other team USA athletes in 2nd and 3rd.
Then followed boater cross race event, which finished through the manky Class 4+ Big Wesser Falls. The combination of the running start, several athletes doing a poor job of getting their spray skirts on (some of them never quite achieving it), and a legitimately intimidating rapid at the end of the race made this event a crowd favorite. After a few rounds of winning, Team Argentina’s Fidel Moreno won $500 in first place.
Everyone then walked back up the iconic railroad tracks to enjoy the Jr. Women’s prelims, where victory was claimed by Nuria Fontane (ESP). Fun fact on the Jr. Women’s class was that they almost didn’t have the six required countries to make it an official medaling class. At the last minute, Jacqueline Drujko from the Ukraine agreed to compete, which saved the class. This explains why everyone cheered so loudly for her as she became the first athlete to succumb to a wet exit in the mighty Nantahala river during competition. She was all smiles, and did paddle twirls for the crowd as she swam to shore. Because she was underage, the announcer Corey Volt drank a bootie beer on her behalf.
Live from the world championships at the Nantahala Outdoor Center,