Interview: UNLEASHED Organizers (April 28th – May 7th)
The newly formed kayaking collective SEND, comprised of Bren Orton, Adrian Mattern, Kalob Grady, and Dane Jackson, is announcing the launch of a new event for 2017. UNLEASHED will take place in Quebec this spring, between the 28th April and the 7th May.
We at Kayak Session are super stoked to be the media sponsor for this event. Expect some rad content coming up in the next weeks, and of course, during the event, which we will be covering live. KS met with SEND to get a heads up on the UNLEASHED event and hear more about it.
KS: So what is this new event all about? Why decide to organize an event? What is the drive behind the creation of UNLEASHED?
SEND: The world of whitewater is one in which you have to make your own opportunities. As a group of athletes, we were devastated to hear about the cancelation of the 2017 WWGP. With that being said, this news presented both problems and possibilities. We decided that the most important thing to take away from the situation was the realization that we are all in control of the direction our sport takes.
Our vision is to create a platform where some of the world’s best kayakers can come together on some of the largest white water in the world to continue to progress the sport through competition.
We were inspired and influenced by the WWGP, as most of our core crew has competed in at least one of the WWGP series. We would like to thank Grand Prix organizer Pat Camblin for all of his contributions in pushing the sport forwards, and anticipate many more inspired initiatives and impressive kayaking feats to come from one of the original big wave pioneers. While we wish for nothing more than the return of the WWGP, in the meantime, we feel that the giant and unique whitewater of Quebec deserves an event that will push the sport and showcase this progression to a larger audience.
KS: How will the event run? Can you describe the competition format?
SEND: UNLEASHED is a four stage event, comprised of a three-trick standard big-wave event, a ten-trick freestyle event, a Boater-X, and a Giant Slalom, all taking place on the enormous spring flows of Quebec whitewater. We are especially excited about our new freestyle scoring system, which aims to place emphasis on style and amplitude as well as rewarding technical tricks and overall use of the wave.
KS: Who can participate? How will you pick the paddlers accepted to compete?
SEND: Anybody can apply for an entry spot online through the SEND website, www.wearesend.com. Unfortunately, we have a limited number of spots- there will be 25 total competitors, 20 invites plus 5 wild cards. All applications will be viewed by an impartial panel to make sure that all potential competitors are of a level of ability where they should not run into difficulty during the event, or place themselves or other competitors at risk. This event will take place on exceptionally big, powerful and cold whitewater, it is not for everybody. We want to see incredible kayaking and new levels of progression be reached, but we want to make sure it is reached as safely as possible.
KS: The dates of the event (April 28-May 7th) correspond to the timing of the annual Stakeout. Is this simply when the best possible water levels are up there in Quebec? Is this why you chose a 10-day period to anticipate on fluctuating water levels, or do you already where each stage will be held?
SEND: Yes, while the event is only four days long, we want to accommodate athletes and give them at least one day of practice or rest in-between events, and allow for some wiggle room to allow us to hold the events on the best venue possible, which in Quebec can be exceptionally hard to predict. Locations for each event will be decided in accordance with the best water levels for each event. As a rough plan, we aim to start off around the Ottawa valley before heading north to Quebec.
KS: This sounds like a lot like the WW Grand prix. Are the WWGP people also involved?
SEND: As we said previously, we were all inspired by the WWGP either though watching it or competing in it, and were disappointed when the 2017 edition was cancelled. Sadly, for various reasons, the WWGP is on indefinite hiatus, but there are still a lot of athletes who want to compete at event of this caliber. This is where Unleashed comes in.
The WWGP was much smaller than people realize. Realistically, while many people were involved in making the final events run, the Grand Prix was the brainchild of Patrick Camblin, and he was the force behind it. We spoke to Pat personally before making Unleashed public to ensure that he didn’t feel that we were stealing his event or ideas. As always, Pat was super understanding and fully understands that we all wanted to be competing at the WWGP, but still want to take part in an event that focuses on pushing the sport on truly big whitewater. At the moment Pat has no more involvement than as a well-wisher, but he is always around for the Stakeout season and remains a solid source of advice and experience with all things whitewater. We look forward to catching up with him before the event and learning more from his experiences as an event co-ordinator.
KS: A big limitation for the WWGP was finding funding to pay for the cost of running an event and covering athlete expenses. How does UNLEASHED plan to cover the financial elements of the event?
SEND: UNLEASHED is a grass roots event. All competitors are asked to pay a $50 CAD entry fee, which will go directly to prize money, rather than covering event costs. This means we are asking athletes to cover their own food, lodging, and travel costs over the course of the event. We are not providing a media team or a safety team, rather we are asking that all the competitors are prepared to serve as safety for each other, and to help contribute to the media produced. It is one reason why we really want competitors to be prepared to handle the challenges of competing in a harsh, demanding environment, and have prepared a vetting process. At the end of the day, this is an event run by athletes for athletes we have no other aim for this event than to have a good time with our friends, make new ones and push our sport together on the giant white water of Quebec.
Stand by for more info soon, and visit SEND website for the latest on UNLEASHED 2017