We had our first fun freestyle event in June on the Kananaskis. It was a variation of Horse where you had to do a series of tricks, working from easiest to hardest, and every time you were unable to do one you got a letter – once you spelled “LOOP” you were out. We started at front surf and topped out at Space Godzilla, which is a pretty awesome range. 12 paddlers participated, from age 10 to age 55 and it was nothing but smiles, laughs and cheering in the eddy. Paddlers were pushing themselves to try new tricks and coaching each other between rounds.
At Provincials we expanded this format (it was Provincials after all!) and used a format where you had progressively difficult rounds to work your way through. Each round had six tricks in it and the paddler had to do any four in order to move on. If you did not complete a round then you got a letter towards spelling “K-O” (as in knock out), which put you out of the competition. When we were down to the final 3-5 athletes in a category then we switched into ICF style finals. 30 paddlers participated, from age 8 to age 55, and it was chaos…. But in a good way! Again, everyone cheered, laughed and coached each other to help others move through the rounds.
Freestyle is a sport of progression and too often people feel the pressure to be able to loop or do big tricks, and they skip over perfecting the smaller ones, which are actually the building blocks to greater success. Using these alternate formats we are creating space for more people to participate and reminding paddlers about the importance of the basics – like the paddle twirl, which shows balance and boat control (and is always a cool old school trick to throw!).
We have two more fun events left in Alberta this fall and hope you will come and join us at them:
- Harvey Passage Hoe Down (https://aqoutdoors.com/blogs/paddlesports-blogposts/harvie-passage-hoe-down-junior-paddler-event) on September 21st
- Alberta Cup #3 (https://www.facebook.com/events/2973155629381088/) on October 5th & 6th