The pinicle of my short paddling career 🙂
A few days before the event I got an invite from fellow team rider John Hibbard who was driving over to Hamburg & had a spare seat, so after a bit of deliberation I decided to get my entry in!
And so ensued 5 mental days, 5 countries, 5 UK mens podium spots, & many hundreds of miles in the Starboard team van AKA Hotel Babylon!
What an amazing, life changing experience it was! It doesn’t matter what level of paddling you are at, you’ll still have an absolute blast. I can’t explain the feeling of hammering up & down a loch in the middle of a city with thousands of people cheering you on, people you don’t even know shouting your name, pushing you on. The camaraderie amongst the paddlers was awesome. High fives & shakkas from all the top US & Hawaian guys. Everyone was cheering, hooting, smiling and shaking hands after every race.
We arrive late Thursday afternoon & got the boards straight out for a paddle around the event site. What a spectacular spot it was, right in the heart of the business district in Hamburg, surrounded by multi-million pound apartments.
Friday was practice day, myself, John Hibbard & Fanatic rider Charlie Grey hit the water early(in the pouring rain) for some serious turn training. Myself & John were experimenting with a new ‘cross-bow’ turn. Time and again we all hammered it towards the turn buoy emulating race day & jostled for position. Eventually fatigue started to set in & I took the first plunge into the soup, it wasn’t too cold, or dirty so happy days! I think we all went in eventually but it was a good launch, and a nice way to settle into the content surroundings.
More people arrived, celebrity paddlers from all over the globe. EJ Johnston, Jenny Kalambach, Jerry Bess, Paul Jackon, Robbie Nash, I have to say it was pretty cool to meet all these guys.
We heading back to the hotel late afternoon for a freshen up & out to dinner with the US/Hawaii guys. Italian was the decision, a theme that seemed consistent by the end of the weekend 🙂
Saturday we all arrived at the event site early, ready for a day of ‘Action’ as Brian Talma would say! The day saw the mens pro sprints & some of the Jever class, then last thing at the end of the day the Amateur Distance event. 5 laps of the roughly 1km course. It was a lot of nervous sitting around, waiting for our time. Fully hydrated having sat sipping gatorade all day we finally hit the water about 5ish.
Charlie & I nervously paddled about trying to keep warm, unsure who any of our competitors were.
We lined up at the start and on the horn we were off.
I got an absolutely amazing start pulling clear of the pack in the first 500m ready for the first turn, and from that point on I wasn’t going to let up. I managed to pull a nice lead out on the main pack, and a good 20 board lengths on Charlie in 2nd.
It was a really crazy feeling when thousands of spectators are cheering you on, many shouting your name and you’ve never met them. It really spurred me on to give it every last piece of energy & effort.
John was on the sideline giving me the update on how many laps I had done & how far ahead I was, I have to say when you get into the zone it’s amazing how hard it is to even count to five 🙂 (laps)
The feeling of crossing the finishing line 1st having never really won anything competitive in my life was quite something. Cameras flashing, people cheering… totally nuts. On request of Team Boss John I appropriately showered the crowd with beer at the podium prize giving. Charlie Grey taking 2nd place honors for team UK.
Sunday we had our sprint heat. Annoyingly this time I messed up my start & got caught in the chaos of the first turn, (see the picture below) I then spent the long straight battling with Xacobe from Spain. We clashed boards a few times & despite me taking the lead on him he managed to force his way into the inside for the seconds turn. That left me having to stall on the outside until he’d got out the way. I now had about 3 board lengths to make up in 200 meters. I think I must have crossed the line now more than a foot behind him so was really gutted I ended up with third not second, but still another podium so can’t complain.
Finishing top 3 got Charlie & I a wildcard entry to the pro distance race on the sunday pretty much straight after our sprints. We boshed some powerade & got back out in the lineup with some 40 pro competitors, most of which were on 14ft boards! The horn went & it was carnage. I think I pretty much surfed the first 500m in the wake of all the other riders.
The pack started to spread & lap by lap I picked a few more people off. Elliot Dudley in sight I tried to keep the same pace & make some ground on the turns. I then got into a gruling battle with one of the spanish riders. We spent the whole rest of the race battling for position, he played dirty pushing me into the walls a few times. Barbados celeb Brain Talma knocked me off on one of the turns loosing me about 200m on the spanish guy.
I put my head down & managed to make the time back & a last hard effort on the final lap I took the position & hammered it for all I could to keep ahead. I crossed the line a more than acceptable 16th overall. Not bad withonly a couple of pro riders ahead on 12’6 bords, the rest were on 14’s!
High fives, man hugs & beer drinking immediately ensured with my spanish counterpart. We all sat at on our boards at the finish line & cheered every last competitor over the line. A great end to a great weekend.
1st place – Amateur Distance (5km)
3rd Place – Amateur Sprints (1km)
16th Overall – Pro Distance (10km)