Three weeks ago, myself, brother and dad were on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the 2011 Surf Kayak World Championships. There were seven of us on the Canadian Team, and the other members consisted of Christine Brice from Ucluelet BC, Ted Morris from Algonquin Park, and Dave Willer and Barry Jones from Toronto.
The Surf Kayak Worlds is held every two years, and the most recent championships were held in Spain in 2007 and Portugal in 2009. Although there were a few Canadians in past competitions, this was the first time that Canada has had a full team entered. Since most of my paddling experience is whitewater I went down there with low expectations for myself, but it was still pretty cool to fly the flag and surf with and against the very best in the world in this sport.
In the competition, there were approx. 20 countries present including US, Canada, Spain, Basque Country, England, Japan, Ireland, Jersey, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Portugal, yadda yadda yadda.... For those not familiar with surf kayaking, it utilizes flat bottomed kayaks designed specifically to ride waves in the exact same way as a surfboard does. Most of the boats are equipped with fins, and each wave is scored using the exact same scale and judging as used in a surfboard contest.
The competition consisted of Team events and Individual events. In order to compete in the team event, a Country had to submit 7 paddlers. Like I mentioned, this was the first time Canada had enough for team event, and placed 5 out of 5. He he. But, as this was the first competition for a few of us, we didn't mind.
Next up was Individual heats, which went better for us. It started with 12 twenty minute heats with four surfers in the water. Each surfer was allowed 10 waves and the the best two waves were combined to get a final score. The top 2 people in the heat advanced to the 2nd round, and me and Kye were psyched to place well and advance. There were some excellent boaters in both of our heats so we were surprised to hit the beach after to recieve highfives telling us that we had advanced. I placed 2nd in the first heat, trailing .55 points behind Anthony Bell, team US East champion, and Kye killed it in his heat coming first. I have to mention that Kye competed the whole week in a plastic boat, the only one not in a composite surf boat, and he definitely turned some heads in the process. Watch out for this little bugger in the future. Other Canadian members that advanced were Christine in Womens Short, and Ted in Masters Short. Major props to dad for hopping in a flat bottom boat for the very first time and surfing against a few former world champions. He did not advance, but gave er and is now inspired to start pushing the envelope at home here in Northern BC!
During the 2nd round, me Kye and Christine all got bumped, but I didn't mind and I had already exeeded my expectations. I can't speak for the others, but for me and Kye to go down there with no real competition experience and no expectations, both finishing in the top 24 in the World felt pretty good. Ted continued to surf well, and ended the Championships in 4th place in the world in masters short boat. What a guy, huge smiles all around!
The best part of this competition was the community feel of the thing. I cant imagine another sport where the top people from around the world can gather and compete against each other in a friendlier spirit. High-fives, shakes and hugs were present before and after many of the heats between competitors, and there was no tension at all between anyone (except for one surf boarder who made a complete ass out of himself and had to have the cops called on him). There were socials most nights, and a good party after the awards ceremony. We went down to NC mainly for the experience, and team Canada will be present and hungry at the 2013 World Championships in Australia.
Cheers to WRSI for keeping the ol' noggin safe (especially on the bigger days when the cement pillars on the Pier were constantly on the mind) and North Beach Surf Shop for its continued support of my surfing adventures!
For more stuff on Team Canada at the World Championships, check out our Team Manager's blog here: http://surfkayak.org/?p=165 - She did a great job on write ups during the event.
A few of us were interviewed on CBC Radio 1. Listen to it here: http://www.cbc.ca/allpointswest/2011/10/07/writing-the-salish-sea-stephen-clarkson-and-surf-kayaking/
Our interview starts around the 18 minute mark.
Here is an article from our local Island Observer newpaper: http://www.qciobserver.com/Article.aspx?Id=5143
Heres are some more pics: (photos by Kevin Borserio, Dave Willer, Luke Borserio)