It looks like that new wave in Buena Vista has paid off. The U.S.’s top finisher in the World Cup of Freestyle Kayaking is Dustin Urban of, you guessed it, Buena Vista, Colo., home of a series of great new playholes and wife, Katie Selby’s, new South Main development project.
Urban took third overall after a fifth-place showing at the series’ final event in Thun, Switzerland, after entering the final leg of the three-stop competition in second place. But as is often the case, Canadian Nick Troutman picked up his game when it mattered most, winning the Thun stop, which pushed him into the second overall position ahead of Urban, but behind overall winner Peter Csonka of Slovakia. Stephen Wright took second at the Thun event, with Csonka placing third. Eric Jackson ended up in eight-place at the event.
“I was very happy to make top five,” says Urban. “I would have liked to hold onto my second-place spot in the world cup, but Nick and Stephen were on another level in finals.”
Csonka’s win on the world cup solidifies his home country’s place as the world’s true whitewater powerhouse. Just a few weeks earlier, Slovakia garnered three of the available four gold medals in whitewater slalom at the Beijing Olympics, winning the women’s K1, and men’s C1 and C2 events.
Another trend from the event: the advent of composite freestyle boats. Ultimately the next big leap forward will definitely be in the realm of boat materials.
A French company showcased a number of composite boats during the World Cup, weighing in as light as 18 pounds. According to Urban, they’re not only lighter, but also stiffer, which is important on a wave. “Plastic always has some flex, which makes the boat slower, he says. “And you could see that in Thun. I think we'll start seeing more companies producing composite boats, and this will undoubtedly cause a lot of innovation in the freestyle realm.”
For the women on the world cup, it was none other than Emily Jackson dominating the series to take first overall. During the three-stop, three-country event, Jackson took second - by virtue of a tie-breaker - in Prague, Czech Republic, and won the events in Augsburg, Germany and Thun, Switzerland outright. Says proud pop EJ: “The women’s division on this tour was among the most competitive of any I’ve seen anywhere – I’m really proud of the young adults my kids have become and seeing Emily rise to this challenge on the international stage and take home the gold.” Marianne Saether of Norway came in second in the overall standings, followed by Canada’s Ruth Gordon in third.
With 89 competitors taking part, the world cup event began Aug. 15 in Prague, Czech Republic, with the second stop on the man-made course in Augsburg, Germany, before the finish in Thun.
In women's competition, American Emily Jackson placed first overall followed by Ruth Gordon, Canada and Fiona Jarvie, Great Britain.
“I was most concerned about the final event in Thun since it was on a wave and I haven't paddled on a wave much in a while,” adds Urban. “I would have liked to place a bit better, but I'm really happy I held onto the top three.”
The fact that EJ didn't even crack the top five is a testament to how challenging the flushy wave was, one that didn’t let you paddle back up once you washed off.
”That’s what happened to EJ on his first semifinals ride, and that was what happened to me on all three rides in the finals,” says Urban. “It took an incredible amount of skill and poise to pull out rides like Nick and Stephen did. They deserved it.”
The only hiccup in the event was a delayed start on Sunday morning due to a church service, but the man above is a good a reason as any for a tardy start. Results were streamed live with a computerized system; events like the Rafting High Enders contest -- during which several teams managed to touch the banner above the wave by stern stalling the raft and jumping from the bow up into the air -- kept the crowd involved, and the camaraderie among competitors top notch (just ask those who were in the car park Saturday night). Oh yeah, then there was the Big Air Contest, featuring the Pringle team jumping half naked out of three boats tied together; and Friday night’s King Of The Wave showdown. The goal was to still be on the wave after the “hot minute” was over and be the last one surfing. As if that wasn’t enough, after ascending a new route on the Eiger North Wall, local alpinist Stefan Siegrist helicoptered into Thun to present a highline balancing act over the river Aare just upstream the wave.