Tag Archives: kayaking


This blog post was originally published at https://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2019/07/16/icf-freestyle-world-championships-actual-score/

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) Freestyle World Championships happen every two years on either a wave or a hole feature. This year’s World Championships just finished in Sort, Spain and it was a fabulous experience.

The town of Sort is a small town in Catalonia on the edge of the Pyrenees Mountains with a population of around 2500 people. The town sits in a valley with the Noguera Pallaresa river running right through town, and the hills full of hiking trails with beautiful vistas.

The small and traditional nature of Sort made for a wonderful cultural experience for all of the competitors. Shops close from 2:00 – 5:00 pm for siesta, the mid-day meal is the main meal and restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8:00 pm. Stores are closed on Sunday’s and there is a weekly farmers market in the middle of town every Tuesday.

Sort held the Freestyle World Championships back in 2001 and the feature had a reputation for being a big burly hole even back then. At the 2018 World Cup events this experience was replicated with many athletes finding the hole challenging and flushy. Over the past 12 months Sort has invested over a million euro’s to upgrade the competition hole and surrounding area, creating an impressive facility that leaves a legacy for athletes for years to come. 

After much work, even during the week just prior to the competition, the feature ended up being a burly hole peppered with shallow areas that made it challenging for athletes to consistently get big air, link tricks and execute on trophy moves. Unfortunately, the water levels fluctuated a fair bit during the team training week as the organizers worked to determine the best level for the actual competition. This, compounded by limited training hours, made for lower overall scores and an underlying stress level for athletes.

With all the issues over the water, it was pretty easy for athletes to get stressed out about what was, or wasn’t, happening out on the water. The best counsel that we heard given by many of the seasoned senior athletes was that competing at the World Championships is not about your score. This seemed a bit counter intuitive on the surface but when you sit and listen to the rest of the message it makes perfect sense.

Freestyle Kayaking is a non-traditional competitive environment on a good day. Athletes coach each other, even those that they are competing against. Even coaches from other teams will give athletes a pointer or two. Everyone celebrates the successes of others and everyone feels the disappointment when someone doesn’t paddle as well as they know they can.

Within that environment, participating at the World Championships is about so much more than your score. It is about coming together and paddling with your friends. It is about meeting new people and making new friends. It is about experiencing a new town, a new country and a new river. It is about experiencing new cultures and trying new foods. And more than anything, it is about having fun. Funnily enough, if you are having fun then you will paddle well. It’s like one big circular reference. 

We watched our first squirt competition and were in awe of the amount of down-time that gold medalists Clay Wright and Rose Wall got. We marched in the opening ceremonies and felt so much pride representing our country. We hiked and explored the area. We participated in midnight paddle sessions with friends to try and get more time on the feature. We hosted a Canada Day party on July 1st and were thrilled to have so many other athletes join us. We met so many wonderful people – sitting in the eddy, sitting in the stands or just hanging out in town. We survived the 40c (110f) heatwave while staying in a wonderful old hotel that had no air conditioning. AND Hunter paddled in his first World Championships.

It was an honour for Hunter to compete for Canada at the World Championships and for Lee to support the team as Team Manager. It was a wonderful experience for our family and has left everyone looking forward to the 2021 World Championships in Nottingham, UK. 

Canadian Freestyle Team Trials will take place late summer/early fall of 2020. Get involved and come join us!

The Vincent Family





This post was originally published at: https://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2019/06/24/kayaking-competitions-fun-families/

We are not a competitive family in terms of competing with those outside our family. Competition inside the family is a different story and a great motivator to learn new skills in all areas of our lives.

We first got involved with kayaking competitions when Hunter was 9. He was intrigued with entering our local kayak rodeo along with his friends but not really certain about the competition part of things. To make it more fun we decided that I (Mom) would enter and we would just compete against each other and not worry about anyone else. That was the first of many times that he has beaten me in freestyle, downriver and ocean surfing competitions.

Our first downriver race was the Race to the Grill at CKC Paddlefest in Buena Vista, Colorado. It is a super family friendly event on a class 2 run that ends at a beach bar. We lined up one after the other with a 30 second gap between paddlers, with Hunter first and me following. He was motivated not to have me catch him and I was motivated to catch him. The chase was on. This is a 20+ minute race where you paddle the entire time and this set up kept us both paddling hard the entire time. We both had podium results but the more important part was the fun that we had out on the river together. We’ve used this strategy in a number of other races and the results were the same – we challenged ourselves, we challenged each other, and we created amazing memories.

Our other biggest learning about kayak competitions is to think of them more as participation than competition. We are coming out to have fun on the river with friends and family. We set goals – either to do a certain trick, beat a certain time or beat each other – and then see if we can achieve them. We have met sooo many great people by showing up at various kayaking “competitions” and choosing to participate. It exposes you to the amazing paddlesports environment and provides you with an opportunity to experience some beautiful parts of what ever country you are in.

We definitely recommend that families get involved in their local paddling festivals and competitions as a way to have fun, grow and learn together. 

The Vincent Family




Party Surfing – a fun way to develop boat control

This post was originally posted at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/07/09/party-surfing-a-fun-way-to-develop-boat-control/

We have used party surfing for years as a fun way to develop and fine tune boat control. It turns learning into a game that is highly interactive and fun for everyone. It is also a fun game that can be played with both kids and adults.

Step one: Find a bunch of friends to paddle with that like to have fun
Step two: Find a wave that will fit at least 3 boats in it
Step three: Someone starts surfing and then the next person joins in, and then the next person, and so on and so on.
Step four: When you fall off, or are knocked off, paddle back to the eddy, get in line and get back out there.
This game can also be called King of the Wave (or hole), which refers to the person that stays out in the feature the longest.
We have found that you can get a bunch of people playing this and it can go on for up to 30 minutes, at which point most people are exhausted and need a rest. People are smiling and cheering and laughing the entire time and don’t realize that they are actually enhancing their paddling skills; – learning better edge control so you don’t zoom into someone, getting comfortable in areas of the wave/hole that you don’t normally go to, playing with side surfing to make room for someone else.
We were in Glenwood Colorado in May and spent an afternoon on the Glenwood wave with the Kellogg family. We had the party surfing game going for a good 30 minutes with at least 8 people cycling through. Even the Dad’s gone into the fun and showed you are never too old to party surf!
If you are a bit hesitant and just getting started, then just try party surfing with one other person, then slowly add more friends/family into the mix. You will be amazed at how much fun it is and how your skills develop without you even trying.

Paddling moms rock!

This post was originally published at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/05/09/paddling-moms-rock/

With mothers day right around the corner, I wanted to take a moment and celebrate kayak moms, and most specifically the paddling kayak mom. Paddling kayak mom’s are lucky as they have a choice…similar to sports like hockey, soccer or swimming, a kayak mom can choose to be the shuttle driver and stand watching from the riverside OR they can chose to get in a kayak/canoe and get out on the river with their kids and their family.

Those are the moms that we are honouring today – the paddling mom. Those mom’s are a varied group – some were paddlers before their kids and continued seamlessly while their kids were young through to when they were able to get them on the water. Some were paddlers before their kids and then took a break from the sport while their kids were little, finding it again when their kids were old enough to get involved. And some jumped into the sport with both feet as their kids were learning.
These moms are amazing role models that deserve to be celebrated. They are growing a whole new generation of paddlers. They are role modelling active, healthy living and family time. They are modelling bravery and life long learning. And they are demonstrating humility and team spirit, especially as their kids surpass them. They get to be there for the lows when their children have an energy bonk and crash in the middle of the river run or stand in tears when scouting a rapid that they are terrified of. They also get to be there for the highs of that first surf, that first big drop or must make move. Sometimes they are right there in the middle of the run with their child and sometimes they have portaged the feature and are providing safety. Either way – these are now shared memories and moments that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few of the amazing mom’s that are part of the Jackson Kayak team, and their stories behind why they chose to get in the water with their families.
“I love paddling with my family for the simple fact that we are all together conquering the same hurdles, enjoying the same conquests and running the gamut of emotions at the same time. It’s pretty sweet where on any given day, I can be coached by my 15m 17 & 20 year old sons and then turn around and look like I know what I’m doing when I give the same advice to my 13, 12, 10 and 8 year old kiddos!” Susie Kellogg’
“I began paddling because my family loves to paddle and I love to spend time with my family. I love to see them try new things and improve in their skills and joke and have fun together on the river. Over time, my reason for paddling has changed a bit. Now I paddle for myself as well. I like to try new things and feel the sense of accomplishment as I improve in my skills. I love the way paddling brings our family together, and the super people we meet through the sport, but I also love it for the growth and fun that I have on the river.” Carol Walker
Where else can you immerse your family in solitude, with lessons in environment, ecology, hydrology, geology, etc.. You learn to listen, trust, follow directions – and it never ends. Every river is different, and every level is a new river. To watch your child grow on the water, learn the basic skills, and follow you – then lead you – as they grow in confidence and decision making skills, accepting risk with confidence, and making choices to walk, based on their ability and tenacity, and then realize they have surpassed you in, not only paddling, but the understanding and power of the water, and the confidence to run things you never dreamed of. That’s when you know you have raised your child the right way. When my daughter runs class 5 rivers, I’m often asked if I’m scared or worried – and I’m not. Because the river has raised her to be the person she is, and I beam with pride to know this is a direction we turned her to… and she has the knowledge, strength, confidence and skill to head down, making good decisions as she goes. These lessons transfer to a lot of life situations, and I cherish watching her handle them with poise, strength and grace. As a couple, and a family, we have trust, communication, and respect for each other and the environment, all lessons encouraged by the river, so yes, we love to paddle together! Stephanie Viselli
I love being on the water, not only with my family, but with other families. I love nothing more than seeing my kids have fun with other kids on the water while learning and challenging their skills. My favorite moments are the flat waters in between where we connect and share experiences as parents and families. I always relish in the magic of these moments never wanting them to end. Paddling with my family is our bond. We are unconnected, unplugged, not being entertained, but rather creating our own moments. I’ll never forget when I saw Jackie get her first combat rolls in the pool session. Maddie’s slug roll – no hand roll on the Ottawa. The magic is that I am not on the sideline watching as a fan, but that I am as much in the moment with them on the water as a participant in the same sport. I get to play and we get to play together.  Stace Kimmel
Turning moments into lasting memories, with my family, is the reason that I kayak. Not only does this sport keep me pushing myself, but the unplugged time on the rivers, with my family, creates enjoyment that I have not been able to duplicate in any other activity. Melissa Hargrove
If you are currently a riverside kayak mom – take the opportunity to get out with your family, even just for a flat water paddle, this year for Mother’s Day. If your family doesn’t kayak and you happen to be reading this – definitely give it a try. Most kayak shops offer lessons, which can be a great way to start on the water as a family together.
For us, this will be a life long sport – something we come together to do and something we do separately. It’s a shared passion, with a shared language, that allows us to meet new people, explore new places and get outside as often as possible.
Lee Vincent

Kicking off the kayaking season – build progression into your goals

This post was initially posted at https://www.levelsix.com/blogs/blog/kicking-off-the-kayaking-season-build-progression-into-your-goals

Progression in kayaking is an amazing, terrifying and rewarding activity. It’s HARD sometimes and yet oh so worth it…

 With a fresh paddling season upon us, this is a great time to think about what your goals are for the year. It’s also a great time to be kind and generous to yourself and remember that your season does not have to be full of “go big or go home” moments. First and foremost, kayaking is supposed to be fun. Consider having progression as a goal in itself.

 We’ve learned a few tips for progression that I wanted to share:
1) If at all possible, have a home river that you can use for your progression benchmark. It is great to have a place where you are highly comfortable to measure your improvement against. Is that ferry easier than it was a month ago now that you’ve challenged yourself on some other rivers? Can you run the harder sneak and feel in control the whole time after having consistently run the easier line? What one thing can you do on this run that is different from your normal runs?
2) Find people that you trust to paddle with that will support your efforts to stretch yourself. Will they take the easier lines down a new river section for you to expand your experiences? Will they teach you how to boof that one tricky feature on your home river? They can be your biggest cheerleader and you need that when you are pushing yourself. Progression means growing, and growing often means feeling uncomfortable, which leads to a whole lot of adrenaline running through your system, which can be exhausting and overwhelming. Hence the very valuable external support.
Tim & Hunter Vincent in the Ottawa River
3) Take your time and move at your own pace. Progress doesn’t have to be linear. We have been to Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade Idaho 3 times now. The first time I (Lee) didn’t go in the top hole at all. Looked at it and said, “no thank you”. The second time I went in it, got worked and again said “no thank you” for a repeat adventure. Our third trip was in late June of last year. The weather was warm and I decided that I was going to push myself. My goal was to be comfortably surfing in it by the end of our visit, which was 10 days long. I spent the first five days in “get to know you” mode. The most logical approach to the wave was through a big foamy hole and it terrified me so I practiced dropping in from up top, from entering on the far side and by just paddling into the back of the foamy hole but not actually going into the trough. Five days in and I was starting to get the feel for the foamy stuff so started dropping into the hole and just side surfing. Days 6-9 were works in progress with some big high 5’s and a few topsy-turvy beatings that had me call it a day. Day ten and I closed off my visit with entering through the hole side, front surfing the wave under control, got a spin and back surf and even had an unintended wave loop.

4) Work on the mental side of things as much as the technical and physical. Why is my 14 years old progressing faster than me? He’s more willing to throw himself into a feature and work it out than I am. Case in point is he was surfing the top feature at Kelly’s on our first trip. It was his first time surfing in a hole that big and he got stuck in a side surf, had that terrified look and feeling of fear about how am I going to get out, got worked and swam. But got back in again and carried on. Many of us adults have stronger recall of that uncomfortable feeling and don’t jump up and down to replicate it. Anna Lesveque wrote a great article on paddling resilience that is worth a read for additional tips in this area (https://mindbodypaddle.com/8287/build-emotional-resilience-water/).
5) A day on the water is better than not going out on the water. If you aren’t feeling it or the run your friends are running is just too daunting, take a look for a way to still get out and do something on the water. Can you drive shuttle and then put in from the take out and paddle up to meet them on an easier section of whitewater? Can you find a place where you can go back to basics and spend time finding the joy in jet ferries or zen-like front surfing? Can you find a nice eddy or lake and practice your flatwater skills?

Bonus: embrace the swim. It happens to everyone for one reason or another. Don’t beat yourself up. Shake your head, self-rescue, smile and then get back out there!
Tim Vincent, Columbus Georgia Chattahoochee River
Tim & Hunter Vincent
Tim & Hunter Vincent