The 2022 World Paddlesports Festival was definitely one of the best experiences and races I have been to. From the organization, to paddling on the American canoe teams training grounds. It was super cool to be competing alongside the other paddling sports and seeing their levels. It was an action packed weekend kicking off on Friday with the Sprint and Technical heats.
For the 200 meter Sprints we had our own lanes, which made it extra fair. The first race we did I started off fast to make sure to be in front, but after 100 meters I knew I had it in the bag, so I slowed down a bit knowing that there was a lot more racing in store. This put me into the semi-finals, which was going to be held on Saturday along with the finals.
After some water and stretching I got ready for my Technical heat. For this race they had the starting gates set up already for the canoe paddlers, so this allowed for the first ever gated start for me personally and maybe even stand up in general. It definitely was a bit tricky, because if you went right when the horn blew, your nose bumped the gate. So the first start definitely caught me off guard, but I managed to take the lead before the first turn.
Once I was in front, I maintained a comfortable pace allowing me to make it into the semi-finals. I took a nice cool down paddle to flush out any lactic acid and prepared for the semis. The semis were definitely more stacked, which made no room for mistakes. This time around I had a better understanding of the starting gates and was able to blast out of the gates to the first turn. I had Daniel right behind me as we rounded the first mark. Heading into the next turn I relaxed into a nice pace allowing me to keep the lead and save energy for the finals on Saturday. Once Daniel and I noticed we were going to both make the finals we cruised our way into the finish line. Three races down, but this was only the warm ups, so I got some food and good night of rest for the semis and finals of the 200 meter Sprint in the morning.
Saturday morning started off with the Sprints and my first heat was the first race of the day. I got a nice warm up in and hit the start line with laser focus. The horn blew and I shot out to the lead in the first 10 strokes. Looking in my peripheral vision, I noticed I had a comfortable lead so at the 150 meter mark I decided to slow down a bit and save energy for the finals. I had an hour or so in between, so I got some fuel in me and stretched out before the big show.
When it was our time to go I got a nice warm up in as always to shake off some of those pre-race nerves and got myself lined up in lane two. My feet were staggered and my paddle was ready to strike the water as soon as the start horn blew. When it did I took about five super quick strokes to get my board up on a plane. Once my board was planing, I dug even deeper and paddled even harder to glide myself down the 200 meter strip. I had a comfortable lead, but this was the final so I kept the hammer down earning myself a First Place.
It’s always super rewarding when hard work pays off, but this was just one race out of three. To make things interesting, exciting and quite a bit different, the Technical finals was held at 8:40 PMunderneath the bright lights. With a flat water controlled environment these kind of things are possible, which made it super interesting for the spectators and paddlers.
As it got darker, I hit the water for a warm up and started to adjust to the bright lights. I was in lane 3 with a straight line to the first turn and with these shorter races getting to the first buoy in first place was definitely important. They called us up to the starting gates and I got my nose placed in the gate with my eyes set on Gold. When the horn blew and the gates dropped I popped off a few quick strokes to bring my board up on a plane. I got in front before the first turn and was able to hold a comfortable pace, breathing deep, with laser focus, on that first turn. As I rounded the first turn I heard some commotion behind, so I hit the gas to the second turn. This allowed me to have a nice gap on the field, allowing me to focus on my paddling. I whipped my board around the last few turns getting more excited with the crowd cheering me on. I sprinted across the finish line in First Place.
This one day of racing (morning and night) – felt like two days, and in one day I managed to get two Gold Medals. The body was sore, but there was still one more day of racing, so some rest and food was definitely key.
The next day for the distance race I got my camel pack filled up and hit the water to get warmed up. It was a mass start with all men paddlers (all classes), which made it really exciting. For the distance race, I wasn’t going for the win as I definitely gave it my all in the 200 Sprint and Technical races. Plus that’s not what I have been training for lately. So I jumped in the draft train and was able to stay in a comfortable top four. I raced with two other guys back and forth for the majority of the distance and it wasn’t until the end that we had to do a final sprint and unfortunately, I just missed the top three spot. Crossing the line in fourth still gave me the First Overall for the weekend, which is what I have been going for lately.
What a great few days and it was really cool to visit Oklahoma and see this incredible race venue. Now it’s on to Poland for the next event.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Salt Life Sunglasses, Black Project, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water,Haleakala Solar, Hi-Tech Sports.