The Euro Cup freestyle competitions are great events and everyone can take part in – paddlers on different levels paddle together. Beginners can watch very good paddlers who show different styles, which helps them learn faster, and gives them the motivation to try new freestyle moves. When I started freestyle kayaking, I watched kayakers from many countries, so I always encourage kayakers to be a part of events like this. It is a nice way to spend time – a lot of good paddling with the opportunity to learn a lot, meet nice people with the same passion and discover new places to kayak. This year there were four Euro Cup events, at four great venues. Here’s a run down of what happened and some beta on each of the playspots.

 #1 Natural Games – Millau in France

For the tenth year in a row, the Natural Games in Millau (France) took place on the first weekend of July. It is a very big music and outdoor sports festival. Besides freestyle kayaking, there is also boater-X, climbing, enduro mountain biking, freestyle paragliding, mountain bike slopestyle, slacklining and much more. Tomasz and I went there as guests, which was the second time the organisers invited us there as the freestyle kayaking stars.

These few days were very busy, unexpected and great. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t good and it was pretty cold. But the weather didn’t stop a lot of people from coming to the festival to watch outdoor sports and spend time at the many music concerts.

During this event, I was competing in freestyle kayaking and boater-X, which was very fun. The course was changed especially for this competition. We were starting from a ramp in groups of four paddlers. Every competitor had strict instructions to take certain lines and two the best paddlers from every group advanced to the next level. I chose fast lines and tried to find the way without fighting too much with others. Thanks to that and having a little bit of luck, I won in every run. These results from the finals were very nice because it was my first victory in an international boater-X event. Being very happy and with a big smile, I went on main stage that night to get nice prize money. In the men’s category, Ander De Miguel Aranaz won.

The next two days were for the freestyle competition. First in all categories ( K1JW, K1JM, C1, K1W, K1M) were the prelims, where every kayaker had two runs and to the next round went paddlers with the best score from two combined runs. Twenty athletes progressed to the quarter-final, ten to the semi-final and best five to the final.

The K1M category had the biggest number of paddlers – more than fourty, so the quarterfinal took place on the same day, where kayakers had three runs and two of their best were counted. The following morning, the semifinals in K1JM, C1, K1W and K1M took place, where five paddlers with the best score from two runs go to final. After a break, it was finally time for the most exciting part – finals.

The last two groups were women and men. Both river banks near the competition spot was full of people who came to watch finals. The women’s final wasn’t easy. I really like hole in Millau, but there I must be very focused to stay in the feature after each difficult move. In the best run, I made 628 points and I took the first place, Anne Hübner came second with 520 points and Marlene Devillez came third with 476 points. The men’s final was very exciting. They did a lot of moves and most of it were linked and huge. After very good rides, Quim Fontane Maso won with 1,593 points, Sebastian Devred was second with 1,175 points and Tomasz Czaplicki was third with 1,030 points.

That was first of four Euro Cup events in season. It was my first win in Natural Games and I was double happy with victories in freestyle and kayak cross. Tomasz had very nice runs, finished at podium and we both made first points in Euro Cup series. In the evening, there was another big concert and party.

DJ Pone ©Sam Bié Natural Games

Paddling in Millau

Millau is a nice and soft kayak course with very good freestyle features. It is one of my favourite playspots in Europe. During the year me and Tomasz likes to visit this place to practice. There is a kayak club there, which takes care of the kayak course and teaches kayaking. If you want to paddle there, the cost of two training sessions per day is under 6 euros.

#2 Wildalpen in Austria

The second Euro Cup event was in the next week right after Natural Games. We came to beautiful Salza River area, where I was paddling a lot with my parents when I started adventure with white water kayaking. There is nice river, which difficulty rising up during paddling down. It is very cool, because beginners can paddle upper part and later try on more challenging sections. There is class 1-4  with wonderful canyon in the end. In the middle part of river is natural kayak course near the campsites in Wildalpen. Above this section is Helli Weli hole. This is where the 2nd Euro Cup event took place this year.

When we went there, the water level in the river was low and the hole was very rocky. It was hard to do moves without touching or hitting the rock. After some time I found the part of this feature where was deeper, but wasn’t easy to do moves there. I found this funny, because at the beginning I was worried that this would be only a spin competition. Probably during a couple weeks before water level was higher and the hole was much better. Organisers were trying to correct feature using wooden parts, but that didn’t help a lot. Playspot was more difficult than usual, but that meant that paddlers had to focus more on choosing a place to initiate moves.

It was one-day competition on Saturday. In the morning, the prelims took place, next the semifinals and then the finals in the afternoon. Finals of women and men were totally different. The ladies were more careful and took care about where to do moves. All girls mostly were staying in the right part of feature where was a little bit deeper.

In men’s final, competitors weren’t so careful. I was a little bit scared when Tomasz did moves very close to rocks on the left side. During many moves, the audience could hear when kayaks hit the rocks. In final Tomasz Czaplicki was 2nd, first place went to Bartosz Czauderna and 3rd was Peter Csonka. I won women’s category, Nina Csonka was second and Corinna Rebneger third.

At the end of the day, there was an award giving ceremony and party with DJ in the big tent. That was a nice competition, even with very low water level which disturbed paddlers to make high scored runs. The atmosphere was good and we had a good time there.

Paddling on Helli Welii

Above natural course in Wildalpen near the campsite is Helli Welli playspot. Paddling there is for free, but the hole was made by people from Naturefreunde Campsite, so good idea is to stay there just next to the playspot.

#3 Graz in Austria

photo by Mario Mulle

Third Euro Cup took place also in Austria. One week after competing in Wildalpen, we were competing in Graz on Mugl Wave. Feature there changed from the last year. This time it was more difficult to stick in the feature after big moves like Fonix Monkey or Mc Nasty. Hole is made by Kayak Club Graz in the canal which begins in Mur river. In comparison to shallow and rocky spot in Wildalpen this feature is deep and there is no risk to hit the rock or in the bottom.

Before the competition Tomasz and meIere playing a lot to find good spot to initiate moves and experiment with small changes of moves technique. Thanks that we worked out how to not flush during the run. Our trainings paid off and we both won in third Euro Cup competition. For me this also means that I’m already Euro Cup Champion. Tomasz took the leading position in Euro Cup in K1M. Second place in woman category in Graz got Nina Csonkova. Third was Anne Hubner. In men 2nd was Peter Csonka, third Lane De Meulenaere.

After official Euro Cup competition during the night took place big air contest. It was very funny kind of big air. Above the middle of the hole, on the rope were pair of brand new kayak shoes which was the main prize. Every kayaker has to touch it. If someone didn’t do it then he is out of the game. On the beginning shoes were very low, just above the water, but with every round, it was going higher and higher. Paddlers did loop or loop attempt and tried to touch shoes by hand. It was looking very funny with many good and fail attempts.

Paddling on the Mugl Wave

Mugl Wave was rebuilt at the end of September and now it’s similar to 2015 and 2016 seasons. It is more powerful and sticky than was during Euro Cup, so is easier to stay inside the hole after huge moves. Paddling there is for free. Hole is made by Kayak Graz Club and before you go there you should contact with Club crew.

#4 Freestyle Fest – Prague in the Czech Republic

The last Euro Cup event took place at kayak course in Prague. In the beginning of September at 9-10th was freestyle and whitewater competition. I really like Freestyle Fest in Czech Republic. There always is very relaxed atmosphere and it is close to Poland, so my best friends joined us during the competition weekend.

Tomasz and I went there two days before the event started. This year hole was more shallow and more sticky than the last years. When I was inside surf sometimes I must use a lot of power to go outside, but from the other side after Mc Nasty and Fonixes I didn’t care about that I can fall out from the hole.

At Saturday took place freestyle prelims and men’s semi-finals. Between these rounds, I was competing in sprint and kayak cross. On the beginning of Sprint I was pretty fast till the first gate. I was planning to use hole just after the gate which everyone had to go through to surf and to get closer to the banner which was obligatory to touch. Unfortunately, when I was in the corner of this hole and almost got out, I started to come back to the middle and I was stuck, so I lost a couple seconds in one hole. I finished at 5th place. Congrats to the sprint winners Domininka Adamcová and Petr Prause. Kayak Cross was also very fun. This time I fall out just before the final, but it didn’t stop me from having a good time. When I started in my first Kayak Cross a couple years ago I was scared that I would hurt someone. Nothing bad happened and now I have a lot of fun during the races. I like to paddle down with a combination of how to overtake or block other kayakers. Congrats to the winner of Kayak Cross Anne Hubner and Petr Bily. In the evening it was time for the party which was crazy with a band, dancing and electric bull. Most things from the party I know from stories because in the next day I had final in freestyle so I must be relaxed and ready to be able to paddle on a high level but my friends were party hard.

Sunday was started by Fun Slalom which I didn’t compete in. The fastest was Anne Hubner and also she had a better time than any of the men. Next started Freestyle’s finals. During Euro Cup women final, I made good runs and I added another victory to Euro Cup. I’m really happy because I did a lot of Fonixes on both sides in that competition. Not all of them were landed perfectly and some of them were probably scored as McNasty, but I’m satisfied with my runs. All the time I’m working on push my kayak skills to higher level. Sometimes even when I’m winning, but with not good runs as I want to do I’m not satisfied. Every small step forward with my kayak skills make me feel happy. Second in women was Anne Hübner and third Nina Csonkova.

After women, it was time for men finals. Men didn’t disappoint us. They had very good runs around the thousand and more points. Peter Csonka did a lot of linked moves and trophy moves, what gave him first place. Tomasz Czaplicki, who did big entry clean McNasty, came second. He is probably the first person who did it in competition and even it doesn’t have a lot of points or bonuses this looked very impressive. Bartosz Czauderna came third.

Paddling in Prague (Troja)

When you are thinking about going to paddle in Prague first is good to check training schedule on his website. There are some free hours for individual paddlers in between organised slalom training. You can also paddle during hours for rafting, but you have to let them go first. It is not a big deal for you because not many rafts paddle there. All whitewater course is nice for paddlers in big boats and in playboats. Just before the bridge is a competition feature called ‘Tlama’, where we are competing every year during Freestyle Fest. Above you will find a couple small waves good to play with some wave moves. Paddle there cost 100 Kc per half day or 200 Kc for all day.

Overall Euro Cup

This year both of us me and Tomasz are Euro Cup Champions. I won all four events. Tomasz got first place in overall Euro Cup with bronze from Natural Games, silver from Wildalpen, gold from Graz and silver from Freestyle Fest. For overall results was counted three best places from four events. For me, it was the first time I won in overall Euro Cup and I am very happy with that. Two years ago I came 2nd just behind Nina Csonkova (Euro Cups take place every two years). Tomasz won Euro Cup for the second time in a row.

Every Cup was different and that was a great adventure to be part of it. Natural Games was a huge, professional and wonderful event. Competitions in Austria was demanding and we needed to compete with a different strategy and adapt to competition features. Freestyle Fest as always was master of relaxed atmosphere and Czech style party.