On the last weekend of September, over 130 paddlers met in Nottingham for a three-in-one event; the British Freestyle Championships, Club Championships and the European Open. It was a weekend that genuinely had something for everyone and if you’ve never been, then read on to find out why you should come next year …

Events across the weekend included freestyle, boater-X, a giant inflatables race, a cartwheel comp, a BBQ, a party, crowd pleaser, ergo challenge and king of the wave. Between all that, you could play anywhere on the whitewater course that wasn’t being used, and there were even a few coaching sessions and workshops to get involved with. I think this video gives you a good taste …

Check out this awesome edit of the European Open last weekend from Tom Clare! Big thanks to him and everyone involved in the weekend!! Peak UK Surfplugs

Posted by James Ibbotson Kayak Freestyle Athlete on Saturday, 7 October 2017


So how did this all relate the to British Champs, Club Champs and European Open? Well, it’s fairly straight forward. The British Freestyle Championships and European Open are the freestyle part of the weekend, with the British Champion title up for grabs for the top Brit in men’s, women’s, junior men, junior women, C1 and squirt. This year, we opened up the freestyle to internationals too and saw entrants from Ireland, Germany, the USA and Uganda! They were ranked in the European Open results, along with all the Brits, making for some very exciting results.

The Club Championships is the part of this weekend that makes it so much fun. Every event (from inflatable race to cartwheel comp) has ranking points available. At the end of the weekend, everyones points are added together and the club with the most points is crowned British Club Champions! With several age categories for both genders and every discipline, the tactics are to enter as many people for as many things as possible! A great way to get everyone involved.

The freestyle was the main event for Saturday. While the experts and intermediates strutted their stuff at the Inlet Gate (with the intermediates benefitting from ‘coached scoring’ where moves that don’t quite land still score points), the novices were entertaining the masses down on the friendly Fairy Wave. Novices were scored using the Nottingham Freestyle League system, which includes points for everything from paddle spins, surfs and pop-outs to pretending to ride a donkey (sound effects mandatory). The ‘jam format’ means that paddlers can get lots of goes around and the crowds really get behind them. Safety is set up so you can really go for it … and they did! One heat kept throwing their paddles away, making the safety team work hard at pick up sticks. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, and that’s what it’s all about.

Once the scores had been totted up, and the floodlights switched on, it was time for some carnage as the King of the Wave kicked off in Inlet Gate. Some solid battling took place, and the youngest, smallest competitor, Cameron Crampton, almost had everyone beat, but sadly flushed before the buzzer. Matt Stephenson and Mike Shaw ended up in a battle for the win, drifting off ceremonially hugging each other to stay afloat as neither still had a deck on …

Then it was time for the big top five freestyle finals in each of the categories. While the spectators chowed down on BBQ food, the competitors provided high drama and huge moves. Results:

I was super stoked to take the win in a very talented field, beating Claire O’Hara by just five points! It doesn’t get much closer! Congratulations to all the finalists – it was an incredible show of freestyle acrobatics (aka flippyfloppies)!

Prize-giving for the freestyle was held in the rugby club (evoking memories of decades past for those having grown up doing the Peak Challenge Series), followed by a good old party.

Sunday started with the boater-X, which was a challenge for those who’d partied hard, but with over a hundred entrants, this was one of the biggest boater-X ever races held in the UK. The crowd pleaser and cartwheel comp were squeezed in between the heats and finals, which saw an ‘anything goes’ approach at Fairy Wave. Some of my favourites were someone throwing away their paddle then being thrown a replacement from the bridge above! Caught with style with continuing to surf. Great work! Some peeled and ate a banana while surfing and other had mixed success with trying to stand up in their boats.

But undoubtably the most popular and most spectacular event of the day was the inflatable race, where over a hundred giant swans, unicorns, crocodiles, aeroplanes, flip flips, castles, flamingos, ducks, poos, sharks and a rather majestic Pegasus took to the course. It was absolutely hilarious carnage! After the race, many of us took our inflatables up to Fairy Wave for a surf off … with very mixed success. Matt Stephenson showed off his SUP skills by surfing his castle stood up, which Alex Allen dramatically beheaded his poor unicorn with an over enthusiastic seat drop entry move.

A massive thanks to everyone who helped make this event happen. I think we have found the NSR for all ages! Big shout out in particular to James Ibbotson for organising and to all the judges, helpers and of course all of the clubs who turned up en-mass. This year’s big turn outs were from Lee Valley, KOOL kayakers, Nottingham Uni and Midlands CC.

I hope to see even more of you there next year for what is a fantastic fun weekend. Thanks to Dan McGaley and Chris Worrall for the photos in this post. There are loads more awesome photos on this Flickr Album.