WWGP Event #3 Shiwinigan

A Time to Focus: Fear and Loathing at the WWGP Time Trials 2014

By: Capo Rettig // World Class Academy

The first practice run Nick Troutman took on the Stage Three Time Trials racecourse resulted in a swim out of a weir hole.

We have become used to seeing good lines from Mr. Troutman, but none were as memorable as the front crawl and ferry angle that he took as he swam to the safety of a river right eddy, directly above a series of steep slides and waterfalls that would eventually make up the time trials course.

This hole and the drop below it would eventually be cut from the racecourse as a safety precaution, but the incident was memorable and important because it highlighted an important element of the Grand Prix: Stakeout.

The word stakeout has crawled into the kayaker’s vernacular over the last 15 years, a term created by those who chose to spend their spring positioned and ready for the ice to melt in Eastern Canada. Stakeout refers to the window of time when a core group of friends and athletes gathered to explore the waterways of Quebec and Ottawa during peak run-off, coining the term that is now prevalent today.  Stakeout has discovered many of the world’s most beloved river waves and inspired progression in freestyle.

The key piece to this concept of stakeout is the exploration and time put into each discovery. The days spent staring at flooded rapids, bushwhacking for a put-in, looking at flow charts, and pouring over Google Earth.

Which brings us back to Nick Troutman probing holes on the Shawinigan River. The unique format of the WWGP incorporates the concept of Stakeout into the competition. Flows are not guaranteed and athletes and organizers use flexibility and knowledge to discover the best options for racecourses and waves.

The day Troutman displayed his athletic prowess outside of his boat was a Stakeout day. This coupling of competition with exploration is a key characteristic of the WWGP and an element that fuels and drives the progression of competition. We are always one discovery away from a location that levels the playing field.

And what was discovered on this Stakeout day was a steep course consisting of slides and waterfalls with several key moves that were both unpredictable and inconsistent. A perfect place for the Stage Three Time Trials.

After spending most of the winter as a heli ski guide in Sweden, Tyler Curtis took a long look at the various moves in the complex rapid searching for the pattern and movement of the water that would allow for the fastest line.

“This feels like a Grand Prix course,” said Curtis while scouting the rapid from the river left alongside Dane Jackson and Juanito de Ugarte.

Competitors were given three runs through the course with the two fastest times combined for an overall score.

Patches of sun crept out of the dark clouds of a Quebec spring sky as athletes mentally prepared themselves for the intimidating course. One by one the competitors dropped over the horizon line and disappeared into the spray that swirled like a thick fog over the first drop.

It was a tricky course that saw some of the competitions best racers having inconsistent lines. Evan Garcia got surfed in a hole in the middle of the slide, Sandra Hyslop took a nasty swim over the bottom part of the waterfall, Jules Domine barrel rolled off a flake in the slide, and more than one racer ran the waterfall backwards.

Sandra Hyslop (GBR) swim
Sandra Hyslop (GBR) with the day’s worst carnage – her swim didn’t stop her from hiking back to the top and posting a solid time on her last available run // Photo: Jasper Gibson

“Staying smooth was the hardest part of the course,” said Kalob Grady. “I just tried to feel it on the way down.” This concept of staying smooth on the bumpy, unpredictable slide was echoed throughout the day as important not only for being fast, but for staying upright.

Lines improved as the day went on and athletes began dialing in the lines. After a disappointing finish in the Stage Two Boatercross, Chris Gragtmans came out focused on finishing well in the time trials.

“I took yesterday off to recalibrate myself,” said Gragtmans. “My first run today was not my fastest. I got slowed down in the bottom drop. I took a moment to re-focus on my strokes and movements, concentrating on paddling fast throughout the whole course.”

Gragtmans did just that, finishing the day with two fast times that propelled him into a second place finish for the Stage Two event.

“I left all the energy on the water today. I really had to let go of the other events and leave them behind,” said Gragtmans.

The Women continued to show an impressive variety of skills and talents on a course that was both technical and consequential. Showing grit and focus as the rain began to fall, the women had the fastest and smoothest lines during the third round of timing.

In the dining hall of the Chez Marineau hotel, athletes and organizers gathered around WWGP Director Patrick Camblin who read off the results in a festive atmosphere of 5.9% biere forte. A sense of relaxation and contentment spread through the team, which may have turned over a new chapter in the maturing process all kayak groups experience on international road-trips punctuated with class V days.

After flirting with a first place finish in the two previous events, Dane Jackson put together the two fastest times to take the top finish in the Men’s Division followed by Chris Gragtmans and Tino Specht.

The fastest lady of the day was Martina Wegman whose time beat many of the men’s and put her ahead of Mariann Saether by .5 points in the overall standings at first place.

“I quite like being in control and on that slide it was tough,” said Martina. “I was focused on good lines, not necessarily just paddling fast.”

Keep a close eye on the Women’s Division over the next three stages as the current top five positions are all determined by 3 points or less.

The Athletes have now headed north towards Lac St. Jean and the high volume rivers that feed it – stay tuned for more action from the Whitewater Grand prix as it enters its 2nd week.

Gerd // Photo: Jasper Gibson
Gerd Serrasolses (ESP) racing to a 4th Place finish // Photo: Jasper Gibson

Nicole Mansfield (USA) backwards
Nicole Mansfield (USA) remaining calm after getting off-line on the Stage Three course // Photo: John Rathwell

Mariann Saether (NOR)
Mariann Saether (NOR) staying consistent on her Time Trial runs. // Photo: John Rathwell

Top 3 Men's Boatercross// Photo: Capo Rettig
Leif Anderson (USA) keeping it straight through the tricky slide section // Photo: John Rathwell

Photo: John Rathwell

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