The Whitewater Grandprix has brought people to Canada from all over the world, with a huge variety of variety of backgrounds and roads to this event. The day before the event, everyone is here, excitement is high and everyone is looking forward to what is to come.
Just getting here has been a real adventure for me. I spent almost three years fighting shoulder injuries that looked like they may stop me kayaking for good. The lowest point was the sinking feeling as I realised that, after a year and a half of being out of action I had re injured my shoulder and was facing going through the whole thing again. It sucked going through it all again, hospitals, physios, waiting, wondering, questioning myself, and waiting some more on a constant cycle. Would I be able to kayak again? Is it even a good idea to get back to it after all this? Will I have to give up, not just my sport, but the friends and lifestyle that come with it? I learnt some really valuable things during that period that I carry with me now. A self-discipline, born from the motivation to be paddling again, that I had never had before to the same extent, which I can still tap into now when I need it. I learnt also to be happy and centered independent of kayaking. Previously, if I was stressed / angry / frustrated / pissed off I would go kayaking and it would clear my head. Without exercise as an outlet I had to look elsewhere. I found mindfulness and meditation and the realisation that it is very possible to train ourselves to think differently and the way our minds react and act. I learnt to be happy, without relying on external circumstance, which is a very valuable thing to take away. It would have been a whole bunch more fun without the injury, and I would have far preferred to learn those lessons without such a long period, but I guess that’s not how life works sometimes.
Anyway, many thousands of hours of physio I am still managing my shoulders, but doing so whilst paddling hard on some big whitewater so that’s just fine with me. I’ve had some awesome periods since then where I feel as solid as I’ve ever done, including during the Nile River Festival this year just gone. Check this video from the Itanda Race of the Nile River Festival where combined with the Nile Special Freestyle event I was lucky enough to earn my slot on the WWGP:
During training in the last few months whilst playboating on Nile Special I tweaked my shoulder as bad as I have since surgery, which for sure is scary. Not knowing for weeks if you are back to square one again or not. Thankfully, I'm not and I'm feeling strong again. I didn't playboat for six weeks, trained hard and built back to it steadily. Once again, the set back gave me opportunity to learn. This time, my mission was to improve my creek boat technique and fitness. I had great fun rebuilding and refining skills and setting up courses on the Nile, with friends out there and finding new ways to challenge myself on my home river, a river which never stops delivering. Who knew how many fun creek lines there were in Uganda? Check this little video of one of our Itanda giant slalom courses:
It was satisfying getting smoother, faster and fitter and I feel much better prepared than previously for the races. It's going to be very different and significant challenge on the cold and steep creeks of Quebec, but right now I feel excited for it and up for the challenge, if a little nervous about what exactly is in store. We will see how I feel sitting in the eddy at the top before my runs!
As for the whole event, experiencing the build up out here during ‘stakeout’, I feel I should take a moment to appreciate just how awesome I think this thing really is. The best paddlers in the world, on the best whitewater with events from all major whitewater disciplines to find the all round best paddler! How cool is that for a concept to build an event around? Seeing all these amazing paddlers coming in from all over the world to compete and feeling the collective energy is inspiring and I’m excited to be a part of it.
So hats off to Pat Camblin for his vision and, more importantly having the balls and work ethic to turn it into a reality. The world would be a much cooler place if there were more people passionately getting behind projects that they really believe in like Pat has with this. I really hope major sponsors can feel the energy and excitement around the event that I feel now, and get fully behind it to allow it to grow and flourish in the future!
Anyway, I'm phyched for tomorrow, and for the next two weeks and I'm super grateful for everything and everyone that has been a part of the journey up to here and helped me out along the way. I feel like I’m sitting on the brink of an awesome adventure, and the words of Hendri Coetzee come to mind... there is nowhere I would rather be, and nothing I would rather be doing!