This year saw the first ever edition of the Quebec Whitewater Race series. The idea was simple, a grouping of 3 events already present in the province and the addition of a new one, into a competitive race circuit. Competitors accumulate points for each race respective of their finishing place. At the end of the series, the kayaker with the highest point total earns the title of champion. This champion also earns an invitation to the most progressive kayaking competition in the world, the Whitewater Grand Prix.
The first race of the series was the Neilson Race, which had high expectations from both competitors and organizers alike for the 3rd edition. The competition happens on the B section of the Neilson River near the town of St-Raymond. In order to insure safe conditions, participants race in teams of two, with their race time ending when both members of the team cross the finish line. While some individuals had their fingers crossed for high water levels which would maximize the challenge and show, others were hoping for more modest levels which would enable more people to participate. In the end, a medium flow saw a record number of participants, as well as organizers/volunteers/spectators on hand to help make this edition exceed expectations.
Right before the event, I found out that my partner couldn’t make it to the race, and I had to begin a quick search for a replacement. After knocking on many doors, I met Ryan McAvoy. We didn’t know each other yet, but I was alone, he was alone, and our team was formed. Before the race, we had never paddled together and I had no idea was his ability levels were like. I lead the descent and he followed me like a boss. With good, clean lines, I grabbed third place for the third straight year.
With a perfect run, Charles Arsenault and Emrick Blacnette finally won the first place finish which had eluded them for the two previous years. Billy Thibault, who won the title the first two editions, and his partner Francois L. Tremblay, came in second.
The second event of the race series, the Rouge Challenge was organized by Kayak Pour Le Vie, a not-for-profit organization who aims to promote whitewater activities in the Red River area. The primary goal of the event is to assemble kayakers on the Red River to raise money for the Halte Camping Chutes des Sept Soeurs (a camp ground and access point at the bottom of the river), as well as for Cystic Fibrosis Quebec. Two separate courses were planned for the weekend, a team-time-trial which counted for the race series, and a boatercross organized for fun.
25 men’s teams and 8 women’s teams took to the water for this race, approximately 4 minutes of total race time on class III-IV whitewater. For a second consecutive year, Emrick Blanchette and Billy Thibault took first place, marking a key moment in the series points race. As the second race of the series, the Rouge Challenge separated the men from the boys, setting the table for a heated battle in the top five overall.
The third edition of the series was held on the famous Lachine rapids in Montreal. This event was even more special, as in addition to being part of the point accumulation of the race series, the overall winner of the weekend would also receive an invitation to the Whitewater Grand Prix. As only event in the series with a freestyle component, held on the mythical Maverick wave, the logistics involved for the event were a veritable challenge to the organizers, accomplished with style. Essentially, organizing a race and freestyle competition in the middle of the mighty St-Lawrence River is no easy feat. The competition level of the event were of a caliber higher than that of the other races in the series, as international athletes like Dane Jackson, Mathieu Dumoulin, Bren Orton and Kalod Grady to name a few, at the top of their form training for the ICF World Freestyle Championships on the Ottawa River, came out to compete.
The freestyle competition was held on Maverick wave, a wave rarely surfed because of the difficulty in accessing it. The event organizers planned accordingly, with three jetskis dropping athletes off at the wave and shuttling them back up after their rides. The wave itself gave no quarter to competitors, proving to be challenging even to the seasoned big wave athletes present.
The race took place again on a mythical and infrequently visited section, the St-Catherine Rapids. Known for currents that can make boats disappear, the rapids made many athletes nervous, especially as they would be racing through them, but all were nonetheless excited by the format. A multi round boater-cross, starting with a seal launch from a boat provided by Saute-Moutons. Each heat ends between 1 and 2 minutes later downstream in an very turbulent eddy; the pictures speak for themselves.
With good performances in both sides of the competition, Mathieu Dumoulin took first place, followed in second place by Kalob Grady. These two competitors had already been awarded an invitation to the Whitewater Grand Prix, so the invitation from the event was given to third place, an athlete from Montreal, Sebastien Clermont, who rightly deserves his spot after dominating Maverick wave. In my case, the event dealt me a lesson in humility regarding my abilities in freestyle.
Slalom 7 Soeurs
Last event of the series, and the first edition of the race itself, the slalom race on the Seven Sisters section of the Red River did not disappoint. A high quality course set up across a superb section of class V waterfalls, provided a maximum amount of pleasure and challenge to competitors, as well as a maximum amount of show for the spectators. With gates placed all over the section, competitors had small room for error, missing one gate was a 50 second penalty. The key to the show was, without a doubt, the third waterfall. This fall was difficult to negotiate because of its lead in, its height and the size of the hole at its bottom. A perfect “boof” was necessary to beat the waterfall and make the gate placed at the bottom right after the drawback of the hole.
I was very satisfied with my performance, two solid laps without any major errors, worth a solid 5th place finish. In the end, Charles Arsenault with a perfect lap, finished first place.
His first place finish in the race permitted Chalres Arsenault to finish off an excellent season, become the overall winner in the race series and grab the invitation to the next Whitewater Grand Prix. We all wish him the best of luck for the competition, as well as Sebastien Clermont, our two representatives from Quebec on the international level. We will see you all next year, we hope, for a second edition of the race series!
Translate from the french by: Tremor Lhappy