On our overnight drive back home, from Millau in France, I finally get the chance to write a review about this super hectic month. This month absolutely saw its extreme highlights, as well as its big disappointments. After all it has been an adventure and I am not in the position to complain, as I’ve been out, on the road and focused on what I love to do; kayaking.

Teva Mountain Games (Vail, Colorado)

It all started off with the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. It was my 4th games, and even though it was much different. The Teva life house, with us being the Teva life agents, gave a new appearance to the well known Sitzmark Lodge.
Teva was out there to show their newest products (Kayodi, Narkosi & Allume) and they are a joy to watch, as well they were presenting the new Teva blue which will replace the orange starting next year.

A major highlight of the games was 20 kiwi’s sharing one house, just op the hill in Vail. It was a dangerous place for serious athletes. If you showed your face there at night, you easily got dragged into kiwi traditions that could easily set you offline for your match. Although one of the inhabitants really proved different, as Sam Sutton ruled Homesteak creek race this year, bringing home $ 2000,-.

The slope style mountain biking really formed a hotshot of this year’s games. Backflip tailwhips, 360 double tailwhips and even a clean frontflip were thrown over the huge kickers. Als the DockDogs jumping was a pleasure to watch, with dogs jumping over 21 ft. Not to forget the MXT MudRun, the World Cup Bouldering and the endless amount of side events organized at the games.

The freestyle kayaking event, under the main bridge of Vail, is mainly seen as a highlight as well. With some of the top favorites calling of for World Cup in combination with the ask for creativity on the upcoming waterlevels, I grabbed my change to finally score a podium place on this hardcore American field. I happily left the games with a 3rd place, behind Dustin Urban and Junior World Champion Jason Craig. The high water unfortunately blocked the rafting and public favorite 8-ball events to happen.

More information www.tevamountaingames.com

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Teva Extreme Outdoor Games (Ivrea, Italy)

Straight from Amsterdam airport in the car for a 12 hour drive to Italy. The crazily loaded town Vail, made place for this beautiful remotely located Chiusella valley. The first two days of the games all (and only) kayakers hang out high up the mountains for the first races; individual, team and King of Falls. The King of Falls section is only open for top 20 men of individual race and could be judged as one of the hardest race sections in the world. The individual and team races take place on the lower part, a 6 minute stretch of pure and technical white water. It’s a pleasure to paddle.

Probably my favorite event of the TEOG is the diner with 80 kayakers on the Thursday night in one of the local restaurants up the Chiusella valley. Good food and heaps of wine is the perfect recipe to get a good atmosphere in this scene. Especially because it’s the last night, before the whole crew moves down to Ivrea, a large town with a slalom course where all the events take place.

Again, the set up is great; kayaking, mountainbiking, bouldering, trail running and paragliding are mixed together. The way to promote our sport, is really to combine it with other (small) outdoor sports.

From a personal view, the cold, brown, and relatively flat slalom course in Ivrea forms a big contrast with the steep, challenging and beautiful section on the Chiusella. The race, which was a high class extreme race up in the mountains, seems to turn into a slalom event on the course. It’s a pity that a lot of public, which appears in Ivrea, didn’t get to see the real action from the days before.

The real athletes come up in the results as well, with the slalom kayakers ruling the scene and mister Mike Dawson being the absolute leader. Also the ladies saw some impressive runs by the back grounded paddlers  in slalom Nuria Newman and Anne Hubner.

More information www.tevaextremeoutdoorgames.it

European Championships Freestyle (Lienz, Austria)

It is always hard to say goodbye to Italy. They have a good taste of culture, with their great coffee and food in their atmospheric restaurants, and a lot of great amusement walking down the streets.
But duty called and Martina, Raoul and myself had to show up in Lienz for the European Championships. With only 2 days training left on the board, we figured it should be enough.

On a small feature (not my favorite) a strong battle occurred. With a steady top 3, Peter Csonka, Mathieu Dumoulin and James Bebbington, all in carbon kayaks giving no space to any other competitor with their big various aerial tricks. A huge disappointment on my side for not even making the cut to 20 and having no change at all to defend my spot in finals of Europeans 2008. Martina was the only Dutch proud on this event, eventually just missing the podium with a 4th place after a well deserved 1st by the French lady Marlene Devillez. At men Peter Csonka, finally managed to take the title he has been aiming for over the last 6 years.

Big ups for the organization, leaded by La Ola, for pulling off a well-organized event. In particular their understandings of the interest of kayakers on an openings ceremony. With free food and drinks, this openings ceremony was unique in its kind; simple, short and very intense!

More information www.euro-lienz.com

Natural Games (Millau, France)

The fourth week, on the road to the fourth event. With a little after burn from the Europeans it took a few days before I could finally get back into my boat and try out my new LevelSix gear! You probably notice a big fat smile in my new shiny outfit! We had a little stopover on the way at the Lyon wave, to get at least some wave time during this trip. But we soon had to move to the last event of the month; the Natural Games.

The Natural Games was still in my mind as one of the best events of the year 2009. Like the Teva Mountain Games, this is a multi outdoor sports event. It’s amazing how many people visit this event. This goes very closely together with the fact that this event focuses a lot on the parties and the French just start their official summer holiday. At the end of the day you can enjoy parapenters showing their tricks in the air, while the slackliners throw flips on the slackline. The night finishes with the freestyle bikes on the ramps in front of a huge public, followed by some amazing music on the main stages! James Bebbington showed his great fitness again by winning the freestyle competition. A great finish of an awesome month.

More information www.naturalgames.fr

Back home I made my exams and I will be on the road again starting next Thursday with Friedrichshafen Outdoor show (www.outdoor-show.com) and a clinic with Riverproof (www.riverproof.nl) in the French Alpes.

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