Canoe Freestyles it into the ICF
In 2006 the ICF welcomed Canoe Freestyle as one of its official disciplines. The first official ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships took place on the Ottawa River, Canada, in 2007. The first World Cup series was held a year later in Prague (CZE), Augsburg (GER) and Thun (SUI). World Championships are held every even year, just as the World Cup Series takes place every odd year.
Canoe Freestyle competitions are held on stationary features on rivers, in particular standing waves (which may be breaking or partially breaking), ‘holes’ and ‘stoppers’, where water flows back on itself creating a retentive feature (these are often formed at the bottom of small drops or weirs), or eddy lines (the boundary between slow moving water at the rivers' edge, and faster water).
In ICF competitions, athletes have a set time to perform as many different moves as possible, and they can score additional points for style. Finals are always judged over three runs of 45 seconds each and the moves throughout each competition fall into three categories: Entry Moves, Basic Moves, Bonuses.
The moves and tricks are similar to those seen from Freestyle snowboarders, surfers and skaters, where the athlete completes spins, flips, turns and more. What’s more with today’s boats, athletes can get the kayak completely airborne while performing tricks.
There are nearly 30 different moves, including the 180-pointer Helix (a 360° spin with at least 180° of which the boat must be inverted. The boat must also be aerial at some point of the inverted part of the move) and the 10-pointer Spin (a 360° rotation of the boat at a 0°-45° vertical angle). Other colourfully named moves are the Roundhouse, the Phonics Monkey, the McNasty and the Donkey Flip. For a full list click here.
All around the world, a handful of big water paddlers have played an important role in the development of the sport. Because of the internet and the possibility of fast and cheap distribution of freestyle videos, new tricks are transmitted around the world in no time and kayakers everywhere can attempt to imitate them and develop them even further. It’s because of this that Canoe Freestyle is such an evolving sport.