Cumec Magazine - Australia and New Zealands Kayaking Magazine

NZ Freestyle Kayak Team - Max Rayner, Stephen Bartlett, Gordon Rayner, Jason SearleGordon Rayner is keeping us updated on what's happening at this years ICF Freestyle Kayak World Championships. We'll have regular blog postings from Gordy on the build up and main event.

Modern air travel is amazing really, streamlined passenger and baggage processing and then multiple hours of inaction lounging about either in departure lounges or squeezing in your allocated seat space on the plane. There is not a great range of activities during this time of travel, just watching people or movies, eating and drinking, iPodding, smart phoning and sleeping.
So travellers are either sitting still, walking between terminals or blasting through the sky nearly at the speed of sound. So it was for us travellers from Central Otago, Max and Gordy Rayner, Steve Bartlett and Jason Searle.

We unexpectedly linked up with Mike and Sarah Hoffman in Auckland traveling on the same flight to Los Angeles. We were all trading in winter for summer and heading to America's East Coast for the 2013 ICF Freestyle Kayak World Champs. Our first highlight was Steve being taken aside and inspected by Auckland Airport Security, who in turn confiscated the knife part of this knife fork and spoon set carefully packed into his carry on bag by his mum.

NZ Freestyle Kayak Team - In Transit Los AngelesLanding in Los Angeles we transited from our Air New Zealand 'frills flight' to the Delta "no-frills flight" and flew through the dark American sky to Atlanta, Georgia, the home of Coca-Cola and Martin Luther King. We shuttled to our motel and caught up with another team member Aidan Haig who had arrived an hour or so before us.

American HighwaysAfter a luxurious sleep, we picked up our rental vehicles, made the cerebral adjustment to left hand driving and headed out onto the big fast moving freeways that connect the cities of North America and drove north to the Smoky Mountains, kayaking mecca for the south-eastern USA. Arriving at the mountain top home of our hosts McWilliams and Maria Noakes, there was no downtime as we turned round and headed to Nantahala to catch up with Courtney Kerin and squeeze in an initial practice on the world championship wave before dark.

The next day we got ourselves orientated to the local area, sorted out boats supplied by Jackson kayaks. Then it was time for first timers in our team to learn the etiquette of the hole which was totally necessary with so many kayakers using the same feature. Due to the overcrowding the ride rate is approximately three rides per hour, which is not a lot of kayaking if you flush off after a few seconds and you need to wait 20 minutes for your next turn.

Max Rayner - First Training ride at Freestyle Kayak World ChampionshipsMax, Jason, Steve and Aidan squeezed in a few runs during the day and I watched a lot of spectacular action. Jason caught up on friends from previous World Championships and Max caught up on fellow Keeners from the Keeners Kayak camp in Ottawa that he's previously attended. The riverbank was lined with kayakers from all over the world as well as spectators and American summer holiday makers. This must be the most crowded river wave in the world as it is being used by competitors from dawn till dusk.