Interview: Anthony Yap

Interview: Anthony YapAnthony Yap is at the forefront of the new freestyle movement. Combo moves are now becoming the “norm” for the world’s top paddlers & Anthony has been along since the beginning, in 2005 his combo move the “KY” took out 2nd place in the IR Big Gun Show. 2006 saw Anthony stealing the show at the Lyon Big Wave Festival in France.This year he has a bigger target in his sights the 2007 World Championships.

Anthony has an aesthetic style that combines Gymnastics with the dynamic power of waves. A pleasure to watch “Yappa” is a perfect example of where freestyle kayaking is heading in the not too distant future. We managed to catch up with him in Melbourne where he was recovering from a recent expedition to Vietnam.

CM: You’ve been paddling for 6 years, how did you get into the sport?

I started paddling with my high schools slalom squad back in Grade 9. After the first year when my school cut the program I ended up joining a local river touring club so that I had people to paddle with on the river by my house. When it finally came to buying my first boat I stumbled on a local outfitter Electric Water run by Australia’s freestyle pioneer Russell Sheehan. I didn’t really realize it at the time but Russ slowly started grooming me for freestyle paddling at a time when it was still really un-known to most of Australia. He took me under his wing teaching me all about the new boats coming out, all the new techniques that seemed completely wrong at the time, and eventually how to paddle in the ocean which then opened up into surfing big waves and big air. I definitely wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without the influence of certain key individuals.

CM: After the World’s in 2005 you really entered the spotlight as a paddler to watch for in the future. How has added exposure changed your lifestyle?

Interview: Anthony YapExposure after the 05’ Worlds has been great. Traveling around with the YGP crew and filming for different movies has been an unreal experience. As for a change in lifestyle, well I travel a heap more then I use to that’s for sure. 9 month of the year at least is now spent touring the world in search for the next big thing, whatever that is. I never could have done that without the support and exposure gathered over the years.

CM: This year you’ve been all over the world in just 9 months, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, America, France, Germany, Malaysia, and Vietnam, does all the traveling wear you down?

For sure… After leaving home I spend most of the year in a tent or in random hotels wherever it is that I may be. I love my life and being able to see the world. You meet so many new people all the time from so many different backgrounds. Not to mention the amount there is to learn on the road while experiencing so many different cultures. But I won’t lie, by the end of the year the idea of home, white sandy beaches, summer, surf and my own bed sounds great.

CM: Rumor has it you ran out of cash in Uganda? What happened there & how’d you get home?

The rumors are true… a slight miscalculation in funds left my mate Sean and I stuck on the Hairy Lemon Island with not even enough money to get us to the airport to fly home. We were both lucky enough that Feed The Rat and Electric Water had our backs and threw us enough extra cash to stay and film a little while longer before trekking back home. After that I’ve definitely planned trips out a little better, having said that though it still hasn’t stopped me from buying all of my international tickets to date at least 3 days before departure.

CM: With the continual search for bigger waves & bigger waterfalls where do you see the future of kayaking heading?

BIGGER… Top end kayaking has hit a new stride unlike anything the sport has ever seen. It’s exciting times. I use to think that surely everything out there had been run, surely everything had been discovered, but this past year of touring has completely destroyed those past thoughts. And now with the introduction of jet ski tow-ins, more accessible helicopter runs and technology such as ‘Google Earth’ there’s no stopping us. When you say “the future of kayaking” I can only try to predict as far as next year because everything changes so much each day that new aspects open up to the sport all the time and things that I never would have thought were possible today we will be doing come next spring.

Anthony YapCM: What’s your most memorable river?

Once you’ve been there it’s hard to forget the White Nile. Uganda, its people, and the epic Silverback section of the river that will soon be dammed will always stick in my mind as one of the best river trips I’ve ever done. Get out there before it’s lost forever.

CM: What’s your favorite river and why?

It’s a close one because there are so many great rivers out there but the group of rivers around Lac St Jean in Northern Quebec would have to take my top spot. At the right times there’re some sweet big water runs with some massive wave trains and really fun lines. There’s nothing quite like not being able to see the entire rapid in front of you until you reach the top of one of several 8ft waves, using the top of that wave for a split second to scout the next section before racing down the back face of it back into the rapid.

CM: You’re known as a playboater do you get out there in the creeks or any other form of boating?

For sure, the only way to get to most of the best big waves in the world is through big water boating and so a lot of my time is spent on high volume rivers and big water runs. Creek boating’s a blast too and when ever the opportunities are there I’ll definitely jump in my creeker, it just seems that my freestyle side is what most people see.

CM: Rodeo is Dead but Freestyle’s growing. Where to from here?

Honestly I try not to think about it too much. This has been the debate since I started paddling and still there are rodeos held and there are still people who just enjoy paddling for paddling sake. There will always be people who enjoy being competitive, and for any sport competition it’s the way we push and progress, but without the people who paddle simply because they enjoy it we loose the heart of the sport. So from here I just see a more distinct separation between the two. Rodeos and competitions will become as they already are more serious and professional while freestylers will focus on having even more fun out there, and in turn each will un-knowingly rub off on the other bringing our sport to even greater heights.

Then there’s the next generation of paddlers who’re playing both sides. This is what the Young Guns, Tribe and myself are trying to do. We’re not pure competitors, nor do we just play, our goals are purely to push as hard as we can to see what’s possible and how far we can go.

CM: Any other paddlers that shaped your style?

For sure Billy Harris’s consistency, Patrick Camblins’ big air techniques and Marlow Longs fluidity. Paddling with good paddlers definitely helps to push your own abilities and I think we all rub off on one another quite a bit technique wise. But when it comes down to it one of the things that fascinated me most about paddling in the beginning was all the different styles paddlers seemed to have. So when I paddle I really do try to focus on my style being its own.

CM: What would you be doing if you weren’t a paddler?

That’s a very good question. Before paddling took over my life I studied Multimedia and Media Studies. Design and graphics have always been a passion for me and so if I wasn’t paddling I’d probably start up a clothing company, and help design kayak gear … or better yet just do both…

Anthony YapCM: Behind the scene you’re starting a new clothing company with Liquidlogic Pro paddler Patrick Camblin. Why the diversification?

Tribe is a project that Pat and I started up early last summer. Our paddling careers were getting to a point where we wanted to start giving something back along with making something more out of our positions as professional athletes. Tribe will be something that we can now work and build on for many years to come, especially once we’re all too broken and sore to paddle anymore. Check out our new site at … www.triberiders.ca

CM: What’s the worst injury you ever received boating?

I’ve been really lucky when it comes to injuries, nothing major to report really. The latest upset was a possible broken thumb I received in Vietnam after snapping my paddle across my hand off a drop. Apart from that though, stretching and warming up is definitely the key to not hurting yourself out there.

CM: Biggest Achievement?

There have definitely been a few key comps I like to remember but achievements for me in paddling come more from earned experiences like touring around with YGP and getting invited on random film shoots. The highlight of 2006 was definitely joining the Teva and 3D IMAX crew on an epic trip down the Grand Canyon. Nikki Kelly and myself were the only kayakers to stay on throughout the entire trip and then 40 other photographers, videographers, crew and celebs like Robert F Kennedy and Wade Davis. This trip was historically (due to new regulations set) the last trip of its size to go down the Canyon, and a river I never thought I would ever get to paddle. Simply being asked to join in on a trip like this gives me far more satisfaction then winning comps.

CM: What’s the best (boating) advice you’ve ever been given?

”Keep your elbows in and tight”. – I know it’s not the most awe inspiring advice but it’s saved my shoulders many a time, and when a career or lifestyle depends on it it’s as important as it gets. It’s also where they need to be for doing most of the freestyle moves correctly.

CM: Any words for the all the aspiring paddlers out there?

Find what you love to do most in life and pursue it, it’s really as simple as that.

Article first published in CUMEC Magazine Issue #2, April 2007.

Images courtesy of Sean Bozkewycz, Patrick Camblin & Tribe