The World’s best whitewater kayakers descend on the Ötztal
This weekend sees the World’s best whitewater kayakers descend on the beautiful Ötztal Valley, in the heart of the Austrian Alps, for the 9th adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championship.
The competition pits 175 athletes from 29 countries against the mythical “Wellerbrücke” part of the Ötztaler Ache River; a solid grade 5 section of water which is fed by the huge glaciers of the Ötztal mountains
Ready to race: Kayakers wait for the starting signal © adidas Sickline: Jens Klatt | Manu Arnu
A unique competition that unites a sport
adidas Sickline is completely unique in that it brings together kayakers from all disciplines – including expedition paddlers, extreme kayakers, freestyler competitors and slalom racers – to race against one another.
The format is special too, with competitors going head to head in the qualifying rounds before a straight shoot-out in the final to decide who will be crowned Sickline Extreme Kayak World Champion 2016.
As well as a competition, this is also a social event
David Bain (GBR), who claimed second here last year, outlined the difficulty of the challenge facing the competitors, “adidas Sickline is probably one of the closest races you have in kayaking, and that’s not just including extreme racing, but overall. Top 5 in the final is probably going to be within a second or two, so it’s really tight racing.”
It’s not all about the racing though; the community spirit here is immediately noticeable, as Dag Sandvik (NOR) explains, “…adidas Sickline is great for the kayak community.
Gathering of the kayak community in the Ötztal valley © adidas Sickline: Jens Klatt | Manu Arnu
You gather people from all over the world, both from North and South America, Europe and New Zealand, everyone gets together at the same place at the same time of the year. This is awesome, not only because of the competition, but also because they get to train together, know new people, bond and make plans for the next year.”
Kayakers love the Ötztal
The kayakers have really embraced the Ötztal region and it seems that every year they come earlier, and spend longer enjoying the river and the wonderful scenery in Tirol’s longest valley. As Egor Voskoboynikov (RUS) explained, “a few years ago you could just come a few days before the race and it was enough, but now I can see some people arrive here almost a month before. But anyways, it’s really good to be here just to enjoy the beautiful weather and nature, everything is just so nice!”
An “El Dorado” for whitewater kayakers: The Ötztaler Ache river © adidas Sickline: Jens Klatt | Manu Arnu
British kayaker Joe Morley, who has twice been Sickline Champion, agreed; “My first ever white water trip was to this area…we used to come out and go paddling in this Valley and the next Valley along for 2 week holidays, so the whole area is pretty special.”
Dane Jackson (USA) has been 5th for the past 2 years here in the Ötztal and is once again here for the competition and the valley, “I’m fired up because this is my sixth year back at adidas Sickline. I love it and I can’t stay away. Even if I got dead last every year I would still come back”.
Der ehemalige Weltmeister im Freestyle Kayak, Nick Troutman (CAN), rechnet mit einem fairen und spannenden Rennen © adidas Sickline: Jens Klatt | Manu Arnu
Tough and technical conditions should lead to an amazing race
Water levels are low this year so mistakes are likely to be punished and the athletes will have to be extremely precise in the choice and execution of their lines. Former World Freestyle Kayak Champion Nick Troutman of Canada is one of the athletes who feels that the low water levels might change the nature of the course, but probably not the result;
“The water is a little lower to previous years but the good news is that it makes it fair for everyone – we all have to race on the same low course. There’s a couple more rocks out there, which makes it a little more technical, but I still feel like the fastest guys will pull it off”.
Dane Jackson agrees and is relishing the prospect of such a technical course, “…you’ve got to be on line, you’ve got to avoid the rocks and it’s definitely going to be harder to have a clean run. I think it’s going to separate the times a bit more so I’m actually looking forward to the low water.”
The women’s competition is likely to be extremely tight
In addition to the guys, we also have 26 women competing to be crowned female adidas Sickline World Champion.
Nouria Newman (FRA) has twice won here and is keen to add to that total but is glad of the added competition that a growing field brings, “I’m happy that we’re more and more girls and it’s good to see the girls who were already good paddlers before but didn’t necessarily feel confident to race.
The women’s race is likely to be extremely tight © adidas Sickline: Jens Klatt | Manu Arnu
They thought they were not good enough when they really are amazing paddlers.” Nouria and Mariann Saether (NOR) are the favourites in the women’s event but current conditions on the river mean that anything could happen.
Don’t miss a second of the action!
Spectator tickets are limited for safety reasons to 500 people maximum so head to the Ötztal Tourist Office to buy yours before they sell out!
If you can’t make it here in person, the finals will be livestreamed at 14.00 Central European Time, and with a World class field competing on legendary stretch of white water, you do not want to miss it.