Every time a basketball player goes to play, the court’s length and width are the same and the net sits exactly 10 feet from the surface.
Freestyle kayakers don’t have the luxury of such consistent conditions.
Whitehorse’s Joel Brennan can vouch for that.
Representing Canada in the junior division of the World Freestyle Kayak Championships, the 17-year-old was eliminated in an early round on Thursday, finishing 26th out of 34 paddlers on the Isar River in Plattling, Germany.
Hurting his chances was a water level Brennan hadn’t practised on leading up to the competition.
“I just went in and messed up – I didn’t do my runs properly, like I expected to,” said Brennan. “It didn’t go as planned. I’m not sure exactly, the wave was at a strange level for me that I hadn’t paddled (before).”
With 225 of the world’s top freestyle paddlers, from 28 countries, vying for practise time on the wave, Brennan went three days without putting his boat in the river before the competition.
“I practised on the wave the week before, but the water levels having been rising and dropping,” said Brennan. “Every time you’re on the wave, it’s at a different level.”
Instead of performing a routine with an array of tricks, the Canadian junior team member was held to just a clean air-loop, “everything else just didn’t work out.”
“My training runs went well, so I was looking forward to it,” he said. “I was averaging about 400 points a run, but when I went to compete I only got 140 points between two runs.”
Brennan was selected for the team last August at the National Freestyle Kayak Team Trials in Calgary, finishing second in a field of 13, snagging one of just three spots.
Paddling in the Level Six Capital Cup in Ottawa at the end of April, Brennan dropped a spot in the standings after slipping off the wave in the final, but still came second in the junior pro category.
Competing in the Alabama Mountain Games in March, Brennan took first in freestyle for the intermediate division and also won a “boatercross” event, a slalom race with a waterfall in the course. He also came second in a “huckfest,” a trick competition off a 20-foot waterfall.
Though disappointed with his first appearance at the world championships, he is determined to return for another.
“It was amazing,” said Brennan. “It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’ll definitely be training hard this summer to compete at team trials next fall and, hopefully, I’ll make the team again, in the senior men category.”
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