While watching freestyle kayakers perform acrobatic feats in the water, it can be easy to forget that it’s hard enough just staying on the wave.
Whitehorse freestyle kayaker Joel Brennan can testify to that.
Paddling in the Level Six Capital Cup in Ottawa over the weekend, the 17-year-old dropped a spot in the standings after slipping off the wave in the final, finishing second in the junior pro category.
“I was a little let down,” said Brennan. “In the semifinal round I was ahead of everyone, in first place, and we went to the final and I flushed off the wave after just half my routine.
“Only half the tricks I wanted to do counted.
“Next year I will be in the senior division but hopefully I can score a bit better.”
Despite the truncated final run, Brennan did pull off an array of tricks including donkey flips, loops, blunts, slam-houses, clean-spins and backstabs.
“The donkey flip is new to me,” said Brennan. “It’s more of a wave move. You have to surf and bounce down the wave and when you bounce off the wave you do a corkscrew in the air.
“In Whitehorse there is no wave, there’s just a hole, so I can’t train for those. So (here) I’ve been doing some wave training.”
This kayaking season marks a major leap forward for the Yukon native.
Last August at the National Freestyle Kayak Team Trials in Calgary, Brennan finished second out of 13 paddlers, earning a spot on Team Canada at the Junior World Championships in Plattling, Germany, this June.
“(My confidence) is up a bit, but you never know what the competition is going to be like until you get there,” said Brennan. “It’s going to be a tough one, but I’m hoping for a top-20 or top-10. That’s my goal.”
Even in this young season Brennan has already had other successes. 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.
In Alabama he also came second in a “huckfest,” a trick competition off a 20-foot waterfall.
Brennan, a former Vanier Catholic Secondary student, is currently studying at Lakefield College School in Ontario, a three-hour drive from the Ottawa River, Canada’s freestyle kayaking hot spot.
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