Freestylers lap up atmosphere of Natural Games

By Lowri Davies

As June turned into July this year, some of the World's best freestyle kayakers flocked to Millau in southern France to compete in the first of the EuroCup events of 2017.

They were not there to marvel at the famous bridge, or to enjoy the local cheese and wines; but for a huge international event. For the past 10 years Millau has hosted the largest extreme sports & music festival in Europe, Natural Games, which attracts over 10,000 a day to watch the best of mountain biking, dirt jumping, slackline, sky diving and climbing. 

The kayaking events of Boater-X and Freestyle, as well as a fun SUP-X race, were able to take centre stage as the artificial white water course ran through the centre of the large festival site, giving big crowds and a great atmosphere. There was also a behemoth big air ramp for the brave or foolhardy to fling themselves off to impress the carnage-hungry crowds.

Things on the water kicked off with Boater-X, an event in which paddlers launch off a 7m high ramp in heats and battle head-to-head around a course of white water features, obstacles and touch banners. In each round at least 2 paddlers will be knocked out, with disqualification for any paddlers not passing the right way past the buoys or failing to touch the banner.

It's a high paced, exciting race - with every round proving that anything can happen! Paddlers tussling as they pass an obstacle often led to sneaky overtakes from behind, while surprise capsizes late in the course also cost a couple of cocky paddlers their spots in the next round.

The finals saw the crowds on their feet jostling for a position almost as much as the competitors. In the women’s, Zofia Tula took advantage of Anne Hubner being locked into battle to sneak past and cruise to victory.

The mens race had all sorts of controversy after a false start and claims of missed gates during the semis, but in the end Ander De Miguel took the crown. The medalists took to the main stage between the headline acts and were awarded their prize-money in front of 10,000 sport and music fans. Third place medalist James Ibbotson said "It was like being a rock star."

The following day, freestyle kayaking became the main focus in the festival site. The amphitheatre nature of the venue meant hundreds of people could look on as paddlers popped their boats into the air, pulling off tricks such as Space Godzillas, Aerial Loops and Lunar Orbits.

With the World Championships in Argentina coming later this year, it was clear from the outstanding performances in every class that the athletes are training hard, and this is just a taste of what is to come in South America in November.

Results:

Mens K1

1. Quim Fontane Maso

2. Seb Devred

3. Tomasz Czaplicki

Women 

K1

1 Zofia Tula

2 Anne Hubner 

3 Marlene Devillez 

C1

1. Seb Devred

2. Lukas Cervinka

3. Tom Lay

Junior Men

K1

1. Tom Dolle  

2 Adria Ovando

3 Corentin Reau

Junior women

K1

1 Silvia Gallego 

2 Mireia Serres 

3 Kira Carreto

Canoe Freestyle
#canoefreestyle