|Full report of the 2002 Hurley rodeo, the first major event of the european freestyle season.|
With some good rain and no problems with local livestock this years freestyle event at Hurley Weir was set to be a classic. In short it didn't disappoint!
Yet again some nifty tweaking of the gates during the week by Brian the lock keeper meant that the competition had to take place with the legendary 'three gate' set-up. No arguments about water levels or gate options, this was a UK ranking and selection event which would separate the men from the boys, "Go big or go home".
The novice event this year was amazing to watch, with clean cartwheels, massive blunts and even a couple of flip-turns. It was a hot competition but in the end 17 year old birthday boy Tim Trew put together a top run which secured a clear victory (and plenty of beers in the pub afterwards).
In the C1 event, Ollie Castle showed why he is the European Champion by racking up multiple wheels in his new shiny blue Session. He will certainly be someone to watch over this coming season and at the Pre-Worlds in Austria.
Yet again a dominant James Weir took the OC1 title, though this year these boats actually got on the wave and managed to rack up some interesting runs to keep the crowd happy.
With such a large field of entries the Squirt event was moved over to the Back Weir and proving that he can still show the kids a thing or two 'Wee Bob' Campbell showed some old school style to secure top spot.
In true Hurley fashion the evening was spent at a big bash down at the East Arms pub. And in true Hurley fashion the bar was drunk dry and the staff were working hard all evening keeping people topped up with food and drink. Some teams chose the use excessive liquid consumption as ballast for the competition, whereas a select few kept it sensible and chose orange juice instead. In the end this tactic didn't seem to help!
Amazingly after such a heavy night all the juniors, judges and scribes were on the water for a 9am final. With a couple of disappointing flushes the title was secured with ease by an astounding Mark Birkbeck. His points score of 685 was the highest ever in the UK and a personal best from him. Dicky Chrimes took the second spot and Tom Emmison showed potential sponsors his worth by coming in third in a very strong field.
In the Ladies event Debs Pinniger gave the field a lesson on what is possible in this category. Throwing down her famous "lefties" combined with left and right blunts she took first place with style. Paula Floyd came in second in her new S6, whilst Kiwi Jo Lucas put on her competition head and came in third.
The 'Main Event' this year had a massive field, including many international and world class paddlers. This lead to 11 heats of paddlers contesting for a place in the final. One mistake in the heats and it was off the water for a shower. In the end a superb final took place. The crowd cheered as John 'Pies' Smith threw hand blunts and when Tobias Bersch pulled of a textbook Tricky-Woo we all knew this was going to be a classic. After three rounds it was Mark Birkbeck who's well thought out runs just nabbed him top spot. Following him in second was Dicky Chrimes, whilst Euro-boy Tobias Bersch came in third. Amazingly in such a strong field the top four places ( Matt Tidy threw big ends to come in 4th ) were taken by guys under 20!
Talking to Mark Birkbeck after his win he had this to say: "Yeah, it was a really good competition, I wasn't sure if I had done enough to get top spot, but I knew that my run would score highly after getting the Junior title in the morning. Tobias really threw it down and I knew I had to go for it if I was going to get on the podium. In the end it was only a super-clean that got me the top spot. I've got to say thanks to Kayakojacko coaching for that one!"
With nearly 200 entrants this competition can be seen as a bench mark for future events across Europe. Shaun Baker really did the job this year and deserves a lot of thanks. He was aided in his mission by Kayakojacko, System X, SAS, Brian the lock keeper and all the judges, scribes and marshals over the weekend.
Full results are on www.hurleyweir.com