Our man James Weight gives the low down on the biggest freestyle kayak event of the year, the SAS Hurley Classic.
Words: James Weight
Pictures: Jack Gunter
Once again the Thames’ Hurley Weir played host to one of Freestyle Kayaking’s largest competitions. Growing from a local rodeo into an international freestyle festival, the SAS Hurley Classic is always one of the busiest and most exciting events, and this year was no exception with a handful of fun events on the Saturday followed by the Classic Jam Freestyle on the Sunday.
In the last couple of years the Classic has seen the addition of many new events such as BoaterX racing, SupX racing and also a chance for younger paddlers in the sport to paddle with some of the world’s best who come over to the UK to take part. Apart from the freestyle on the Sunday one of the greatest events to watch is the BoaterX.
Hurley may not seem the best venue for an event of this type but after a 15 foot ramp and strategically placed bouys are installed the course can become quite technical. The first heat saw four at a time heading down the ramp and completing the course with the fastest 16 overall competitors going through. I made it through in 4 th place and progressed through the head to head rounds where I unfortunately got knocked out by this year’s winner Quim Fontane in the semi-final.
Saturday evening’s flood lights then shone down upon the exhibition super final; a chance for the world’s best who have made the trip over and also some of Britain’s finest to battle it out in an ICF style final. A fantastic event to watch and made even better by the UK’s very own Gav Barker taking the win. The evening was finished off with a fantastic banquet and the Thames Valley Freestyle Awards.
It's also worth mentioning a few of the sponsors who support the event, most notably SAS who own the land and have been long time supporters of the event, and companies like Palm Equipment, Pyranha and Dewerstone Clothing. Check out the video below that Palm produced for the BoaterX!
Sunday is often a lot more relaxed at the Classic. The competitors roll in through the day as their heats come up. With an abundance of old school moves like paddle spins and shudder rudders as well as the newer moves you get a clear vibe that the Hurley Classic isn’t about drilling out the best runs every time but more about having fun and celebrating the great paddling community that surrounds this part of the UK. The Classic is unlike any events I have ever been to before, in that it brings out the world’s best but also those who maybe paddle once or twice a year and have never tried freestyle before but just want to have fun.
The top 5 paddlers from the Classic Jam then went on to another floodlit final on the Sunday. After 3 runs each of big moves and hard lines, it was local boy Alan Ward who stood at the top of the rankings. It’s fantastic to have a local back on the top step after some international dominance in previous years.
A final thank you must got to Andrew “Jacko” Jackson and his team who every year seem to make the event bigger and better. Another mention must go to Giles, Hurley Weir’s lock keeper for helping the event run with such low levels this year.
Same time next year? I think so!