World Rafting Championships in New Zealand

Monday, 9 December 2013

World Rafting Championships in New Zealand, November 2013. 

Story by Ine Skjørten Wilson

Norway was represented with a team in the Open Women category in the World Rafting Championship in New Zealand from the 18-24 November. 70 teams from 30 countries stayed in Rotorua and travelled to the rivers Okere (Kaituna), Tarawera and Rangitaiki for training and competitions.Three in the norwegian national team are Voss based, four are Sjoa river born and raised. The team consisted of Ragne Elise Berre, Gry Bystøl, Gunvor Wæhle, Ella-Camilla Dahle, Marit Gjelsvik, Anni Eide Nordli and Ine Skjørten Wilson. 

Living 6 hours apart it was difficult for the team to practice several times a week together, like all the top teams do nowadays. However they were able to meet up for three weekends, and paddle and exercise regularly individually between these weekends. The team arrived a week ahead of the event to get familiar with the different discipline locations and New Zealand river landscapes.

Rafting competitions have four diciplines. First up is Sprint, which is a 2-3 minutes race on class 2-3. This competition was held on the Okere river, from below the falls to Bottom Hole. Teams start individually and race to the finish line as strong as they possibly can following the fastest possible lines. 

Based on the results from Sprint, the heats in the next competition Head2Head are set up. H2H was run on the same river, from the dam to the Powerhouse / Weir rapid. This is a very exciting and spectator friendly competition often including close-to-fighting between rafts to get first to the best line in the first rapid. The Brazil and Chile fight in Open Men made the crowds scream and cheer. Many exciting scenes evolved at the last rapid where teams got stuck on a rock in the first drop allowing the other team to overtake. When not racing, a huge screen was set up in the lunch area for everyone to watch the action. 

Slalom is the third event and was held on a class 2 section of the Tarawera river in Kawerau town. Yes, teams can practice there the days before the event, but the final slalom course is run on sight. Teams spend time walking up and down the riverbank to discuss in detail how to manage every gate. You get two run’s, with the best one counting. There is a 5 seconds penalty for hitting a gate, and 50 seconds if missing a gate. 

Downriver on the Rangitaiki river was the last competition, and counted the most in the overall results. The river level was low from the morning so the Open Women and Masters did individual starts running to the raft, jumping in, then paddling. Water came up and allowed the Open Men to start in batches of four teams at the time. With all muscles hurting the Norwegians crossed the finish line to their best result with a 10th place at 53.57.67, which was 3 min and 57 seconds behind winning New Zealand. 

Great weather, perfectly organized event, friendly hosts, strong teams and Maori blessings and Haka, gave a solid and exciting competition. Team Norway Open Women did their best, realizing that if they want to climb the result lists they have to train systematically 3 - 4 times a week at least the two coming years to the next World’s. 

However, the Sweet / Kari Traa gear and clothes was commented on a lot due to very good quality and looks. Some of it is now in Brazil with the overall winning Brazilian men’s team. The team had three sets of Kari Traa sports,- and wool underwear to compete in.

Sweet Protection red Shambala shorts, green Strutter helmets, green Shadarach dry top for cold rainy days.

Avalancha competition pfd’s, custom made, all matching with the national colors of red, white and blue.

Our competition paddles we transported in a Douchebag, originally made as a ski bag, but is perfect for traveling with paddles as you can regulate the length of the bag and roll it with you whilst the paddles are well protected in the bag 

and Finally a huge Norwegian HURRAH !!! to Keith at Kaituna Cascades for a loan of a raft and trailer for the training week and to awesome driver Bart.

see u in Indonesia 2015 ......