Voss Ekstremsportsveko


Here is a brief look back on the Voss ekstremsportsveko 2017 from a female athlete perspective. I

choose to write in English rather than Norwegian as this event has international dimension. The 20th

anniversary of Voss ekstremsportsveko (extreme sport week) was, huge. Here is a subjective insight

on the sport and spirit aspect.

1. What is so special about Voss

It is every year a question to go or not to go. First, it happens at this very last week before summer

holidays where you need to show up and deliver tons at work, hard time to escape and sure kayaking

is awesome but money comes from being a normal serious person. Second it is tough races out

there, and start of season, is it really worth it arriving there tired and not ready, potentially get

injured and ruin all summer by chasing some unreachable wins. Finally the price to enter races is

high, 180 euros that could be paid back by price money if you happen to win, or extended volunteer

work (got 2 night shifts at the bar some years ago). Being part of every single event could make it feel

cheaper but I don’t like being forced to do lots of things to make it worth. Yet I had made my mind to

go – not because it is so cool but because it is a major race gathering all the very best which makes it

exciting. I have been racing for 5 years now since I arrived in Norway, I don’t like the showing off

aspects yet I am so genuinely happy to race down rivers that I just keep doing it, whatever it costs in

terms of budget and risk of appearing weak if you take carnage during an event. So I switched my

doubts off about the commercial aspect, if they did manage to make it the most visited Norwegian

event of the year they sure are in position to ask as much as they want and hopefully make good use

of money, I left work Tuesday and I just drove there.

I often asked myself, why would all good kayakers from Trondheim move to Voss? Can’t you just

remain loyal to a place that definitely is of quality for paddling even if not over proud of it, do you

really need to follow what everyone does to demonstrate you are a real kayaker? Being in Voss for

one week gave me some hints about what is so special about the identity of the place. Voss has the

commitment of its people towards extreme sport, and this is priceless. Sure they make business out

of it, but they commit for it and this is a big thing, it feels genuinely inspiring. Family with young

children looking at kayakers going down money drop or making back salto, and smiling at it in a

friendly way. And yes, being allowed to have slalom gates above the local grade 2 rivers and house

with space for boats by the river feels like unreachable for Trondheim, where you would need about

a thousand meetings with commune and fishermen, speaking from experience as 2 years leader of

the river group in Trondheim Kayak Club, but of course I hope future will prove me wrong soon. Main

reason probably is done to fact that by living in Voss you acknowledge that kayaking and outdoor life

is the meaning of life. By living in Trondheim you acknowledge it is a pleasant distraction in some of

your free time. Even though conditions in Trondheim are outstanding, the spirit is not here, city

maybe too big, too historical, too important, and too proud to recognize the supremacy of kayaking

as an art of life, not just a hobby. I would wish both towns would learn and respect each other, Voss

would be less arrogant and Trondheim more united and ambitious but well it is always done to

individual to make community grow in the way they dream.

2. The races

20 years later the first edition of Ekstremsportsveko, did the sport evolve, is it still extreme doing the

same after evolution in terms both of moves and equipment? Looking at some “videos of the days”

from other sports that were shown every evening, I definitely didn’t feel I was doing an extreme

sport sitting in my kayak. Yet the sport is alive, as shown by making real Benjamin Hjort’s idea of

extreme slalom on the holy diver mighty rapid for the first time this year. And if the classic downhill

race was not so dramatically impressive the skills of athletes definitely showed that sport was moving

forward. Finally the very professional organisation of the 3 events: downhill race, extreme slalom and

boater cross made it clear that Veko was making the event as professional as it claimed to be.

I trained on the downhill race course on Wednesday. I had 10 runs, in the meantime Dane Jackson

probably had one million, and also paddle lower Myrkdalselvi and trained on the slalom course I

guess, I was like everyone impressed.

I always love competing, it is not that I want to crush other people, prove myself being the best or

anything but I just get so much joy on going hard and push myself. I love the adrenaline of doing it,

being inside the race, forget everything and go hard without giving up anything until finish line. I love

training before, repeating and getting feedbacks, working on perfect line not being lucky but

mastered. You need both skills and mental in competing, and it is inspiring to see how people master

it and balance the 2 aspects. We were asked to tell our goal on the race when signing up, looking at

what other people said was revealing lots from their attitude, between sensitive, serious and playful

approach when people wrote anything from “be first”, “made my mum proud”, “making it alive to

the finish line”, “have fun”, etc.

Competition day would make winner from the addition time of the 2 runs. My first run was fair, not

perfect but consistent in terms of where are my skills now, going solidly down, staying in the main

stream. This gives me 3 rd place on the first run, less than a second behind 2nd, the very precise

Kamilla who started kayaking later than me but has a really positive and aware mindset and long

experience in many sports like telemark skiing, climbing, surfing that she happily transfers in

different disciplines. The experienced Pavlina was only some seconds ahead of us, which also came

as good surprise while the 2 girls behind were no more than 10 seconds behind, it felt exciting to be

all tight in the same game. Then came second run. As usual I started to try to think about what I

should think during race, what I should do or not, and that I should feel positive, and as usual by the

moment I put the first stroke in water it all disappeared, my mind was free and I just paddle down

without any thoughts. I had an amazing start, I really was in complete tempo together with the flow,

my boat was flying strong and smooth on clean lines, I wasn’t spending much effort on my paddle,

the boat was just cruising naturally, I rarely got so good lines in a lifetime, at that moment it was

enough, I couldn’t wish for anything more. I was ahead and I knew it. Approaching the bridge I even

heard the speaker “ incredible start, this is clearly a leading time”, then I passed under bridge and

approached that drop that I knew I never made clean, so again I made a submarine boof, get pushed

all around – which was probably fair enough with what I built upstream, yet ending up in a eddy for

15 seconds as I could count on my camera after definitely crushed the thing, leaving me on the 3 rd

place still felt like quite miracle after such spectacular disaster baby-seal mistake, and anyway having

paddle the way I did on first part had made me so high that I would have been very much happy with

last place too. I was very satisfied about myself –yet knowing I had to practice more to be

consistently fast, clean and reproducible, just being able to make such a start was crazy. I felt also

really happy with my boat, which could feel so easy, be so fast and get such a good glide – I almost

felt it was a bit unfair having this boat gave me too much advantage. I could see the men finale after

running mine, strong paddlers were fighting hard for the win but Dane Jackson made it clear to

everyone he was the boss when he passed literally flying with the new boat Nirvana.

Good things don’t come alone and ranking 3 rd allowed me to enter the mighty extreme slalom race. I

looked at it and felt immediately enthusiastic. This was just exactly my style, big and random crazy

shit but fair, I knew I was good to go. Then I got some doubt hearing other people crazy stories, less

confident approach and witnessing about 5% success on 20 people that passed it down, yet

complete-drama- looking-dangerous was not higher probability than clean success. It looked basically

mainly random, with minor chance on making it really good or really bad. So I took 2 test runs on the

mighty slalom were I found myself fairly passing through gates, with reasonable downtime upside

down but in the flow so more or less fast, right? I even got a superstar line in the 1 st upstream gate,

which would unfortunately happen to be pure luck as it never got reproduced in the competing runs.

I was a bit disappoint that no other girls would join, it spoiled a bit my joy not having it shared. But

when it comes to big stuff it is always personal of course so everyone can decide for himself and it

was ok then. Then I went on the race. And did what I can, going through all gates with not super fast

lines but no huge drama. My time was 35 seconds slower than the men winner 1min14, but I didn’t

finish last among men as I made all gates. It felt right to see Nicolas Caussanel take the win, a very

consistent and dedicated paddler that is finally reaching summit he deserved, especially among so

many highly competitive men, by putting together a dream run. Looking at other athletes, everyone

looked a bit on the edge; I was definitely part of the game, which consoled me a bit for not having

girls to celebrate good memories with. And then I got everyone really cheering me up and being so

impressed I competed, again made me feel a bit not comfortable. It always spoiled my joy this idea

that just because I am a girl, I don’t need to do anything, people will anyway be so impressed and it is

not normal and hence really cool. I don’t want that, I don’t think I am special and I would like people

to congratulate me with making clean run, not for being brave to start. But people were truly friendly

and inspired so I told myself it was nice after all and went happily back to the car to share one more

delicious French meal with the great French people who were so kind to adopt me and look after me

for the week. Just hanging around with them, eating MontBlanc (delicious cream in a metal box, best

is Chocolate flavour though some prefer Praline), never being rushed and stressed yet making most

out of it was really precious time through the entire week. I really appreciate their style, discussing

girls and car for hours, being really serious yet really relaxed about life.

Finally, after one more party night came last day and last race, boater cross. This is normally what I

am good at – going wild, get pushed and recover strong, don’t give anything away. Somehow I didn’t

pass to finale as I got lost not understanding the tricky idea of otherwise great organizer to go around

this last useless and stupid and annoying rock before finish line. I got of course real upset to loose for

such stupid reason – getting lost on flat water, yet I hopefully didn’t get completely annoyed, race

was fun and Kamilla definitely deserves final too so then I would just relax and cheer up. The last

days had been so amazing that I didn’t need any victory feeling to be satisfied.

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