China Red Bull Kayak Mania: video

It all started with an email from some guy I have never met, inviting me to come to China for a Red Bull Kayak event. Naturally I was intrigued with this mysterious event in a far away land, so I accepted his invitation. Now traveling to China to go compete in a Kayak event isn’t quite as easy as just jumping on a plane with a kayak. First off, you need a visa to get into China, which involves some paper work, a couple passport photos, an invitation letter from someone in China and your flight itinerary. Once that was all set up I had to organize boats with our Jackson Kayak distributor in China so we wouldn’t have to worry about the hassle of trying to travel with them, especially being that we would need both a play boat and creek boat for the multiple events. After that would be the travel.
I wasn’t the only athlete invited to this event, there was a handful of people selected which included Chris Gragtsman, the Wells brothers (Todd and Brendan), Max Karlsson, Martina Wegman and Dane Jackson. I was fortunate enough to be traveling with Dane, which was nice because there was a lot of traveling. We left Nashville at 6 AM, flew to Detroit, then to Beijing, and finally to Kunming. Once in Kunming we met up with everyone and jumped onto a bus, which was then another 2 days of bus rides, totally out 4 days of travel before arriving at our destination, the Salween River. Lots of traveling is as bit of an understatement.


Once we arrived we were all awestruck by the beauty of the rivers gorge. Huge mountain surrounding a river gorge that twists and turns, with little towns and villages along the banks of world class whitewater. The combination of the amazing river and a bunch of athletes locked up in a bus for a couple days, we were all very excited to finally hit the water in our kayaks.








Our first day paddling we spent it training for the Boater-X event, which was a class 4+ big water rapid consisting of big holes, tall standing waves and fast water with little eddies. Our group of North Americans thought that this was a great rapid and would make for a challenging and exciting boater-X, though many of the Chinese competitors were at their limit of comfort. We tried to help them out and lead them down the rapid and show them the lines. This worked great for most, though we did have some missed lines and a couple long swims.






The next day was our first day of the Red Bull Kayak Mania, we competed in the time trial for the seating on the boater-x. I had a pretty good time, putting me in third place just behind Dane and Brendan. There was a tons of media and TV crews lined the shores, and peppered us with questions about the event, the proposed dam, the civil war in Burma, some questions were not expected for sure, like the question asking if Dane and I were gay?Seriously.










Next day was the finals and the actual head to head heats in the boater-x. Being that Todd, Myself, Brendan and Dane were the top four be had a by to the second round, while Chris Wing, Chris Gragtman, and Max Karlsson raced three Chinese racers. Next round was Myself vs Chris Wing, Dane vs Max, Chris vs. Brendan, and Todd vs the top Chinese Slalom racer. All the the quarter finals were great races, though it was thee Wells brothers and Dane and myself who continued on to the Semi Finals rounds. First up in the Semi finals were Dane vs Todd which was a battle the to finish, though Dane was able to hold a close lead the whole way and push on to the finals. Next up was Brendan and myself, another great battle with a yoyo between Brendan and myself being in the lead, though the half way point I was able to pull in front and stay in front of Brendan through to the finish. This put Dane and I head to head for the final round. It was close between us through the flat water at the start and into the first rapid. I took the safe line towards the right while Dane got pushed left into the meat of the hole, I thought this was my break to push forward, though Dane got a bit of a lucky break and immediately flushed out of the hole into the fast water, this put Dane in front with a lead that I couldn’t gain from him. It stayed Dane first and myself second through to the finish. It was a great race and a great day walking away with my first seller medal from the Kayak Mania event.
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The freestyle event was the fallowing day, which was a really good and fun but tricky feature. It was a wave/hole that you could do most tricks it, though it was a bit tricky to stay in and really quite flushy. All three rides felt great, though my first ride pleased the judges the most and my score reflected that with 1400 points. I was winning all the way until Dane’s final ride when he busted out a amazing 1600 point ride, pushing me back into silver, while Max took home third with his 600 point ride and huge entry moves. Dane took home another gold and I took home another silver, a pretty good showing for back to back events.







Our final day of kayaking was the Tiger rapid challenge, to see who could run a specific line and stay upright through the rapid. We had all looked at the rapid and scouted for a while, though the line I wanted to take (which was right of the rock at the bottom) was not aloud for the competition. I ended up running safety for Todd, Brendan and Dane who all decided to give it a shot. All three paddlers had interesting lines to say the least, with all of them backwards at some point, though Dane was able to stay upright somehow, and won the challenge. Immediately following the Tiger rapid challenge we finished some last media interviews and jumped into the bus for another 2 day drive back to Kunming, followed by our long flights home.

China was a great experience, with amazing people, good food and epic whitewater. I can’t wait to go back, though with the amount of travel to get there I think I might stay longer next time.

Here are the links to Chinese National TV coverage from the event.

Event Teaser:


Freestyle event:

Comments on “China Red Bull Kayak Mania: video”

  1. Danny Hopkins
    April 11, 2015 at 10:45 am

    The beauty in your video is breathtaking; what a difference the aerial view makes! Great write up Nick; glad you and Dane had a safe and fun trip; I know it’s good to be back home with family.
    Best wishes,
    Danny Hopkins

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