Kelsey Thompson is from Nova Scotia.
So he’s tough as nails.
Last year, he cut his head open at the Teva Mountain Games and was paddling at the Lyons Festival the next week. And it’s lonely up north. “There really isn’t anyone here that paddles — there might be 50 or 60 boaters total,” Thompson says of his Canadian province. “It’s much more likely that I’d become a fisherman.”
Thompson recently made the Canadian Freestyle Team, squeaking on with a fifth-place finish at the trials this April in Montreal. To train, he traveled to Africa’s Nile and rode West Virginia’s late winter hurricanes.
In freestyle, style is part of the game. Thompson digs Canadian companies (he’s Canadian, eh!) but won’t shy away from foreign and obscure gear – hey, sponsors are sponsors.
Here’s what Thompson is riding on the water this season:
Kayak Wave Sport Project 52 and Habitat 80 “Honestly, even if I wasn’t on the Wave Sport team I’d still paddle the Project. All the designs Robert Pearson has made are great. The Project’s hull releases easy and it’s still fast and bouncy. On smaller waves it’s best to have a boat like that.” Catch the Wave here.
Helmet Predator Lee “I’ve been using these for two years now. The guys at Predator are great to work with, it’s a Canadian company, it fits well and it’s light. There’s this new attachment at the back called Croc-Locs that holds it on the head better. A full face helmet is safer and better protection, and Predator has one too.” Feeling sort of meaty?
Ear Plugs “I’m a big fan for sure. I had a ton of problems with my ears in the past – constant swimmer’s ear. I had to see an ear specialist because my ears were never right, so I had some plugs custom made. They’re definitely something I’d recommend to anyone.”
Drytop IR Stuff “I’m stoked on IR. I think what you’re wearing has to look good and work well and IR has the best combo. I come from a skiing background and there it’s all about style – you’ve got to be wearing something better than neon retro colors.” Got IR?
PFD Astral Newton Playvest, and Aquavest for creeking “I think it’s pretty well known that those are the shit.” ‘nough said. Don’t be an ass. Be an astral wearer.
Skirt Solution Paddle Gear “It’s an Australian company. A friend of mine had one so I tried it and really liked it. They’re dry and last a long time.” Surf these down-under decks..
Paddle AquaBound Shred “I’ve been using these for a long time now—since I started paddling. Aqua Bound is a Canadian company, and the guys there are great to work with.” Plus World Champ Ken Whiting helped design these sweet blades of love with little flutter and lots of power. Perfect for the power-hungry paddler.
Get Aqua Bound here.
Booties Mion Flood Tide “There’s a new one coming out called the Water Snake bootie that has a lower profile and is looking really good.” When he can’t fit his booties into a playboat Thompson turns to footwear of his own design: Toe Turbans. “It’s sticky foam you wrap around your toes that ends up looking kind of like a turban, so your toes don’t get smashed up. A lot of people use beer cozies, but I’m into the toe turbans.” Put your piggies here.
For more Kelsey Thompson, check his Web site, Atlantickayaker.com
– Sam Weiss