The grandstands and competitors’ expectations are rising as the nation’s best freestyle kayakers converge on Brennan’s Wave on the Clark’s Fork River in Missoula, Mont., this weekend to see who has what it takes to make the U.S. Freestyle Team and get a ticket to compete in the World Championships in Plattling, Germany, next June for the World Championships.
By all measures, it’s the perfect location. “Brennan’s Wave, in downtown Missoula, is a perfect place to select the 2011 team,” maintains four-time world champion Eric EJ Jackson, who lost his crown to son-in-law Nick Troutman last September. “It’s a wave/hole that is almost identical in size and angled the same way as the feature in Germany.” For EJ, it marks the first USA Team Trials he’s had to compete in since 2004, after securing more than a half-decade’s worth of byes based on winning previous World titles. “I think this will be a good showing for me at this event,” he says. “It’s my first mandatory USA Team trials in six years. Nick [Troutman] gets that “bye” now.” Already, the place is looking like a kayaking commune, with domestic paddlers making tracks to Missoula to prepare and train for the event. For most, it’s the biggest event of the year.
Competitors will be vying for five Men’s Kayak spots; three Women’s kayak, Junior Men’s and Men’s C-1 spots, and two Junior Women and OC1 spots. While the Prelims will narrow the field, the most important cut will be in the Semi-finals, which whittles each class down to the respective teams. The Quarter-finals will cut down the field to the top 10 for men and likely top six for other classes. Those who make the finals will get the invitation to Germany. “They definitely have the entire town behind this event and they’re doing an incredible job preparing for it,” says EJ on his blog (www.jacksonkayak.com). “The town has been very welcoming to us.”