Teva Mountain Games- Freestyle Controversy. Dane and EJ Discuss Competition.

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Hundreds of spectators cheer kayakers in a rare to be seen stadium style medium.

This is a glimpse into the minds of professional athletes minutes prior to competing. For this article I was a fly on the wall next to father-son Jackson as they openly exchanged dialogue of their competition’s strengths, intermixed strategy, competition insights, and EJ humor as the event unfolds.  Follow along as my eyes watch and ears record the conversation of freestyle kayaking’s most successful athletes.

Freestyle Kayak Stadium Scene

Walking into the Teva Mountain Games freestyle semi-finals there’s no place to view the event.  The wave-hole is between two bridges sitting just above and below the feature.  The bridges and banks are packed stadium style where hundreds of people cheer kayakers.  Commentators Dan Gavere and Ken Hoeve work the mic keeping it exciting as the athletes do the rest.  It’s a proud moment for freestyle kayaking.

Matrix-like ice water surrounds gold medal champion Dustin Urban as he plugs his kayak to rebound for aerial freedom.

As a photojournalist you’d want the best angle, a challenge within this packed space.

Overlooking on a 3rd floor hotel balcony Dane and Eric Jackson watch next to an adjacent balcony full of photographers and pro kayakers.  It’s the perfect vantage point directly above the hole and crowd. I realize what I have to do.  I yell up to EJ and he tells me what room he’s in… within moments I’m standing next to overhearing the pair as they prep to compete.

Dane and EJ Discussing the Competition and Strategy

Father and son discuss their competition's strength's, strategy, and scoring just minutes prior to their own rides.

EJ scored competitors rides aloud, “It wasn’t 45 degrees.”  EJ looks at me and explains, “I’m trying to get an ideal of what they’re (judges) counting.  It’s ICF rules.  You only have to be within 20 degrees so it’s not that hard to get the moves.”  Studying the judges and scribes to see if they write after a competitor goes for a move.  If the scribe writes then that means the competitor scored.

What info is EJ assessing?

The athlete wants to know if the judges are easy or tough on giving points.  He can gather a different set of info from competitor rides.  If the judges are scoring moves easy then EJ will speed his ride and go for more moves equaling a higher score.  But if the judges are tough then he’ll slow down and focus on hitting the ride exact planning to have more moves count.  He’s calculating whether he needs quality or quantity to win based on the character of the judges.  As the 5-time world champ he’s the master of scoring freestyle and knows the game better than anyone.  It’s a subtle piece of information that has helped him to dozens if not hundreds of championship titles.

EJ’s voice is now directed to Dane, “Nobody in the first heat is going to advance.”  Dane asks, “How were Nick (Troutman) and Dustin (Urban) Dad?”  They’ll go in the second heat.” EJ ticks his head to the side with a smirk of a smile as he looks up with thinking eyes, “I’ll watch the first rides of the second heat.  Then walk down to the river. Take my time. Watch a couple of rides and get ready.”  The 5-time World Champ is mentally relaxing himself as he keeps his mind occupied.

Spectators watch Dane Jackson stick a huge loop at the Vail kayak stadium bridge.

“Do a couple of hundred strokes.  Moving around. Just get warm.  YEAHHH! YEAH! Rush!”  Rush Sturges hits a McNasty and goes for a Tricky Woo, two of the highest scoring and hardest tricks.  “I’d give him the entry, big loop, Fonics Monkey, definitely got his McNasty.”  Dane asks, “What’s Pat (Camblin) doing here?”  EJ answers, “I heard him say he’s going to see who’s going to ante up for the Whitewater Grand Prix.  A lot of people are doing that now.”

A Pyrahna rider raises a Brown Claw.  The Brown Claw is a simple hand held high in the air in the shape of an umbrella claw.  The Brown Claw has become a kayaking phenom that as far as skill goes would be the equivalent to waving at a friend with a different shape of the hand minus the motion.

A patient stroke. World-champ Nick Troutman holds his Fonics Monkey stroke as kayak rotates under him just prior to a mixture of river power and athletic aerobatics overcome tension and gravity.

“I like it when the Pyrahna boys Brown Claw…  It keeps them out of the finals.”  EJ raises his Brown Claw high in the air to encourage the move to the athlete.  He smiles and asserts, “Nobody in the first heat is going to make it.”

EJ and Dane go on to win silver and bronze as team member Dustin Urban earns another gold medal.

“Does Judging Ever Get Controversial?”

Below is a heated thread from World Championship contender James “Pringle” Bebbington’s Facebook post just after the Teva Mountain Games freestyle event:

Well got scored 590 something and came 8th, watched the video back and def got 750 in worst case…..Would have put me 3rd and in the finals…can’t change it but it has lit a fire under me for Worlds! Will put video up later… i think Clay was not so Wright this time 🙂 Nevermind…

Saturday at 4:56pm ·  · 

    • Craig Ayreswe all know your on fire pringle, and im sure it will come right on the day for you

      Saturday at 5:01pm · 
    • James BebbingtonThanks Craig, thanos for support!

      Saturday at 5:03pm · 
    • Craig Ayresno worries mate, ive seen the work you’ve put in, you deserve to do well.

      Saturday at 5:05pm · 
    • Jacko Jacksonwho was ahead of you?

      Saturday at 5:10pm · 
    • Jacko JacksonAh just seen scores….

      Saturday at 5:13pm · 
    • Peter HarmerSorry to hear that mate! But just think you will have no pressure for the worlds! See you in plattling fire up

      Saturday at 5:34pm via Facebook Mobile · 
    • Quim Fontané MasóMan, those scores are pretty strange! It’s hard to believe you Stephen and Nick haven’t done more points!

      Saturday at 6:20pm · 
    • Sam Ward A fire under you for worlds is worth coming 8th for pring! Final results here for anyone looking…

      Yesterday at 5:01am · 
    • Matt Kennago and tear at worlds man, Ill be there cheerin you on

      Yesterday at 5:28am · 
    • Katya Kulkovais not a secret americans can’t judge properly and honestly..

      Yesterday at 6:12am ·  ·  6 people
    • Emily Jacksonhow nice katya- did you ever think we simply judge differently? just saying…your comment is pretty bull

      Yesterday at 8:59am ·  ·  1 person
    • Katya Kulkovayes very different – this is what i am saying 🙂 this impression i got from a few videos from reno, teva previous years. But accidents happening in Europe too. I wish we all can come up with some better – more open way of judging. So people can actually see and understand their score. I prefer say what i think without “trying” to be nice, its russian way of communicating, different to american obviously.

      Yesterday at 9:29am ·  ·  10 people
    • Orky O’Rourkescrew it the plattling crew are proud of u

      Yesterday at 10:06am · 
    • Devyn Scotthaha love u guys, go surf bussy

      Yesterday at 12:05pm ·  ·  2 people
    • James WeightDont worry Pring, Happened to me at NSR!! Bloody Wallbanger!

      Yesterday at 2:30pm ·  ·  2 people
    • Tino Specht haha, go get em! Pringle and Katya, Love the honesty. hahaha.

      Yesterday at 3:59pm · 
    • Alan WardI’m sure you’ll be flying at the Worlds big man x

      Yesterday at 4:27pm · 
    • Tim WardForget it Pringle, it was just a blip in the plan!- the future is more important. In 5 years time who will remember who won the Teva Games?

      Yesterday at 5:12pm ·  ·  1 person
    • Tyler CurtisI hear ya buddy!!

      Yesterday at 7:23pm · 
    • Brad SuttonSeriously, I was more stoked for Dan Gavere Winning the Stand Up Paddling Championships! Just another Peanut hole brahski, get back to the Ottawa and shred Bussy!

      Yesterday at 7:52pm · 
    • Aniol Serrasolsesi still got my money on you pringeliano! this is just more motivation to kick asses on plattling, !!

      Yesterday at 8:16pm · 
    • Clay WrightSo many rides, one complaint. Jasper is way tougher than we are. Only check video from where the judges sit next time. Our judges all ICF certified by Jasper so… uh .. wish you had made the cut too, because I’ve seen you paddle SO much better! See you in Plattling, this might just be the fire you need to win this next big one. . .

      21 hours ago · 

EJ’s Endorsed Kayak to Buy…  Jackson Kayak 2 Fun

It’s no surprise that EJ recommends the Jackson Kayak Fun series.  The 2 Fun is JK’s easy to roll, fun to surf, and comfortable river running perfect hybrid with freestyle.  If you’re looking to step your game up from beginner to intermediate/advanced boating then try a Fun.

Click here to view Teva Mountain Games Freestyle Results.

Did you enjoy this blog?  You might also enjoy, “Who is Johnnie Kayaker?”

When you need the best equipment… Choose CKS.

By David Hughes

CKS Content Media Specialist

Owner- Pucon Kayak Hostel, your economical Chile destination with beds, kayak rentals, and beginner to advanced rivers.  “Keep Kayaking.”

Director- Huge Experiences’ New River Academy, “And that has made all the difference.”

10 thoughts on “Teva Mountain Games- Freestyle Controversy. Dane and EJ Discuss Competition.

  1. Justin Owen

    It looks like the same pitfalls that plague all other US media have made their way to kayaking.

    Pringles must not have felt a strong conviction for those thoughts or he would have protested. It looks like poor sportsmanship to me.

    The ICF system is strict, and doesn’t allow for marginal tricks. The judges that gave the score are experts on this rule set and applied the rules equally…. I welcome him to post the video for discussion, as I have already watched ours from the booth and realized that his score was spot on.


      Readers. Justin is the head ICF trained judge for US events. Justin has offered CKS readers insight into judging and we plan to take advantage of this public educational interview with our US ICF rep. Thank you Justin for taking the time to clarify.
      Reply by David Hughes.

    2. James Bebbington

      Hey Justin,

      Look i understand judging isn’t easy and i did come and protest!

      I am definitely not a poor sportsmen. I want fair competition is all. I’m a good person and am sure no – one who knows me well would call me a poor sportsmen. get to know me at worlds and I’m sure you’ll agree.

      I posted that comment on my facebook straight after i had come from talking with Clay and then watched the video and as far as i can see i was correct.

      In my mind my run went entry move, two mcnasty and 2 phonics’s then the rest i agree shouldn’t score.

      The only move i can see you might doubt was the 1st mc’nasty which i landed straight and into a frontsurf (so should score)then rolled over (not flushed though).

      I watched my run back on a friends 7d so not the best view but based on what everyone else was telling me, Emiy Jackson, Stephen Wright & even Emily all commented to me that they thought i should have scored better on my 1st run, & how the moves felt to me and the vid i saw thats just how i felt.

      it’s a free world, if that’s how i feel and think my run went i’m free to express that however i wish. Right or wrong i’d rather speak up and say what i think than just go along with the status quo.

      If you have video can you put it up see what others think?

      Hey i might be wrong, in which case i would apologize, but i’m pretty sure i’m not and i would not have been been so bummed about it had Clay disscuseed and talked with me properly when i came to check out my score.

      Remember i kayak because i love it and want the sport to be the best it can be.



      1. clay Wright

        Hey Guys:
        Pringle was correct for asking to see the score sheets before I left the stand but the sheets were gone already. I was a smart-ass as i would be with any competitor who knows me in this situation, assuring him he didn’t actually know what tricks he had done because they don’t count till I write them down or some such…it didn’t go over well because he was understandably serious while I was just glad for a break.
        I knew it was pointless for him to file a protest since I knew exactly how all 3 of us had scored his rides from memory – it was memorable – so i told him he could but it would not change the scores and he would have to go to the office to do so. There was nothing wrong or unsportsmanlike about Pringle’s request or timing though the other judges had already gone and didn’t hear about this.
        As I recall we were amped up to keep up with his speed and combos, having seen the videos and his prelims, but he looked like he was rushing.. started strong then missed many tricks in a row… and we waited for a grand finale that didn’t happen… so we compared scores, checked the math, and were sad we wouldn’t be challenged to keep up with his talent in the next round.
        From our angle, low and left, Pringle clearly didn’t make finals. From the balcony – and to the announcers and hundreds of untrained, uncertified cheering fans he clearly did. It’s the perfect storm of massive peer appreciation following a big sequence of tricks the judges didn’t score but that didn’t flush.
        Pringle’s a champ for what he can do – what he will do – and I know more than most how hard it is to accept when the judges tell you the opposite of what the announcers and all your friends are cheering… Spin that switch-Mcnasty further backwards, get that 3rd end of the Tricky-wu up, and get those Space’s off the water..can’t wait to see it from the stands or hopefully the eddy.
        Glad I’m off the stand for Plattling! C

        1. James Bebbington

          For video from straight upstream 🙂

          1. James Bebbington

            My switch mcnasty was perfect! See vid above.

  2. RGB

    Don’t quite get the relavence of putting a whole facebook thred on this with no explaination, poor journalism i’d say!

  3. theflow

    When is this going to end?

    Regular people don’t watch this.
    Kayakers don’t watch this.

    I hope Pat Camblin converts everyone, just like baby J.

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