There were 127 competitors from 17 countries and six continents who rode the rapids at Rock Island State Park over the weekend for the World Cup Freestyle Kayaking Championships.
Competitors traveled from Europe, Asian, and Central America, among other places, to participate in the three-day event.
Rock Island residents Clay Wright, Emily Jackson, Nick Troutman, Dane Jackson and Eric Jackson were among the competitors – with Emily Jackson winning the women’s K1 finals.
The story was as much about the international flavor at Rock Island State Park as it was the competition.
“We had visitors and spectators from around the world,” said Rock Island State Park manager Damon Graham. “We received many comments about how beautiful the scenery is and how nice the local people are around here.”
Visitors swarmed to nearby businesses, which were buzzing with activity.
“Rock Island Market became an international who’s who of freestyle kayaking, with multiple languages being spoken at the same time in the dining room,” said Eric Jackson, the president of Jackson Kayak in Sparta. “In the corner you had locals who have been eating there for 20 years and surrounding them were Russians, Slovakians, Costa Ricans, French, Irish, Japanese, etc. It was a welcome change and a great opportunity for the locals to meet a diverse group with completely different backgrounds.”
As far as the competition, kayakers were given three chances to perform tricks in the challenging – and dangerous – rapids of the Caney Fork River. They keep only their highest score.
“The area inside the park at Twin Falls is not for beginners into whitewater kayaking,” said Graham. “It can be extremely dangerous. Swimming is not allowed in this area due to the strong and changing currents.”
In the women’s K1 finals, Emily Jackson scored 278 to beat Nina Csonkova of Slovakia, who was second with 176. Adriene Levkenecht was third with 158.
In the men’s K1 finals, Peter Csonka scored 916 to finish first. Second place went to Dane Jackson with 755, and third place was Joaquim Fontane with 728.
There was also competition in several other categories.
The event at Rock Island is one of three World Cup kayaking events scheduled over the next two weeks. Another is currently taking place through Thursday in Hartford, Tenn., while another is set for Sept. 7-9 in Bryson City, N.C.
The World Cup kayaking events are sanctioned by the International Canoe Federation. Rock Island State Park previously played host to the event in 2006.