Include Freestyle Kayaking In The Olympics
Start writing a post

Include Freestyle Kayaking In The Olympics

A new generation for the Olympics

Include Freestyle Kayaking In The Olympics
Seek writ awe there

Over the past decade, whitewater kayaking has broken into a new, unprecedented realm. Between Tyler Bradt's world record descent of the ~186 feet Palouse Falls, big water feats such as running Site Zed on the Stikine and the Inga Rapids on the Congo, and the production of feature films backed by major sponsors such as Red Bull Media House, the future of kayaking is virtually limitless.

However, there is one aspect of kayaking that stands out for its potential to attract viewers and mainstream media support: freestyle. Freestyle kayaking, also known as playboating, is the sport of using a specialized kayak to perform tricks and maneuvers on a single water feature. In other words, kayakers use a particular rapid such as a wave or hole to perform everything from 360-degree spins to airborne maneuvers including loops and airscrews (in layman's terms, "flips and barrel rolls").

Recently, there has been a grassroots support for including freestyle kayaking in the Olympics. I heavily support this notion, and for a number of various reasons, I think it could do wonders to benefit not only the sport of whitewater kayaking but the Olympics as well:

1. Target Demographic

Recently, the IOC announced that the 2020 Olympics will include sports climbing, surfing, and skateboarding. IOC President Thomas Bach specifically stated, "We want to take the sport to the youth," and the IOC has very clearly acknowledged the importance of this idea by adding these sports to the Olympics. With concerns expressed by many, including the CEO of NBC, regarding the declining viewership of the 2016 Olympics among younger generations, bringing in sports appealing to them is beginning to sound even more necessary.

2. Proven Success

Adding freestyle kayaking to the Olympics is not some overly idealistic, "straight to the top" idea accepted by a fringe number of athletes; it is a sport that has proven success with audiences and sponsors. Events have ranged from smaller scale operations such as the Midwest Freestyle Championships to events such as the Whitewater Grand Prix that reach the entire sport, to even massive, multi-sport events with large backing such as the GoPro Mountain Games. As Sportscene has recognized, tens of thousands of viewers have been exposed to freestyle kayaking first-hand and millions more have been exposed to television media.

Even local, almost spur of the moment events have garnered hundreds of spectators and the support of local business and government officials. The recent 2016 Cuyahoga Falls Kayak Race and freestyle event drew nearly five hundred spectators to the city of Cuyahoga Falls, and a manager of the nearby Sheraton hotel told us that the influx of spectators and athletes caused them to completely sell out of some of their draft beer. The response from a local business was overwhelmingly positive and the mayor himself took and active role in supporting the event.

3. Existing Framework

Freestyle kayaking events are often judged by certified judges of the International Canoe Federation, and the framework for judging events is concrete and proven to be reliable. The IOC recognizes international federations for each particular sport as its governing body, and this already exists for freestyle kayaking as the ICF.

Furthermore, while there is a degree of subjectivity involved, there is also a quantitative system for judging freestyle events, with particular moves awarded a set number of points. This allows for a degree of objectivity and standardization.

4. Mystique and Visual Appeal

I can attest from personal experience that there is an extreme level of fascination from onlookers regarding freestyle kayaking. People are often fascinated enough to see somebody roll a kayak; the fact that one can throw one into a cartwheel or do a front flip entirely out of the water draws crowds and photographers like no other. Downriver freestyle events, particular those occurring on waterfalls, draw crowds that never even realize it's possible to kayak these rivers, yet alone do tricks on them. This was seen in the aforementioned Cuyahoga Falls event, as well as the Falls Fest at Ohiopyle Falls or the Whitewater Grand Prix on the Ottawa River.

Be honest; how many of you are reading this article were surprised simply by the cover photo attached to it? People find it hard to believe that kayaks can do these seemingly impossible maneuvers, and that works very well for attracting viewers and media.

5. It Can Be Done Nearly Anywhere

Similar to slalom kayaking, which is already an Olympic sport, freestyle can be done on man-made courses. Regarding natural features, it can be done on a wide variety of rivers, with all sorts of features varying from waves to holes, and of all different sizes. As an extreme added benefit, it's near-stationary nature allows for it to be easily viewed by spectators.

Nic Williams playing on a wave in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Photo by Matt Jackson

6. Other Types of Kayaking Have Already Proven Successful in the Olympics

Whitewater slalom, done in both kayaks and canoes, has been an Olympic sport since 1972, and a consistent, permanent Olympic sport since 1992, demonstrating its popularity and success as an Olympic sport.

With the evolving sport of whitewater kayaking, and the constant development and interest in outdoor and adventure sports overall, it is time to build upon the potential of freestyle kayaking. By introducing freestyle kayaking to the Olympics, we can regain the necessary youth demographic, and benefit both kayaking and the Olympics for years to come.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments