GB Freestyle will have a 28-strong team competing across the nine events at the 2022 Canoe Freestyle World Championships between 27 June – 2 July.
Meet the team vying for those titles.
Harry got into paddling thanks to his local canoe club keeping their kayaks on the side of the swimming pool. After begging his mum to let him have a go, he was in a kayak during a club pool session.
Since then, Harry has enjoyed participating in white water, slalom, sprint, marathon and freestyle. He now spends the majority of his time paddling in the K1 freestyle kayak or occasionally a C1.
Harry is one of Britain’s best freestylers and his achievements include the junior K1 bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships and 2018 European Championships, alongside putting down a dream ride at the 2021 British Championships to win with a score of 2600 points.
Rob started getting into freestyle during studying for his A levels.
It became clear that Nottingham would be a great place to stay for University and full time work, in order to balance with training hard all year round on the world class features.
With many years of experience on the international circuit, Rob takes off time as much as he can from his work as a Product Design Engineer, to travel further afield to international competitions and experience some of the best freestyle destinations the world has to offer.
‘Freestyle got me hooked initially as there was so much to learn and perfect and even now all these years later that is still the case.’
James is 34 years old and ‘has been fortunate enough’ to represent GB since he first made the team as a junior in 2004.Highlights of his career have been winning the World Championships in 2011 and the World Cup in 2010.
For James it has been a dream to compete at a home worlds and is incredibly excited for the opportunity to ‘throw down this summer’ in Nottingham.
James’ favourite part of freestyle is the feeling from training hard alongside friends with a clear goal in mind, pushing each other on and laying down the best rides in competition. He also been pulling the Mcnasty for more years than some of the junior team have been alive!
‘That feeling is incredible and I love the camaraderie.’
Gav has been kayaking for over 25 years now from the beginning. This initially involved playboating, and he owned an Acrobat 270 when he was 14, a top end boat at the time.
Gav has travelled to some of the best freestyle rivers in the world and ‘loves the vibe’ when paddling with friends, going big and learning new moves.
Gav has lived in Nottingham for the last 10 years and represented GB at multiple World and European Championships.
He believes the progression in freestyle has been amazing to see and the World Championships in Nottingham will show case the best freestylers in the world.
This is Toby’s first year competing as a senior, he is the reigning Junior K1 Men’s European Champion and British Champion. Coached by Jacko, he has been part of the Burners programme since 2019 and participated in the Younguns series.
Toby is from Potters Bar, he is a member of St Albans Canoe Club and Lee Valley Paddlesport Club. His home is close to Lee Valley White Water centre and he considers the top hole on the legacy course his home feature.
Toby is also a member of the GB U21 Canoe Polo squad and hopes to compete in the World Championships this summer.
Ottie has been one of the most dominant junior freestylers in history, achieving two ICF World Championship titles.
Ottie gained her first title in Argentina in 2017, followed by electrifying seasons on the European and World circuit gaining her first European title in 2018, and her relentless drive gaining her a second consecutive World Champion crown in Spain 2019.
In recognition of her achievements, she received the prestigious World Paddle Awards Junior Paddler of the Year 2018, Essex Junior Sports Personality of the Year 2018 and a nomination for BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2019.
Ottie epitomises the progressive ladies freestyle movement. With massive moves, especially in the aerial realm, her explosive style, and heart-pounding approach has inspired the new generation of junior freestylers.
In 2021 Ottie became senior British Champion in K1, C1 and Squirt Boat with a new K1 record score of 1460 and also claimed her first senior international title at the European Championships.
Lowri has been a member of the GB Freestyle team since being a junior back in 2001. In her years on the team she has won the European Champion crown, made many international finals and been British Champion six times.
As a full-time coach, she has a strong passion for supporting and developing others while pushing her own progress and being on the leading edge of female freestyle kayaking.
Her favourite moves include lunar orbits, blunt-mcnasties, backloops and Panams… though huge air loops always bring big grins all-round!
When not doing freestyle, Lowri paddles some of the hardest white water all over the world.
Heidi started paddling at her local canoe club where they only had freestyle kayaks so that’s ‘what I learnt everything in’.
Heidi started freestyle at the age of 16 and has been on the senior women’s team since 2017, competed in her fifth international season.
Heidi has recently has been trying to push her limits in both freestyle and creeking, to become the best all round kayaker she can be. Having done trips down the Grand Canyon, and freestyle all around the world, she is well underway.
Emma was attracted to Freestyle for the community, atmosphere and feeling when ‘you land a great trick’.
Emma has kayaked since a junior and competed in previous World Championships in 2015 and 2019. A third Worlds appearance on home soil will ‘definitely be a stand out’.
Being a part of sport has always been a passion for Emma, who competes alongside working within the sports software sector.
Emma hopes that despite the World Championships being delayed for a year means that ‘we can put on an awesome showcase and a true representation of the sport’.
Jen started paddling when she was 8 at a local youth club and, after first hearing of the discipline, moving onto freestyle when she was 13.
Last year at the European Championships in France, Jen won the silver medal in her last junior competition before moving up to the senior ranks.
For Jen, the importance of the athletes on the water around her and has helped to find an energy that allowed her to focus solely on performing
Jen is looking forward to working hard on more high scoring moves, links and combos, meeting more paddlers and travelling whilst completing her university degree.
Kim started kayaking when she was 11 alongside her dad, brother and sister, with mum watching on the bank.
Kim gained my spot on the GB Team age 13 where she had to patiently wait until she was old enough to compete internationally.
From that point she has been on the team on several occasions and thoroughly enjoys travelling and competing around the world. Kim’s favourite thing about kayaking and competition is the locations it takes you to and the people you meet.
She has a strong love for sport, competing in football when she isn’t paddling. She is also a PE teacher in her daily life, passing on her sporting passion to you next generation.
Men’s Junior Kayak
Timmy began paddling at Dagger Dynamo when he was nine years old. It wasn’t until his 12th birthday that he went on a trip to the River Wye and Cardiff White Water Centre with his father that he was introduced to white water and caught the bug!
Timmy can’t wait to compete in his first Worlds this summer. He loves paddling on the Thames when the water levels allow and at Holme Pierrepont whenever he can get there.
He recently spent a week in February creeking in Scotland with the European White Water School which he describes as amazing!
Ben first got into kayaking when he was 5 and started freestyle at the age of 9. He first represented GB in 2019 at the World Championships and the 2021 European Championships. He is now looking forward to his second World Championships.
Ben’s favourite trick is the Luna orbit as it can be linked to so many other tricks. He really enjoys freestyle as there is so much freedom and such high skill boundaries in what you can do.
He also loves wave tricks, especially the airscrew and pistol flip as they both feel good and look nice.
James does freestyle kayaking as a way to escape from stress, alongside it being unbelievably fun and exciting,
This year James has taken his GCSEs alongside kayaking and preparing for the World Championships.
His favourite tricks are McNastys and spacegodzillas as they take a ‘certain amount of skill to perform to a high standard but when they are mastered then they can be such a great trick to perform’.
Women’s Junior Kayak
Issie is a 14 year old British freestyle kayaker from London, she first learnt to kayak at Westminster boating base and now is a member of the Lee Valley White Water Centre.
This is Issie’s first year competing as a junior and is currently the Junior Women’s British Champion. Issie has been a part of the Gb freestyle academy since 2020.
She is coached by Mike Shaw and Jacko and has been part of the burners programme since 2020. Some of her favourite places to paddle are Inlet gate at HPP, Makinito, Boulters and Hurley Weir.
As a paddler Poppy’s aim is to have fun and enjoy kayaking.
She loves being able to push myself in such an amazing community, where you can always find someone to help you learn new skills or just paddle with.
She has always paddled as it helps her to focus and relax, land earning to do cool tricks is a bonus!
Niamh is a 16-year-old kayaker, who loves all aspects of paddling although freestyle has always been her favourite.
Her local place to practice is Holme Pierrepont. This has always been a special place and has improved her paddling ‘a hundred percent’, and also has a very friendly atmosphere.
In 2021 Niamh managed to place first in the junior women’s category at selections which gave her a spot on the GB Freestyle team for the World Championships.
An all round paddler, she is regularly on the rivers with her local club over in Leicester helping her dad along with his paddling. Niamh will also be taking part in a charity paddle this summer, taking on a welsh river for 24 hours with teammates James Ibbotson and Lowri Davies.
James has been paddling since the age of 8 years old. Starting in a swimming pool with Green Star Canoe Club, he quickly took to slalom, competing for GB at a junior and under 23 level.
During his university days James started messing around in a freestyle boat a bit more and really enjoying it. So he sold his slalom kit and set himself up with a freestyle boat!
James has been doing C1 since he was around 12 years old. He loves the challenge that comes with having half a paddle, and being more unstable on your knees, making paddling way more fun.
A regular on the international team ‘Ibbo’ was a finalist in the 2021 European Championships, taking fifth place.
‘Whenever I am out on the water my goal is to have fun. It doesn’t matter if its a cold winter evening or sunny day at the world championships, the whole reason to paddle is to have fun.’
Matt is one of the most happy, bubbly, and excited people to be on the water. It doesn’t matter if he is in his C1, K1, creek boat, or on a SUP, the water is where he belongs.
A paddlers’ favourite to be stuck in an eddy with, he always finds a way to be having fun.
Already a successful freestyle paddler, Matt is only improving and pushing the sport forwards. Coming fourth place at the 2021 European Championships in Paris, he is certainly one to watch.
You’ll spot him easily enough from his bright colours, huge smile, and long hair. He is also always trying to pass his love for the sport on, taking time to coach the next lot of freestyle paddlers.
Adam has been on the team for a number of years and with that had the opportunity to go to Canada, Germany, Slovakia and France. Well known in the community, Adam is always heard before he is seen.
Adam has helped coach many paddlers, giving them insights into the knowledge he has accumulated over the years. As no stranger to competition, Adam is able to keep a level head in any situation and perform his favoured tricks.
Rebekah has been kayaking for around 8 years, 4 of which have been in a playboat. Rebekah trains regularly at her local venue, Lee valley White Water Centre and also works at Above and Below Kayak retailer store on site
Until last year Rebekah had only ever competed in k1, but the opportunity of a new women’s category and the encouragement from team mates Ottie and Tamsyn inspired Rebekah to convert an old kayak into a c1.
Although this discipline ‘is challenging’ Rebekah has really enjoyed the process of progression, especially while training in the worlds feature at Holme Pierrepont.
Tamsyn started kayaking when she started University about six years ago. As a complete beginner, it was initially a social activity before becoming anything competitive.
However fun competitions became opportunities to catch up with friends and Tamsyn ‘fell into the competitive side of things by accident!’
Heading to her first World Championships was a big turning point, and Tamsyn found the drive to improve and become ‘the best paddler I can be.’
‘I really enjoy the new challenge that’s come with taking up women’s C1. It’s great to see it added to the World Championships and I’m really excited to be a part of it!’
Connor is an 18 year old white water kayaker and canoeist from Newcastle upon Tyne, who has been paddling for around 9 years. The first time he paddled the open canoe category was back in 2015, completely by accident after finding an old ‘cut-down’ that was left in a farm shed.
Conor’s normally tries to paddle at least three times a week and his favourite river for freestyle are the falls of Lora up in Scotland, that he has been up in the OC on a couple of times.
‘Nothing beats being thrown around and not knowing which way you’re facing!’
Jolyon has been paddling for 35 years mainly pursuing his love for white water canoeing. He first started Freestyle in 2019 just before the last World Championships in Sort. Never been in a playboat as a kayaker, only C1 and OC1.
His aspirations for the future are to do his best at the World Championships and then continue coaching and sharing my passion for OC1 and OC2.
‘I love the understanding of balance and physics that is required to move the boat through the vertical plane. It is great to be learning new things and representing single bladers.’
Sam has been kayaking for 14 years and freestyle for about 11 years. He lives in Maidstone and works at Kent Canoes, which he describes as ‘the best kayaking shop ever.’
Sam started with lots of flat water, but was attracted to freestyle thanks to a pool session with the local scouts where GB Team freestyle paddlers came along, including team mate Jamie Austin and ten time World Champion Claire O’Hara MBE.
A few years on Sam represented the Freestyle GB team in his first European Championships in 2014, and in 2019 he managed to claim a bronze medal at the World Championships.
In Sam’s words ‘I had a go in this weird sinky thing called a squirt boat and loved it, mostly because I could do a bow stall!’
Alex has been competing in Freestyle Kayaking at international level since 2013. Results include 2x World championship silver medals, twice European Champion and 2 time World Cup champion.
His coach throughout this journey has been his partner, Dee Paterson. Alongside being a personal trainer, Alex is a coach at Wiltshire Youth Canoe Club, helping to inspire the next generation of paddlers.
Alex has also represented Great Britain in Dragon Boat Racing, Outrigger Canoeing, White Water Rafting and White Water Racing.
Jamie started paddling with the cubs/scouts as a child and started competing back when it was called Rodeo.
Jamie paddles a squirt boat most of the time from spring to autumn and loves to mystery move.
He can be found evenings and weekends at Holme Pierrepont with his lifeguard Bo the Springer Spaniel, most people see her before they see him reappearing from the depths of the River Trent.
Layla started kayaking at her local club 5 years ago where she enjoyed learning all the basics. She was inspired by the journey and skills of team mate Ottilie Robinson-Shaw and started doing freestyle 2 years ago.
Layla was impressed and fascinated by how elegant squirt boating looks, and last summer I had a chance to try it for the first time and loved it!
It was a nice surprise for Layla to be selected for the GB Freestyle team, following the trials at Nottingham. ‘I am excited and nervous to be competing in the world championship for senior women’s squirt with all the amazing paddlers.’