Rob and Islay head to Makinito
Rob Crowe at Millau
A couple of weeks back I set sail for Europe, like a large majority of Brits, for what is now becoming an annual Euro trip. This year there are four events in a three week period, the first of these being the Makinito Contest which was on the weekend just gone.
I headed out a week or so before Makinito with the aim of getting a bit of training done in Millau and Sort, for the Natural Games and the World Cup events. Though expecting the warm sunshine I have come to associate with Millau we were instead met with cloudy, rainy skies. This meant not only that the shorty cags had to be put away for the time being but also that the rivers in the Pyrenees were higher than usual for this time of year. The original plan of a few days training in Sort went out the window, due to levels, and was instead replaced with a smash and grab run to Lyon to paddle Hawaii Sur Rhone for a couple of days. HSR is a legendary wave and star of many of my favourite wave videos from over the years (Back to Lyon & French Style Demo to name a couple) so it was a dream come true to finally surf it. The wave seriously lived up to the hype and were lucky enough to experience it at a range of levels from the smooth green face of the lower levels to the slightly smaller wave with a big foam pile at higher levels. After a couple of days it was then back to Millau for more training before heading to the Makinito Contest.
Going big on Hawaii Sur Rhone
The hole at Makinito is formed in an irrigation channel between farmers fields so it was touch and go whether the event would happen in the run up, with the rain and high rivers meaning the crops had been getting enough water naturally. Luckily the sun came out and we got word the channel was running the Tuesday before the event so we packed up in Millau set off to get some training done. The feature lived up to it’s billing as being similar to inlet gate in Nottingham in a lot of ways, just with some small shoulders and a few rocky patches to dodge when plugging for loop moves. The travelling band of Brits were all looking strong in practice and definitely finding the similarities to inlet an advantage. As the week rolled on the number of competitors arriving started to grow. It was a truly global event with competitors from Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, Poland, Catalonia and Ireland, all in Europe for the World Cups, adding to the strong French freestyle community.
The competition started on the Saturday with the Cadet classes for the really young kids. Both me and Islay, the two Peak Team members attending, had a bit of a wait until we competed, Islay especially as the women were last, with the first heat starting about half 6. I had gone before and made it through to the finals on the Sunday in 5th place. I struggled a little having a very ropey first ride and then pulling a scrappy but ok scoring ride out to make it through. Islay faired a bit better with two solid rides making it through to Sunday’s finals, no mean feat given the strength in the women’s field. Once the paddling had wrapped after the women’s prelims we headed to the local canoe club for the big evening meal, the local tomatoes being a personal highlight.
Islay getting airborne at Makinito
Sunday was finals days, once again starting with the Cadet classes. We then rolled through the junior classes with success for the Brits, Ottie Robinson-Shaw taking a dominant win and Harry Price taking second behind reigning World Champ Tom Dolle, pretty impressive given he had no training and only lost by 50 points. Islay was first up and was sadly unable to quite nail down the consistency of the prelims and finishing just outside the medals. Zofia Tula putting down a massive score to take the win from Hitomi Takaku, both paddlers showing off how rapidly the rate of progression is now excitingly going in women’s freestyle as they hunt down Claire O. It was then my turn to drop into the feature. My first ride was good enough to top all the rides from prelims but still scrappy and a way off my best training rides, Sebastien Devred then followed me up, taking the lead from me by 50 points. Tomasz Czapliki was last up in the heat and pushed the boat out significantly with an impressively massive ride a good 300+ points out from me and Seb. I rallied hard knowing I had a ride in me to get close up to Tomasz’s score but I struggled massively for consistency and just couldn’t quite get me nerves in check to get it put down. The podium places remained the same from there on in, despite a late push from Belgian Lane De Meulenaere to take the third spot from me with a super flowing last ride.
Rob going for the loop at Makinito
The event wrapped up with the podium ceremony and prizes, including local beer, more of those tomatoes and oddly a melon. I left Makinito a little sad not to get a ride that a hole of this quality deserves but a second international podium position is another good learning step. I defintiely plan on returning to the Makinito Contest, which not only has an awesome feature but also a unique atmosphere as it’s a pretty big competiton but still retains the feeling of community that smaller events have, due to it being run by a local club of volunteers. We are now back in Millau getting ready for Natural Games and the line ups are getting longer and longer at the feature. It will be a slightly strange event with some athletes choosing to miss NG in favour of getting some training time in Sort before the World Cups, due to the awkward scheduling of the World Cups starting only a day after Natural Games. The men’s field is however being bolstered by two heavyweights in former and current World Champs Dane Jackson and Quim Fontané.
Oh and apparently some bloke called Ibbo is turning up as well…..?