It's not as good as Hurley...
2019 saw the 30th year of the Hurley Classic, an event that draws in paddlers of all ability and disciplines.
After a long dry winter, the heavens finally opened in the south of England and filled the Thames river enough to open up the Hurley weir. This year the water levels were spot on, and the event could run on the ideal three gate set up.
The Saturday of the event was a long day. It all kicked off with the 'Paddle with the Stars' event, giving young budding paddlers the chance to paddle with some of Britains and the Worlds best. The stars this year included current world champion Quim Fontane, previous world champion James 'Pringle' Bebbington, junior ladies world champion Ottilie Robinson-Shaw, and a range of top GB paddlers like Gav Barker, Rob Crowe and Islay Crosbie. In these sessions the kids would learn all sorts, from paddling to boat care and everything in-between.
Highlights this year include falling off a giant SUP board whilst performing a 'tailie' with some of the youngsters paddling with the stars and being on the water to see Peak UK team mate Gav Barker take the Hurley Classic title after coming so close many times before.Rob Crowe
The afternoon was full of boater X heats! This year promised to be the most exciting course yet, and it was definitely interesting. The ladies kicked off the show, setting out on a marathon of a course. 10 minutes later, the first heat had finished. This course was a long one! The organisers were pretty quick to jump in a power boat and remove half the course, brining the times down to just a couple of minutes. The heats quickly rattled through and some upsets were had. But in the end the usual suspects rose to the top and into the final.
Before the final kicked off the team freestyle event took place. This was an interesting concept that involved all three paddlers of a team having to be on the feature at the same time to score any points. Sure enough, it was an hour full of carnage and mayhem as people battled for wave time.
Boater X finals! Representing Peak UK in the mens final was Gav Barker and in the ladies was Islay Crosbie. Both fought hard, charging around the course. But it wasn't their day. Poland's Bartosz Czauderna took the mens win and Catalonia's Nuria Fontane took the ladies.
It was my first time back competing since 2015 and enjoyed it severely. really good to catch up with everyone, see how everyone has improved, surf a great wave and get to compete with some of the best in the world again. Top event!James 'Pringle' Bebbington
The last thing to do on the Saturday was the Thames Valley Awards! These are voted for by paddlers, and aim to give recognition to those who may not always get it. Categories include top male, female, junior male and junior female. Peak UK's Gav and Islay took home the male and female titles.
Sunday was the big freestyle day! Heats running through the entire day, with scores getting bigger and bigger. By the end of the heats the standing had been decided for all expect the senior mens and ladies events, where the top five paddlers would compete in an ICF style final.
Rob Crowe and Gav Barker were representing Peak UK in the mens finals, qualifying in first and second. Islay qualified for the ladies final, going through in third place. The finals were quite a watch. Some of the biggest names in freestyle all throwing down, with a couple of gate crashers between rides.
The ladies went first, with Islay taking an early lead after a big loop and a couple of wave moves. That lead was hunted down by Lowri Davies on her second run. On third and final runs it was all to play for. Islay had a couple of unlucky flushes, ending her title challenge. No improvement for Lowri, but she was still on top with just one paddler to go. Junior world champion Ottilie was the only person who could knock Lowri off the top. And sure enough, she pulled it all together to land a big mcnasty, loop and wave moves to take home the senior win!
The mens competition was just as good! Irish paddler Dave McClure (or little Rog as he is referred to) took an early lead in first runs. This quickly changed hands in run two as Rob and Gav moved up the leader board, taking Gav into first place. World champion Quim Fontane saw that as a challenge and laid down a huge run, lots of big scoring moves all flowing nicely. But by the end of the third runs it was our very own Gav Barker who took the win!
Hurley Weir is like nothing else, and neither is the event. Always a fun weekend, with characters you haven't seen for a while!Ibbo
30 years of the Hurley Classic has flown by for some people, but for others their Hurley stories have just begun. See you next year Hurley!
Words - Ibbo
Media - Rory Atton, Simon Wyndham, Tom Clare Photography, Chris Brown