December 5, 2023

Somersaults with a kayak

  1. Giessen General
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Michael Fry at the World Championships in his new carbon boat. Always with you: helmet and paddling vest, to which the spray deck is attached. © PV

SKC Gießen’s Michael Fry can do more than just go straight in a kayak. In freestyle canoeing completes flips and loops in the water. The most recent was at the World Cup in the United States of America. He also rowed in the Nile.

When his third round of the World Championship preliminary round ended, Michael Fry raised his arms and smiled briefly. He holds the oar in his right hand as he slides his black, red and yellow boat down the turbulent Chattahoochee River. “It was a celebratory pose, and I wanted to wave to the camera again because I knew family and friends were watching at home,” Fry explains, looking back. Just seconds before his celebration, the SKC Gießen athlete had the opportunity to perform his tricks for 45 seconds on a meter-high wave in Columbus (Georgia). Because Fry is a free boat. The World Championships in the United States of America were the first in which the Mainz native, who has been rowing in Giessen for two and a half years, participated.

In freestyle boating, athletes do what doesn’t seem particularly obvious in a boat: they perform tricks. Specifically, this means: kayak somersaults. Tricks include flips, horizontal turns, or flips. Boaters find themselves on a standing wave in the middle of the river. Tricks are performed with the help of the force of water. Each trick brings a different number of points – the total number of points from everyone determines who wins the competition. The sport originated from white water sports, where the first World Cup was held in 1991. Now, 22 years later, Michael Fry, an athlete from SKC Gießen, was part of the action.

The days in Columbus left an impression on Fry, who combined the voyage with an overland voyage. What is particularly memorable is the central object: the wave. » The World Champion wave is a big green wave. “In Europe, there are very few opportunities to train on such a big wave, because it only occurs during severe floods especially outside Germany,” says Frey. The Green Monster was unusual at first: “It was more difficult than expected. Depending on how much time I spent on the water, things sometimes went better and sometimes worse,” says Frye, which is due to the tank being drained on top of the wave.

Sharp rise at the scene

In the K1 category qualifier, where a double paddle is used, Fry finally reached 44th place. In the first round of three runs, not all tricks counted. “I was still very excited and was shaking a little bit when I got into the wave,” Fry says. Things went better in the second and third rounds. A “sharp,” a 180-degree spin in the air around an arc, produced 80 points. But that was not enough to qualify for the quarter-finals. Fry sums up: “I am satisfied. Your tricks are also counted, except for the first round.

The World Championships have been the highlight of Fry’s freestyle career to date. The trained industrial mechatronics engineer originally comes from Mainz. He got into rowing in middle school through a classmate. “Then we discovered the stone dam at Tripur. “This is the only wave in the immediate vicinity, and that’s when we start to spin on our axis,” Fry says. He quickly reached the German Championship and then continued to improve. In 2018, we finally went to the European Championships in Slovakia. “I was at my best at that time. “I would go out every weekend and always train at Steindam after work,” says Frey. The European Championships will be his last international participation until 2023. Then the focus shifted: Frei moved to Giessen to be with his girlfriend, and it was here that he found a club at the Ski and Canoe Club.

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Kayaking on the White Nile

Thus he remained faithful to the free canoe style. There are several aspects behind the fascination with surf paddling: Fry compares whitewater sports and describes freestyle kayaking as less demanding: “You’re always in one place. You can drive next to the wave, practice for an hour and then drive back. It’s more relaxing.” Moreover, freestyle also comes with a lifestyle. You camp next to the wave and spend your weekends exercising. The journey takes miles: you drive several hours to travel to Bavaria or France. Fry has already traveled to Uganda so he can train for a big wave. There he set off on the waters of the White Nile. Next year he wants to go to Canada in the spring. Rainfall and melting snow create very large waves there. The 26-year-old wants to drive this one. In doing so, he also seeks out risk: “Sometimes you go down a bigger waterfall or a stronger slope with a big reel, where you know: If you stop me, I might have to get out of the boat.”

In addition to the trip to the monster waves, there are other goals: there are some tricks that he wants to improve. These include the “Tricky Woo” or “Pistol Flip”, both complex reverse rotation with built-in screws. He wants to return to the World Cup. This will happen in Plattling (Bavaria) in two years. Frey has already ridden a lot on the wave there. Home advantage, so to speak. And perhaps the opportunity to finish a few positions in the international field. Photo: private

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