Saturday 10th June over 150 athletes from 18 different nations joined together to compete in the 6th Edition of the GoPro King of the Alps. The Passier valley in South Tirol, Italy hosted yet again an action packed event attracting some of the top European kayakers, but this event is not only reserved for the elite few. The first race is a mass start marathon on a beautiful continuous class 3 river with clear blue waters, this year the water was slightly lower than usual but the action was still high and exciting under a sunny blue sky.
The first start is quite brutal with 100 kayakers men senior and masters starting at the top of a good class 3+ rapid, but for those who had a less competitive edge could easily hang back out of the carnage. The second group of Junior and women was a lot more civilized and polite but none the less competitive. Third start group was the Open canoes, only the second year that the open boat catagorie has been included but its proving to be very popular with a solid turn out 20 OC fanatics. The marathon is approximately 7kms taking on average 25mins in normal water levels. Everyone said its particularly gruelling due to the constant line changing, small waves killing your speed, plus a few good holes along the way, all of this while having a constant head 2 head battle. Faces arrived tired but the immediate after race banter was electric, with so many tales coming from the water. For the open boaters, Women, and juniors and many of the men the race ended there. But for the top 20 fastest men, the battle continued with British paddlers Andy Kettlewell (13th) and Ben Johnson (17th) going into the final. The final run was set further up the valley just above the Passer gorge in Moos. This epic class 5 course has a good 4m drop at the start, continuous class 4 leading into the ”Gun Barrels” with paddlers getting shot out at speeds of 25km/ph straight in to the main rapid the “Intimadator”. Here new for this year the team race was also held consisting of two paddlers from the same nation, taking on the course together including an added upstream gate to enhance the excitement. GBR had two teams running Andy Kettlewell and Elliot Goddard finishing 7th followed by Ben Johnson and Jake Potts in 12 place but it was the French duo Jonas le Morvan and Nicolas Caussanel who took the team title. The finalists put in an immense effort, keeping the crowds entertained with some super fast lines and some alternative lines, that had everyone’s eyes glued to the river, but thankfully all made it through safely.
Later after a prize packed award ceremony,Michele Rammazza ITA crowned 2017 GoPro King of the Alps, and the Queen Pavlina Zasterova CZE scooping a £500 voucher from Nookie. Junior title went to Elliot Goddard GBR, meanwhile the open boaters gave him a real run for his money but the reigning ‘King Bob’ McKee also GBR couldn’t be beaten in the OC category, meaning Bob gets to keep his nick name for another year. The athletes lottery including a Star prize Hiko Dry suit. the fun continued in the the pool with a “Non finalists roll out”. The fastest 10 eskimo rolls took home a new Exo playboat and 2nd place took home a Kober paddle. The after party started with the paddlers and the locals merging together to make it a mega night with Boof beer, Jelly shots and more………. Once again praise was given all round for the voluntary King Team from the local sport club DRD4 for their professional run event, with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere that couldn’t be beaten!!