Courtesy of World of Freesports
A “sick line” is the perfect, smoothest and fastest line downriver. And that is exactly what the World Championship competitors have to find when racing down the famous section of the glacier-fed Ötztaler Ache River that is peppered with loads of natural obstacles. The Wellerbrücke rapids are solid class 5 whitewater, both technically difficult and dangerous. The course has the reputation of being the Eiger Northwall of whitewater kayaking. Its well-known rapids have illustrious names like “TNT Cataract”, “Champions Killer” or “Champions Killer Minus 1”. They are both feared and endeared by extreme kayakers, all of whom respect the river as much as they want to conquer it. Any mistakes paddlers may make have high consequences. Therefore, the field of international kayakers is filtered down in two qualification runs to determine the best extreme paddlers who then compete in the actual World Championship race.
Despite the international field of competitors, the World Championship title was handed round among five nations only. In the men’s category, six athletes claimed all gold medals. Germany’s Thilo Schmitt triumphed in the inaugural race in 2008; Olympic Champion Alexander Grimm surprisingly beat the renowned extreme paddlers from around the world in 2009. In the years 2010-2012, Kiwi Sam Sutton dominated the field, the only athlete to ever achieve a hattrick in this race. Many kayakers thought that Sutton was unbeatable on the Wellerbrücke rapids, because each year he undercut his own course record. However, in 2013 former slalom paddler Joe Morley achieved the impossible and claimed the World Championship belt for Great Britain. In 2014, Morley won for a second time, inspiring many of his fellow countrymen to compete in the adidas Sickline Worlds. For the past three years, Great Britain has sent the largest team to the Extreme Kayak World Championship – 25% of the participants are from the UK.
For the last two years the WCH-title went to Spain – it even remained within one family. Gerd Serrasolses won the adidas Sickline in 2015 while setting a new course record. His younger brother Aniol Serrasolses triumphed on the Wellerbrücke rapids in 2016. Since 2015, when the number of female participants exceeded 20 for the first time, the event also hosts a female World Championship. Norway’s Mariann Saether won the first gold medal, Sandra Hyslop from the UK won the title last year, defending the honour of the British team that always returned home with a medal since 2013.