The King of the Alps 2018 saw a strong turn out of 28 paddlers representing Great Britain this year in the annual battle for the title of the King. Almost 190 paddlers entered the competition to win or to survive the brutal start of the mass marathon, a record number of participants to this extreme kayak event.
Set in the heart of the Alps, Merano (Italy) is already on the map in the world of slalom, but King of the Alps takes part a little further up the Passirio Valley and is firmly holding the spot as one of the best extreme kayaking competitions in Europe.
The men's senior K1 category, being limited to a 120 max start, provided a tidal wave of kayakers coming down the opening class 4 rapid. Ben Johnson was the quickest Brit in the 7km marathon with a time of 24.45min, and after a difficult start Gareth Farrow battled his way through the masses to gain a finishing time of 24.49 min, seconds behind Johnson, narrowly qualifying them both into the final.
The Juniors, Women's and Master's category were in the second starting group with youngster Jonas Walter (ITA) using his local knowledge to show some great fast lines, leading this pack. University of Derby student Beki Waters was the fasted British lady earning herself 15th place in her debut appearance in the race. Queen of the Alps was won by former Women's Sickline champ Martina Wegman (NETH). The Masters category was fought over hard with Richard Skilling coming 12th in the Masters A and in the 50+ Masters GB representatives David Topliss and Joe Stalker completed an exhilarating race in 6th and 7th respectively.
The third starting group was the ever more popular OC1. Bobby McKee (GBR) was back to defend his OC1 title and even fellow Brit and co-owner of Silverbirch canoes James Dennis had come along to try and steal the crown, but it was not to be. The open boaters definitely provided the most action packed start of the day with “Howes hole” claiming a handful of victims, but McKee beat his way through to win yet again, with Sabrina Barm (FRA) taking a very respectable 2nd place, and Felix Hundemman (GER) in 3rd.
In the team race things hotted up with Gareth Farrow joining Lyndon Williams and Ben Johnston with Elliot Goddard. Other Brits paired together were the Stalker brothers Rich and Rob from Copeland Canoe Club and Jake Potts teamed up with Wick Jackson. Although all teams put on a strong performance it was the Czech Hiko team of Honza Lasko and Viktor Legat who got knighted with swords.
In the men’s final Farrow got off to a fantastic start taking out the local favourite Daniel Klotzner in the the first round. Other top names were also unsuspectingly knocked out, leaving the playing field open for others. Unfortunately the second round finished in disaster for Gareth as a superhero dive into the 'Intimadator' left him with a broken paddle, although he did manage to safely make it to the finish line with half of it. Luck was also out for Johnson as Ben's first round was against former U23 world champion silver medallist and gold European slalom paddler Mario Leitner (AUT). Leitner also went on to claim the Title of King of the Alps 2018 with an outstanding time of 1.30 mins leaving the others bowing to the king with his show stopping time.
Although British paddlers only came away with one podium place, Bobby McKee with his third King of the Alps title under his belt, leaving the question “can this man be beaten?”
All paddlers who took part were stoked with the weekend action, especially Rob Stalker who's impressive rolling skills had him walking away with a brand new Kober paddle.
The organisers Thomas Waldner, Daniel Klotzner and Caz Goodall would like to thank all participants, many who had travelled far to support this event. Although a small paddling club, they have passion and are dedicated to providing a professional event, making the King of the Alps so popular with paddlers worldwide year on year.
To find out more about the King of the Alps competition, please click here.
Written by Caz Goodall
Photo credits Flo Smith