Freestyle kayaker Charlie Brackpool from Horsham is hoping to make a real splash when he competes for Great Britain at the World Cup in Spain next month.
‘Space Godzillas’ and ‘lunar orbits’ will be among the adventurous tricks the 17-year-old Collyer’s student will attempt to pull off when he takes to the water in the junior section of the major international event, held across two venues - Salt and Sort, near Barcelona at the start of July.
“I’ve competed at nationals but this will be my first international competition,” said Charlie, who is part of the five-man junior squad that will be competing at the same venues and time as the senior ICF World Cup.
“I’m feeling a mix of emotions, I’m so excited to be competing for GB, it’s a massive opportunity and one I’ve been building up to for the last few years. It’s my first really big competition so inevitably I’ll have some big nerves, but I’m hoping to focus those nerves to help me perform to my best rather then let them hold me back.”
It was at his eighth birthday party held down at Southwater Water Sport Centre that the former Forest Boys School pupil first got into a kayak. After returning some years later and enjoying Saturday sessions there for about a year, coach Ben West - who had got as high as 11th in the world - suggested he try freestyle kayaking at Nottingham, one of the top places in the country to do the unique sport.
There he met newly crowned world champion James ‘Pringle’ Bebbington and he hasn’t looked back since. “James taught me how to do a front flip within a day and I was instantly hooked,” Charlie said.
And he added: “At school I wasn’t ever the kid picked first so I never expected to be picked for a sports team, let alone the GB sports team. It just seemed to click with freestyle kayaking. I never even used to like swimming lessons because I didn’t like the cold water but now I ride rivers that are -3 degrees and love it.”
In the last few years Charlie has enjoyed plenty of success competing at national competitions, winning events in the GB League against the best Under-18s in the country which prompted his World Cup selection.
But competing on the world stage will mean a major step up in class - though Charlie doesn’t seem fazed. He said: “As it’s my first international event I’m certainly not expecting to go and win it, I’m just going to enjoy it and give it my best shot. England have produced quite a few junior world champions so I’m in very good company.”
Freestyle Kayaking made its Olympic debut at London 2012, and the high-octane sport sees competitors given a short amount of time on the water to perform as many gymnastic style tricks as possible.
Charlie has had some financial help from Collyer’s but is looking for sponsorship to help him progress further as well as fund his dream trip to Uganda. Email him for details: firstname.lastname@example.org