Paul Palmer, a junior at Fort Lewis College, won the freestyle kayaking national championships last weekend in Georgia.
After multiple rounds, Palmer won the championship by a margin of only seven points, he said.
Palmer lost his paddle on his second run of the final round, Pamela Palmer, Paul’s mother said.
Paddles are specific to the individual kayaker based on factors like height, so they are a personal piece of equipment, Paul’s mother said.
On his third and final run he was able to gain enough points to win, she said.
Kayaking has a small, close knit community, so lot’s of Paul’s friends were there to see him win, she said.
Competitions are judged based on the tricks a boater performs, he said. You can only do a trick one time during the one minute run, Palmer said.
You gain points for doing tricks, and bonus points are awarded for big air and well, cleanly performed tricks, he said.
The freestyle kayak world championships will be held in Argentina in October, Palmer said. There is a qualifying competition to select the United States’ team, he said. Palmer competed at the 2015 world championships in Canada where he got 11th place, he said.
“I might have to take the sidelines on this upcoming world championships just to finish school,” Palmer said.
When Palmer was a junior in high school, he spent the year traveling around the world with a program called World Class Kayak Program, Pamela Palmer said.
During this program he has spent five months in Uganda paddling the Nile River and has also paddled the Yangtze River in China, two renowned places for freestyle kayaking, he said.
“A lot of those rivers are getting dammed, so it’s pretty much now or never,” he said.
Every Summer, Paul travels to Canada to kayak some of the biggest rapids in the world, his mother said.
The best kayakers travel to Quebec and Ontario to film video footage on the best big water rapids, she said.
Durango has good kayaking in the early season and right after the river is at peak flow in places like Vallecito Creek and Baker’s Bridge, he said. There is also the Animas River Park in town, he said.
The Animas River Days is an annual competition in Durango. This year most of the professional circuit will come to the Animas River Days due to another event getting cancelled, Palmer said.
Lot’s of Palmer’s competition at last weekend's championships were from the region where the competition was held in Georgia, he said.
“The big advantage they have on someone from Colorado is they can boat year round,” Palmer said.
The best kayakers live in a place where they can kayak year round, or they travel to the best places, Paul’s mother said. Paul goes to school in Durango because he loves it, she said.
Paul grey up on the river from a pretty young age, he said. He boated with his parents and got into competing in the footsteps of his older brother.
Freestyle kayaking is like a combination of surfing and slopestyle skiing, he said.
“We surf the waves and do tricks as we come down,” he said.
For training, the best thing to do is spend time in the water in your boat, Palmer said. Palmer also does simple bodyweight exercises like pushups and situps, he said.
Paul has always had the ability to focus and compete, his mother said.