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Heaven to compete in national kayaking championships 

By Darren Lum
When
recent Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate Coleman Heaven
speaks about his interest in kayaking it goes back to love: for the
sport and for his father.
He started whitewater kayaking several
years ago because of his older cousin James Mildon, but he stayed in the
sport because of his father, Paul.
“My
dad got into it with me and we took it on together, learned how to
[kayak] roll. My dad and I would go to the river like every day for a
couple of hours and just paddle. We did that for many years and now it’s
kind of like when I come home: ‘Hey, Dad! You want to go kayaking?’ He
still loves to paddle. It’s great,” Coleman said. 
His father even made the trip with Coleman to Alberta when it hosted nationals last year.
“He’s always been my paddling guy,” he said. 
The
freestyle kayaker is looking to take his passion and compete against
the best paddlers in the country, who are coming to his home turf at the
Gull River at the 2019 Canoe Kayak Whitewater National Championships
from Aug. 14 to 18.
The local teen is very familiar with the venue, particularly Earl’s Hole.
“I
know that feature really well. I grew up on that feature. That’s where I
learned how to kayak so I think I’ll have an added advantage of being
able to do that,” he said. 
He’s
been paddling the river there for the past seven years. It’s given him
confidence based on knowledge of the water under all different
conditions, taking into account weather, water flow and height. This
will prove invaluable to know where and when to initiate tricks.
Heaven
will have added motivation when he competes on Friday, Aug. 16, since
he missed out on a podium finish by one spot in last year’s national
championships and is set to age out of juniors. He said the upcoming
championship is an opportunity for “redemption” by earning a podium
finish. 
“I
don’t care too much if it’s first, second or third, but I definitely
would love to taste the podium, especially since it’s my last year in
junior. That’s my goal for competition. I’d love to be top-three, but
again, we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
As
team trials are every two years, he’ll be aiming for the podium without
the benefit of a spot with the junior national team like last year. 
He
also hopes to compete next year and earn a top-five finish in open
division for men to make the national team so he can compete at the
World Championships in Nottingham in 2021.
Coleman
has been preparing for this championship by executing tricks while on
flat water near his place of work on the Ottawa River.
Scoring for freestyle kayaking, he said, is like freestyle skiing.
“You
don’t have to do any specific trick, but you have 45 seconds in the
hole to do as many tricks as you can. You can only do one trick once and
then you get bonuses if you can link the tricks together,” he said. The
greater the flow for a 45 second routine, the greater the bonus points.
Among
the tricks that could be performed at the freestyle national
competition are a front loop, a space Godzilla, McNasty, lunar orbit, a
back loop and a phonics monkey.
Heaven
said the tricks possess different values for difficulty and are
assigned points based on execution, or air out of the water for a trick.
He
said the type of tricks he will perform will come down to the day, but
his approach is to perform tricks with an ascending level of difficulty,
and once he has a solid foundation of points he will look to execute
high level of difficulty tricks such as a phonics monkey, which is among
the higher point value tricks. The trick is a 360 degree pirouette on
the bow of the kayak into a front aerial flip.
“It’s
pretty sweet to see. You don’t see it too much in competition because
it’s quite tricky, but I would love to put it down. Especially in
junior. You see it more in open men’s,” he said. 
If his attempt at a challenging, high scoring trick isn’t successful, the strategy won’t leave him needing more points.
Last
year, he remembers how there was a preliminary round with two 45-second
runs with both counting towards a top-10 berth to the semi-finals.
There was a pair of runs again (possibly three) and the cumulative score
counted towards a top-five final berth. In the finals, there were three
runs and the best counted to the final result. 
Hosted
by Canoe Kayak Canada and Whitewater Ontario at the Minden Wild Water
Preserve on the Gull River, located off Horseshoe Lake Road, the
multi-day championship will include freestyle and slalom racing.
The
event’s competition will begin on Aug. 14 with the Downriver Classic
and Sprint Race, which is from Horseshoe Falls to Otter Slide. The next
day the extreme slalom race will be start at noon and end at 3 p.m. The
freestyle nationals at Earl’s Hole on the river are on Friday,
commencing at 10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. At the same time, from 11
a.m. to noon is the under-12 slalom race. 
The
semi-final at 9:30 a.m. and the finals at noon will be held on Sunday
to conclude the championships, which will determine national champions
for males and females in each discipline, including award paddlers with
the Overall Best paddler (best combined scores from all disciplines for
males and females), the Andrew Westlake Memorial Award (top three female
and male paddlers in the junior kayak 1 on Saturday), the Christa
Kerckhoff Cup (fastest female paddler from open nationals on Sunday) and
the Podium Prospect Award (best combined scores from slalom and
wildwater).
According
to an event page on Facebook, volunteers are needed for the event. Find
a link on their Facebook page by searching 2019 Canoe Kayak Whitewater
National Championships. 
Heaven
 appreciates freestyle for its blend of the creative aspect, performing
tricks and the adrenaline rush that comes with riding the waves.
“There’s
really not any limitations to what you can do. It’s all fair game. You
get every opportunity to do anything. You’ve got 45 seconds to put
together whatever ride you want,” he said. “You can spend a day at a
wave or a hole with good friends laughing, trying tricks over and over
again. It’s just a fun thing to do. It’s not like some other sports
[where you have to] perform hard, rigid training and it almost takes the
fun out of it.”
When asked what attributes a person needs to do what he does, he said it comes down to comfort. 
“You
got to be very comfortable in water … you’re going to have bad days
and going to have good days too. If you’re not having fun even on your
bad days you’re not going to enjoy it, right? You always have to be able
to go out with a growth mindset and just be able to have good time no
matter what happens that day,” he said.
Heaven is attending Queen’s University and will be studying engineering this autumn.
Before
he does, he is teaching teens from 13 to 17 kayaking on the Ottawa
River this summer, inspiring other young people like him at the Ottawa
kayak school. He has enjoyed his time working, getting to paddle every
day and “[trying] to inspire their passion for water like how I have.
It’s fun to watch them grow,” he said. 
He
said the public should come out, enjoy the atmosphere and be prepared
to be amazed at the high level of kayaking in real life. 

“It’s just a great time … It’ll be cool to watch what people can do in a kayak,” he said.