At most FreeStyle Canoe events, and also at other events which aren’t centered on FreeStyle Canoeing, there may be an Exhibition of Interpretive FreeStyle Canoe Routines. These are routines of linked maneuvers that the performers have worked out, dancing across the water in their canoes, all set to music, in which the performers usually demonstrate pretty high levels of FreeStyle skills. And sometimes, there’s a Competition, too… What’s the difference?
In Competition, there are four required maneuvers: an Axle, a Post, a Wedge, and either a Cross Axle or a Cross Post. These, and other maneuvers, are scored by the judges. If somebody is doing a non-competitive routine, there are no specifications on required maneuvers, so you can do an entire routine without executing any of the required maneuvers! Judges don’t score Exhibition routines.
For both Exhibition and Competition, the defined performance area (50 x 25 meters) is more encouraged than required… I’ve yet to see anyone put chalk or paint lines down on the water, though it would have some entertainment value. The defined area is encouraged, though, because the further you get from the audience (or judges), the harder it is for people to see what you’re doing, and people DO want to see what you’re doing! Also note that, in a Competition Routine, not using a large enough space may result in a lower score.
In Competition, the performers submit a “Scoring Sheet,” which includes a list of their maneuvers, in the order performed, for the judges to use to score the performance. Obviously, the routine has to be carefully developed ahead of time. For Exhibition, the performance is not scored, so this form is not used; a performer may develop the routine prior to the event, or they may opt to create the routine on the spot, making it up as they go, during the performance… this is called “Flashing” the routine. Both are fun to perform, and fun to watch!
In Competition, performers are expected to “rail the canoe,” that is, during maneuvers, the gunwale should be touching the water; if that doesn’t happen, a lower score may be applied. There is no such expectation for Exhibitionists; they may certainly rail it, but they may also only heel the canoe slightly, depending on their skill level.
For Competition, pre-registration for the event is required, usually about one month prior to the event. This allows the Competition Committee to start planning event details, line up judges, acquire the awards, and other activities associated with the Competition. People who don’t want to Compete are welcome to Exhibit at any event, and these folks don’t have to pre-register; they can announce they’ll be Exhibiting the day of the event.
Both Competitors and Exhibitionists are required to provide their music to the Competition Committee by noon, on the day of the event. This must be on a CD or CD-R (NOT CD-RW!), so it will be compatible with the sound system.
Competitors and Exhibitionists must complete the Competition Announcer Form, containing a few brief comments the performer would like the MC to say by way of introduction, prior to the performance. The MC may occasionally deviate from what’s written, so don’t be too surprised if the MC ad-libs a little from what you wrote. The results are usually pretty humorous!
For more details about Competition Rules, please visit the Competition page, on the FreeStyle Canoeing web site: http://freestylecanoeing.com/competition/.
People approach Competition with different perspectives. Some want to win, others compete just for fun, and some are in between. I harbor no delusions of ever winning a medal for this… mostly, I send in the competition registration, hoping enough people will sign up to HAVE the competition, and I’m happy to finish my routine with dry pants.
I came into FreeStyle wanting to learn the skills, but not with any desire to deal with the music side of it. After I’d been to a couple of Symposiums, and had watched a couple of Competitions, I decided I might try paddling to music, not do any maneuvers, just have some music in the headphones so I could more easily ignore the traffic noise at this lake where I often paddle. After a short while, I found myself paddling in sync with the music, entirely subconsciously… And when the music came to a transition, I did an Axle… The rest, as the adage goes, is history; I was hooked. I quickly found that developing a FreeStyle routine is a lot of fun, and performing it in front of an audience – especially if I keep the canoe upright — is even more fun!
A word of caution, though, if you plan to develop a routine… Make sure you really, REALLY like the piece of music, as you’ll be listening to it hundreds upon hundreds of times, while you work out details of maneuvers and timing. It helps to have a FreeStyle Instructor nearby, who can help with those details, and offer suggestions.
And I’m happy to report that, for the 3 or 4 songs for which I’ve worked out routines, I still like all the songs. It’s almost like some sort of bond is built between you and the music…
Paul Klonowski, with editorial help from Molly Gurien, Bruce Kemp, and Marc Ornstein