Name: Rowan Stuart
Hometown: Stecoah, NC
Sponsors: Pyranha Kayaks, Astral Buoyancy, Immersion Research, Watershed Drybags, Rapid Straps, Terravida Thread.
Â How many years have you been paddling? Competing?
I got my first kayak when I was in the 5th grade, which is seven years ago now, but I didnâ€™t actually like kayaking until at least three years later. My first competition was a Hometown Throwdown during GAF in 2010. I was bribed to compete with an energy drink, and my trick list consisted of flat spins.
What got you into freestyle kayaking?
My parents were a C2 team, back in the day, and my dad was a big C1-er. He bought me my first kayak, but I wasnâ€™t actually interested in it until middle school, when I was friends with a boy who really liked kayaking. From then on, my goal was to get better than him, so I started working more on my freestyle. For a summer and a half, all I would do was flat spin, but with some awesome peer pressure, I learned how to loop.
Youâ€™re the local girl, howâ€™s it feel to compete at your home feature?
Iâ€™m excited! Everyone gets to come to my river! This is the first place that I did a loop, the feature that I perfected my flat spins on, and itâ€™s going to be awesome.
How about home field advantage? Do you think you have a big leg up over other paddlers?
I feel like this feature takes a bit of time to get used to, and I hope that Iâ€™ll have more of an advantage because Iâ€™m already used to it.
Do you think having it be your home feature adds any extra pressure?
Though I would like to pretend that it doesnâ€™t, I think thereâ€™s definitely a little extra pressure. Lots of people have come up to me, telling me that they canâ€™t wait to see me win, and know that Iâ€™ll crush it because World Championships are here at my home river.
This is your first world championships, howâ€™s it feel? Nervous, excited?
Hmm… I actually havenâ€™t been thinking much about the competition. Iâ€™m very excited to see everyone, and Iâ€™m ready to see how I hold up to the competition!
What have you been up to getting prepared for the worldâ€™s?
Iâ€™ve been kayaking a lot! Thatâ€™s about all there is to it. Iâ€™ve been trying to get two sessions at the Nantahala feature almost every day. Iâ€™ll spend a while working on my competition rides, but once I feel like Iâ€™m getting tired, I just focus on having fun. My new strategy to forgetting about the pressure is practicing how many window shades I can do in a row. Iâ€™m up to five right now.
Whatâ€™s your competition day routine?
Whatever I feel like. I hadnâ€™t thought about it that much at all. Food first, of course, then some stretching early on in the morning, and then some coaching from the team? Right before the comp, is definitely the time for a pre-competition playlist to get in the zone, then paddle my best, do well, and celebrate.