Montreal Eau Vive (https://www.mtleauvive.com) takes place in early August on the Lachine rapids on the St. Lawrence River. It is one of the most fun events of the year and should definitely be put on everyone’s calendar! The Pro category is a two day event, with the first day being big wave freestyle and the second day being big water boater cross. The intermediate category is a one day event on Sunday, starting with boater cross and then following that up with big wave freestyle in the afternoon.
To help build the stoke there are freestyle training rides on the Friday afternoon, usually from 4-8pm, with Jet Ski shuttle support.
The pro category competes on 2 different waves on the Saturday - “Big Joe” and “Mavericks”. They are out in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and the only way to get from below the wave to the top to surf again is with a jet-ski shuttle. This is definitely one of the best parts of the event! The judges are out in the middle of the river sitting in a temporary judging hut made of scaffolding - I was out there both days helping with the judging and it was definitely a bit concerning as the weather blew in on Saturday.
Athletes receive 3 rides on Mavericks (the bigger of the 2 waves) and 2 rides on Big Joe. They get 2.5 minutes to do as many tricks as they can. The best 8 tricks per ride count and the top scoring ride per athlete is kept. The athletes top score from Big Joe and Mavericks are then added together to get their overall freestyle score.
The freestyle tricks that the athletes do on waves are completely different than the ones that they do in holes. It’s like you have 2 baskets of tricks that you need to develop depending on if you are paddling on waves or holes in this sport.
The pro category boatercross takes place off a jet boat in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. 6-8 athletes per heat launch off the boat and race head to head downstream to be the first to touch the boat, which has travelled downstream after dropping the athletes off. The top 3 per heat go to semi-finals and then continue on to finals. One of the most challenging parts is the fact that the jet boat finish line is fluid – the boat is moving in the current so you have to time your moves and anticipate the currents, while also worrying about being banged around by your fellow competitors.
The intermediate athletes start Sunday with boatercross from the KSF inlet and race down through the Lachine rapids to the judges stand above Big Joe. Racers can take either the fast line straight through the meat of the rapids (and risk landing in a big hole) or the more conservative line that follows the flow of the river and makes an S-turn above the judges stand to avoid the holes. There is less banging around between athletes and this is more like a fun downriver race.
The athletes then paddle all the way back to shore, about a 30 minute ferry, swap out their creek boats for play boats and head back down the rapids to the judges stand for their big wave session. The intermediate athletes only compete on Big Joe and have 3 two minute rides to collect as many points as possible.
Dropping into Big Joe is daunting all by itself as it towers above the paddler (at least twice your height) but it sure is a fun ride. Mavericks is even bigger and faster, which is why it is left for the Pro paddlers to tackle.
For many people the attraction to the event is the chance to get a jet ski shuttle to surf big waves, and to launch yourself off a jet boat – who wouldn’t want to do that??? Check out Seth Ashworth’s latest video to get a close up view of both those experiences.
This was Hunter’s second year attending the event and he came in 3rd in the Pro Junior Men’s category. Having one year under his belt to understand how it all works really helped. It was our first year attending as a family and we’ll definitely be back next year to compete and volunteer – may be it’s even time for the adults to participate in the intermediate event while Hunter continues as a pro… We hope to see you there!
The Vincent Family
Photos by Eric Friedenson & Lee Vincent