Barlett’s freestyle kayak fun

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Queenstowner Stephen Bartlett, training here on the Kawarau River, is making a splash on the kayak scene. 

The teenager will represent New Zealand as a junior freestyle kayaker at the world championships after winning selection to the national squad. 

Bartlett, 17, also finished second in the juniors at the National Kayak Freestyle Championships on a new man-made million-dollar “play wave” on Hawea River at Wanaka. 

“The new wave is awesome,” the Wakatipu High pupil says. 

“I’m delighted to win selection – the worlds will be held in North Carolina in September so I’m aiming towards that.” 

‘Playboating’, dubbed freestyle kayaking for competition and in the running for the Olympics, sees a kayaker perform a variety of technical tricks such as 360 spins and aerial flips in one place on a wave. 

“They all have really weird names – McNastys, Phonix Monkey. That’s probably my favourite – you do a pirouette and then turn it into a front loop, flipping your boat in the air,” he says. 

Bartlett began kayaking on Shotover and Kawarau rivers, progressing from slalom to creeking [big drops] to playboating. 

The youngster now hopes to attract new sponsorship from local companies to help fund the US trip.