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2019 Edmonton Cup of the North

Last weekend saw the much anticipated "Cup of the North" premier kayak polo tournament, held annually up in Edmonton Alberta, Canada. Competition rental boats were provided by Obeco and the Edmonton polo club who also set up a giant scoreboard, timing system, goals, lines, bleachers and team staging areas at the world class Kinsmen Sports Center. 

The event attracted players from all over Canada, the USA and even a powerhouse, A division team, the "Welsh Dragons", who travelled all the way from beautiful Wales in the UK. Also braving the frigid (-27' windchill -40') conditions, Carter Danforth, myself- Sam Curtis (PDXKP) and Chris Brubaker (Seatle Kayak Polo) headed north to join forces with Victoria and Vancouver BC polo paddlers. Combining together they fielded 2 teams: "Pacific North West" and "Vancouver Island". Playing in the B division, competition was tough. In their first game, PNW faced a combination of Canadian Women's national team and Candian U21 players and lost 5-1! Then VI faced the US women's team with a similar result. Playing on an exhausting full size pitch, it soon became obvious that PNW and Vancouver Island teams hadn't played much together as a blood bath quickly ensued. Gradually, over the course of the tournament, both teams began to play hard, cohesion improved and pride was restored. (I don't have the results schedule or win/loss but, PNW won against V.I. and then playing for 6th and 7th V.I. beat PNW). With a city wide power outage in the afternoon of Day 1, cancelled games were pushed to early on Day 2 with PNW facing the victorious US women at 730am. Good start to the day!

 It was an incredible experience playing against national team members and getting great coaching and guidance from ex Canadian national team players, Catherine O'Brian and Thyren Garde-Jacobs and ex- Scottish National team member, Colin Wilson. Getting to watch high level polo games all weekend was super fun, impressive and educational. Watching the triangle shaped A division players with their tactics, finesse and power was a real treat. 

With sore muscles, some bruised knuckles and egos, things were made buoyant by beer and sarsaparillas, conversations turned to the next time we could get together and play. With talk of organizing regional tournaments and growing excitement for the upcoming Alder Cup, April 26th - 28th Vancouver Lake near Portland OR, organized by Amy Carlson and hosted by PDXKP.  Amy has been in conversation with national team members to come and coach a clinic prior to the tournament. This should not be missed!

 A big thanks goes out to Catherine for her incredible organization and wrangling. Also, deep gratitude to Adam Hering, Mum and Dad Karen and Abe Hering for opening their home and allowing a couple car loads of kayakers to crash their family home for several nights!

I can't speak any more highly of the experience, I know it raised my game and the game of those who attended. Hopefully next year we can send more players from our region, bring back some additional skills, memories and even a few more victories!

 Sam
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