- The sport of kayaking is at a standstill. Sales are down, there are fewer boats on the water, and the pros are making less, which is exactly why the Whitewater Grand Prix is so important. For the 2014 event, 35 competitors from around the world descended on Quebec’s raging Mistassini River for two weeks and six events. The goal was simple: crown the best all-around kayaker in the world. When Outside's Frederick Reimers traveled to Quebec last spring to take in all the action for a feature in the April issue, photographer Thomas Prior tagged along to give us a look behind the scenes of kayaking's coolest competition.
Photo: Dane Jackson, pro kayaker and two-time defending champion of the Whitewater Grand Prix, goes inverted on his way to a third title, while the fans look down from a bridge above.Kayaks litter the parking lot of the Chute Des Peres motel in Dolbeau-Mistassini, Quebec, which served as a headquarters of sorts for the event.Paddlers have to make their way back to the starting gates on their own in many cases. This time, it's through the woods for a second run.A few of the sport's best. From left to right: Dane Jackson, Rush Sturges, and Aniol Serrasolses.The Grand Prix isn't designed for spectators. Instead, event organizers focus on releasing killer video edits for the Web. Here, some loyal onlookers check out the Bridge Rapid.Kalob Grady throws down an air screw, the sport’s most spectacular trick—an inverted flip in which the kayak spins on its axis like a spiraling football.Warming up around the fire. With a total of 35 competitors—25 men and seven women—the bonds are strong. For many, much of the year is spent with the other athletes traveling around the world.Competitor and aspiring drone pilot Ben Marr gets ready to launch and film some rapids.FaceTime with friends at the start of the closing party, which ended around 2 a.m. Though mostly focused on getting the best footage in prime conditions, the competitors also left plenty of time for fun during the two-week event.One of the most seasoned kayakers out there, Rush Sturges hits the drop during stage six of the giant slalom event. Sturges is a total hit on and off the water. Even though he earned his fame on countless first descents around the world, he is no stranger to the freestyle events and maybe even a little hip hop freestyle after a few drinks.The life. A group gathers to cook dinner in the parking lot of the Chute Des Peres motel in Dolbeau-Mistassini, after a practice run at Black Mass.Dane Jackson rips through some whitewater. His dad, Eric, is the most decorated paddler of all time and the owner of Jackson Kayaks.Martina Wegman, a young pro kayaker from the Netherlands, looks down on the final section of the last leg.Paddlers wait their turn before running rapids and stay dry under a makeshift tent.Spectators watch at the largest falls on the last leg of the 2014 event.Paddlers wait at the start of the Black Mass stage, which is one of three freestyle stages that take place in Class V rapids and big waves.