Ross Montandon is fortunate enough to spend most days on the water. He has paddled extensively around the world; competed in World Championships, become British Freestyle Champion, and is one of the youngest ever Level 5 coaches. He created New Wave Kayaking which offers extensive whitewater kayak coaching, to help paddlers really enjoy their paddling! After an initial contact a couple of months back Ross kindly agreed to take part in the Unsponsored 2014 Q&A series. I am so pleased that Ross has taken the time out of his busy schedule to take part in the Q&A. Hope you enjoy the read, I certainly did.
How did you first get into kayaking? Who introduced you to the sport?
I was first introduced when I was 9 years old. At a local Scout camp, a one time taster session got me hooked straight away. From there we found a local canoe club. The Scout organisation is completely responsible for my love of kayaking. It’s great to have volunteers creating opportunities for young people.
When did you realise that kayaking could be a career for you, and not just a hobby?
I went with my instinct, it was a risk not to pursue my passion for whitewater kayaking. It wasn’t a tricky decision at all. Going with your gut instinct is paramount. It allows me to create more opportunities that I would have anywhere else.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional kayaker?
I would with out a doubt be doing something I enjoy as much as kayaking. It would still involve travel, and networking. It would involve good coffee shops and homemade cake thats for sure. Professionally perhaps teaching although I have an overactive imagination and think I would struggle with the limitations put on teachers. Ideally I would be doing something that inspired and motivated people to do the things they enjoy. As that creates a real buzz. Right now I use kayaking to do that but there are many other ways you can help people enjoy the things they enjoy!
What does a regular week look like at this time of year?
Wherever I am I boat everyday. If I am home in Nottingham I will be working from home, gym then paddle. And coach in between. The last 3 years I have been in America on the West Coast between California and Washington. Where there is some superb whitewater to enjoy and some really fun people to enjoy it with!
What did you focus on to become comfortable running big or complex rapids? What allowed you to progress your skills?
Everyone has their own personality for running whitewater. Some love to watch their buddies go first. While others have to crack on with it. I am quite a solitary paddler. Pretty anti-social really, I like to crack on with things. More than happy going first on most rapids. Knowing that at the end of the day the person you have to trust the most is yourself. Your friends are there as back up, but at the end of the day it’s down to you to hit a line. You can only expect your friends to do so much. Trusting your moves and ability to the river is key for my paddling.
Do you have any pre-paddling rituals to help calm your nerves or get you into the zone?
Once I have decided whether I want to run a rapid. I have to crack on with it. I have a window and if I am waiting for paddlers to get into position it just wears me down.
People I paddle with regularly know this trait, and get into position quickly otherwise I am off. I have no specific methods but I do go pretty quiet, march off and crack on. I always feel a bit selfish really but it’s just a style and it’s not personal to the people you are paddling with.
Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world to paddle?
I am really enjoying paddling in America at the moment. The last few years have been great. They have a welcomed ethos out there, more based on enjoying the moment and less about the rapids that you paddled.
I guess Hood River in Oregon is a good hang out. It has everything I like for a boating town. Great whitewater lots of people doing cool things like mountain biking, kitesurfing and running. Yet you can hang out at the coffee shop, and eat ice cream.
I am yet to head down to Pucon in Chile and would love to have an explore around South America.
What paddling kit are you currently using?
I’ve been using Peak UK since I was 14. And have forged a strong relationship with those boys. Helping with the design process is fun to. My recent purchase are my Adidas Boat Shoes, so light and nimble. I can go to the gym in the morning then hit the whitewater in the evening. The boat of choice has to be Zet Raptor it’s fast agile and smooth!
Peak UK Custom Cag
Adidas Boat Shoes
What do you believe is the best kayak design to date?
I still have my Riot Nitro 58. Love that boat, can play the river and run some nice volume. I have paddled the Grand Canyon and surfed Buseater in that boat so much fun!
What do you think has been the most innovative change introduced in to the kayaking world?
Without a doubt EJ has changed the game. We are now seeing the byproduct of his boats. Allowing young people to get into suitably sized boats at a young age as given them a real boast. Meaning people by their early twenties are pushing harder in the play hole and on the creeks. You have to hand it to him, when you see a 9 year old compete in freestyle competition it’s pretty cool. By the time that 9 year old is 18. He would have had 9 years of paddling and competition experience. That is incredible!
Photo credits to Simon Wyndham