Minden kayaker Coleman Heaven cartwheeled, twisted and flipped his way to a silver medal before his hometown crowd in the national junior men’s freestyle competition Aug. 16.
Heaven put up a score of 260 for the final round at the 2019 Canoe Kayak Whitewater National Championships on the Gull River, good for second place. He beat out most of the field of 13 kayakers throughout the day, getting through three rounds before his finals’ performance.
“I’m pretty stoked,” Heaven said. “You kind of get in the groove and the tricks were just clicking.”
Heaven called it “redemption” after narrowly missing the podium with a fourthplace finish at the 2018 nationals in Alberta.
“I definitely wanted to make the podium this year,” Heaven said. “I didn’t care where.”
The recent Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate got his start kayaking on the same Gull River. After watching a cousin kayak, Heaven picked the sport up and never looked back.
“I just got to a point and people started talking to me, ‘you should go try out’,” Heaven said.
Heaven has only kayaked competitively for two years. His discipline is freestyle, where competitors perform on a single rapid, aiming to get the highest score possible. Athletes twist and flip into the air, performing tricks such as the “Space Godzilla,” an aerial loop with a 90 degree or greater rotation.
“I don’t like being told what to do. I just follow my heart,” Heaven said of his discipline selection. “I’m pretty stoked that freestyle gives me that opportunity. Plus, I find it more intense.”
However, his family said it can be hard to watch. Competitors intentionally dip themselves beneath the rushing water. Getting spit out downstream is common. “There’s a point where you just have to start looking away,” dad Paul Heaven said. “That’s a given.”
Mom Irene said Coleman’s love for the sport has helped him succeed.
“For him, I think kayaking is such a joy. When he gets stressed with school or something, he goes kayaking. I don’t know if it is a lot of work for him, as opposed to a lot of fun,” she said.
Heaven has no plans to stop. With his last year of junior men’s competition behind him, he plans to perform on the world stage at the senior level by making the men’s national team.
“I’d like to compete at worlds in Nottingham in 2021. That’s my goal right now,” Heaven said.
Although the competitive season is wrapped up, Heaven said he’ll continue working on his chosen sport through the rest of the year, taking to the waters he loves.
“I’ve always been really comfortable in the water. I’ve never had any fear,” Heaven said. “That overall helps me be comfortable when I’m kayaking.”