Photo Credit: Norm Kirchner
Under a blue Texas sky, in the shadow of century old cypress trees , the clear spring water of the Rio Vista was churning with boats and paddles during the 2012 US National Kayak Polo Championships. Eighteen teams from seven states and Canada converged on San Marcos, Texas, Oct. 19-21 for the 14th annual tournament, which crowns the U.S. National Champions.
In the Club A Division, the Austin Aquabats - in a brutally close battle that ended 4-3 - defeated their historic rivals, the San Francisco Pelicans. For the Austin Aquabats this was the second straight national title and their fifth since 2005, making them the club with the most titles in the country. The Austin Aquabats also secured first place in the Club B Division and third place in the Women Division. The winning team in the Women Division was the Unstoppable Unicorns, a combination of players from East and West Coast clubs. The Bomb Squad, a selection of players from the Canadian Men National Team, won the International Trophy, in the portion of the tournament not restricted to US Clubs competing for the National Title.
Also awarded during the tournament was the Albert Wang Memorial Trophy. This trophy honors the memory of Albert Wang, former San Francisco and US Men National Team player, who tragically succumbed to cancer in 2008. Since then, the award is presented each year at the end of the US National Championships to recognize the person or group that during the previous year has shown a particular passion and dedication to the sport of kayak polo and its development in North America.
This year the trophy was presented to US Women National Team coach Stephen Gale, for his accomplishments during the 2012 World Championships held in Poland earlier this year. There, the US Women had one of their most successful runs ever at a World Championships, ultimately defeating the highly favored Canadian team and earning an invitation to represent the American continent at the 2013 World Games to be held in Cali, Colombia. The US Women National Team is already hard at work to prepare for this important event, and competed during the U.S. National Championships as part of the Club A Division against men’s teams, to be better prepared for the high level of competition they will face next year in South America.
With an impressive turnout of teams and spectacular weather, the tournament was a popular weekend attraction. The public was treated to three days of elegantly furious action with world class athletes, cheering on the usual favorites as well as some new comers, such as the San Marcos team made up of local members of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Like any major sporting event, the tournament could not have been such a resounding success without the help of many persons and entities. The City of San Marcos has always been very supportive, as this is the third major kayak polo event held at the site, which most recently had hosted the 2011 Kayak Polo Pan American Championships. The River Pub graciously allowed the use of their garden and lower deck throughout the event for organizers, competitors, and spectators. The Austin Paddling Club, to which the members of the local Aquabats polo teams belong, has used the experience gained by hosting three previous kayak polo events by working tirelessly to set up the goals and docks during the week preceding the event, ensuring that the tournament would run without problems, and managing to take down the entire venue in approximately three hours on Sunday evening. Countless non-playing volunteers provided much needed logistical help, moral support, and a cheerful attitude throughout the weekend. And finally all participants, while competing to the best of their capabilities against each other on the pitch, contributed to the great atmosphere of friendship and respect always present within the kayak polo community.
Club A Division Club B Division Women Division
US National Championships
1. Austin Aquabats
2. San Francisco Pelicans
3. New York Hammerheads
1. Canada Bomb Squad International Teams
US Club Teams
1. Austin Aquabats B
2. San Francisco Bandits
3. North Carolina Shipwrecks
1. Canada Cruncha International Teams
US National Championships
1. Unstoppable Unicorns
2. New York Women
3. Austin Aquabats Babes
1. Canada Womenb
a. Placed 3rd overall but was ghosted from final division standings.
b. Placed 1st overall but was ghosted from final division standings.