2021 Rider of the Year

Presented by

The official logo of title sponsor Red Bull
Most outstanding male all around performance in the World of Whitewater Kayaking. The dude with the most progressive year, inspiring us all to push past our current belief of what we think is possible.

Aniol Serrasolses

While locked down in Chile, Aniol Serrasolses (ESP) has put in countless hours on the rivers of his new homeland, honing his skills and perfecting lines and drops that have been previously (and still are) labeled as portages, dialing in new moves, and opening up new runs near the Futaleufu. But what sets him apart as Rider of the Year (AGAIN) is what he has done with downriver freestyle. 

aniol ROTY 2021
photo: Lachie Carracher

Aniol has consistently redefined what was possible in downriver freestyle, executing tricks that kayakers dreamed of for years. The Lincoln Loop off of a waterfall, Cobra Flip, front flip off a waterfall, the Orbit Flip…Then, a few months ago, Aniol stomped a trick that yet again defied what is possible in a kayak: a double kickflip off of a waterfall. Even more impressive is that he didn’t just huck it and hope. He stomped it with style and grace- on the first try! 

WWA ANIOL 4X5 2021
Voted Rider of the Year for three of the last five years, this is familiar territory to this living legend.

When Travis Pastrana blew the world’s mind by landing the first double backflip on a moto, he paved the way for the current riders to hit them daily with flair and style, even inspiring another rider to go for and land a triple backflip. This is what Aniol is single-handedly doing for the sport of kayaking right now: inspiring and pushing the entire sport. After he creates a trick like the Cobra Flip, it immediately leads others to try it, sparking creativity and opening up a whole new way of looking at the river- or the closest snowfield. This just the beginning: who knows who will take what Aniol has done and push it even further.

Whitewater Awards: Where are you from, and where do you currently live?
Aniol Serrasolses: I was born in Catalonia, Spain. These days I spent most of my time in Futaleufu, sort of the entrance to Patagonia in the southern region of Chile. Gaucho land: Remote, pristine, and beautiful. I actually live at the takeout of the Fu in a small cabin I finished building during the pandemic. It’s an incredible place to live, close and connected to the river.

WA: WA: Do you have siblings? Do they kayak?
AS: Yes, I have my older brother, Gerd, my sister Ginesta, and a younger brother, Sauc. As you might well know, Gerd is a beast at kayaking but what you don’t know is that my sister Ginesta is actually a really sick kayaker, too. She came to Chile last winter and jumped straight into a super high water Futaleufu. She followed me all the way through Casa de Piedra with a smile on her face, even though she had never had done a river of that size and hadn’t kayaked for years… If she had kept kayaking the way we have, she could have been at Nouria’s level for sure… or better, jajaja.

3 PaoloAvila PhotoOTY RioCochrane
photo: Paolo Avila

WA: You just built a house at the takeout of the Futaleufu, near your brother and his family, and you built a mountain bike trail behind the house?! Look awesome! How long have you been there? How were you able to get that piece of property?
AS: It is a dream spot. I first came to Futa in 2009; I was 18-years-old and fell in love with the river and the beautiful valley. Since then, I always knew that I would live here someday. What I love about Futa is the simplicity of my life. I kayak, I work, I live… there’s no noise and distractions. I have total freedom to do whatever I want. These days that tranquility is priceless.

I do have a pretty dope mountain bike trail that James Byrd and friends helped me build a year ago. It’s so sick to be able to kayak all day and go for a quick lap with the bike before the day is over.

It’s been two years living in Chile full-time now. I was never hungry growing up, and I always had what I needed. But I don’t come from a family with money. All I have I have now I have obtained myself with lots of work and dedication.

dianasamardzich futaleufu as
photo: Diana Samardzich

WA: Is there anywhere else you’d like to put down roots
AS: BC in Canada would have been sick, and so would the Columbia River Gorge in the US… Both are epic locations with good people and a ton of fun activities to do. Unfortunately, the land prices are out of my league, and the VISA process looks so tough as well… I’ll just stay as a tourist and come visit once in a while ☺

WA: What is a good thing to come out of the past year that you weren’t expecting
AS: The only good thing I can see is that it gave me the time to finally finish my cabin in Futa. Everything else has been a total disaster and arguably one of the shittiest years of the last decade for me. 

KayakSession 15
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: WA: Even so, you have been getting AFTER IT while down in Chile during the pandemic! First EVER Double Kickflip?!! What the absolute fuck!?! How long had you been thinking this one up? Was Tomatita the perfect drop? How many tries did it take to stomp it?
AS: Hahaha, thank you!! It’s been a dream for so long!!! I have an old notebook with many goals. The double has been in there for years…

I first started hearing about the double in the first Whitewater Grand Prix in Canada. Benny and Dane were getting so much air on their airscrews that it felt like it was just a matter of time to see them have it dialed. Fast forward 9 years, and we were still at the same place. Noone had been actively trying to figure this out. They would talk about it often but weren’t really going for it. That’s when I decided that I would try it in my own way. I could never do it bouncing off a wave, but I knew that with the right waterfall, I would have enough time to pull two full rotations. 

Tomatita was the perfect size and drop for it. The lip was a bit shallow, but the height was perfect. With more practice, we’ll be able to do them in way smaller drops… maybe even waves?? That day I tried an orbit flip first, but it was too shallow at the lip, and I ended up failing hard. I didn’t want to keep trying the orbit and went straight for the double on the second lap. It worked out on my first attempt!! I took a big hit at the bottom, so I didn’t go for it again. On the third run, I went for a laid-out backie, and that was it for me that day.

Snow Kayaking Project – ending in the first ever double flip done in a kayak.
film by: @asierfilms & @nicogantz

WA: You keep coming up with new tricks every year – two years ago, the Cobra Flip, last year the Orbit Flip, and this year the Double Dub. Where do you draw inspiration for this creativity? What is creativity to you?
AS: I really like to imagine new lines, moves, and styles and then bringing them to reality. Creativity is the ability to take risks!!

WA: The snow kayaking video was badass!! Tell us more about the “Source to Sea” idea.
AS: Connecting snow, dirt, and water in the same project was something special. My idea with the source to sea project was to attract the attention of the main public but still stay core to my sport, pushing the limits of what’s possible in downriver freestyle.

NG 200918 Aniol Serrasolses Snow Kayak 1937
photo: Nico Gantz

WA: You really sent it! Did you get injured? 
AS: I did not get injured but definitely had sore ribs, wrist, back, and neck for a few days… luckily, the hot springs got me back to full form.

WA: Who was the awesome film company you were working with?
AS: We produced the video with @asierfilms and @nicogantz and then sold it to RedBull. It was a small crew, only one videographer, and a photographer, but we are so used to working together that we can do really epic stuff with very little. 

KayakSession 151
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: What is the most significant kayaking achievement that stands out in the last year? Ever?
AS: The first double kickflip in a kayak and being able to have a place to call HOME.  

WA: Where did the nickname ‘Cobra’ come from?
AS: When I was a teenager, they used to call me the worm because I was super skinny and small. With time I moved to “Culebra” and eventually became la COBRA when I started to kayak properly, sending some first descents …. It’s been an evolution, haha

KayakSession 10
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: How long have you been a professional kayaker? How does it feel to have achieved this dream?
AS: I got my first sponsor at 19, but I only started making a living from kayaking after 23. It is unreal when I look back… to look at where I started to where I am now. No one thought I could have been so successful with kayaking.

WA: Who was your first sponsor, and how did you approach your first sponsorship?
AS: Contacts are everything!!  Rush Sturges got me into Sweet Protection and Dagger Kayaks in 2011. A good word from someone inside the company goes a loooong way, and I’ll forever be grateful to all the friends who have helped me and shown me the how’s of this lifestyle. But in the end, my best advice would be to not spend your life waiting for a call from someone. You need to hustle, work your ass off, and cultivate your relationships with the brands for years. You have to make their investment worth it, show up when they need you… Basically, you get what you put

KayakSession 131
photo: Matias Mondaca
KayakSession 14
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: What do you think the future of the sport is?
AS: Freeride for sure. Harder runs, waterfalls, and rapids navigated with more style, new moves for downriver freestyle off bigger waterfalls, doubles with other tricks—why not a 3x??? Good stuff is about to happen. We are at that moment in our sport that some technology upgrades would make a huge difference. Kayak outfitting has been the same for over 20 years; having some sort of suspension under the seat would allow us to send it soooo much harder…. 

WA: On average, how many days per year do you paddle?
AS: On the best years 330+, these days I must be about 270.

KayakSession 2
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: On average, how many days a year are spent traveling?
AS: Before the pandemic, I was spending 10 months of the year traveling. I did not have a place to call home, so the road was the natural place to be

WA: What is the hardest thing about traveling so much? Do you find it challenging to create a routine?
AS: It is really hard to keep a good workout routine, the perfect diet, keeping up with computer work…

WA: What drives you to be better and continue to push the sport to new levels
AS: I love to push myself to be the best version of myself, on and off the water. There will be a day that I’ll look back at all the things I’ve done in my kayak, and I really want to be proud. There’s so much more I still need to accomplish to be content…

IMG 9592

WA: Who is an idol or someone you look up to in kayaking? Someone outside of kayaking who inspires you?
AS: Scott Lindgren, EG, and my brother Gerd have all been huge inspirations over the years. There are many more, actually, but I can’t name them all here.

WA: You obviously shred hard AF in a kayak. What other shreds do you enjoy?
AS:  Biking, surfing, and I also started boxing this summer, which has been incredibly fun and an epic training for cardio and coordination.

KayakSession 111
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: Did you play any other sports as a kid?
AS: Yes, I played soccer and water polo. I also did some mountaineering and skiing with my dad.

WA: Any other professional sports you are a fan of and follow closely?
AS: I definitely follow surfing, MMA, soccer, skiing, and biking.

WA: What do you do to prepare for a big rapid or waterfall? How do you unwind after completing a goal? 
AS: Lots of visualization, some deep breathing, and some work on the mind. When on long days on the river, I try to never get too excited. I try to keep it at a constant rhythm all day long. This way, I am in much more control of my energy; there are not so many ups and downs. Calm and steady always.

KayakSession 19
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: How do you balance progression with fun?
AS: 80% fun 20% progression. Kayaking has always been about having fun, and that’s why I never got burned out, and I’ve been successful at it.

WA: Do you follow a health philosophy or a specific training regime?
AS: I still eat meat or fish but in very small amounts and rarely, like once or twice a week. Most of my diet is based on grains and veggies. The amount of training I do really depends on how busy I am. I do around three days of workout outside the river every week, minimum.

DJI 0321
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA:  Do you ever train flatwater or schedule your days off?
AS: I never train flatwater in Futa, the whitewater sections are way too good to spend your energy doing flatwater. My racing training here consists of long races against Gerd, around 25 min/9 km, and intervals of different duration depending on the day. I try to paddle every single day and not taking days off, but as I get older and busier days off are just becoming a thing.

Lifestyle photo by nicogantz
photo: Nico Gantz

WA: If you could make a 30-second speech to the entire world, what would it be about?
AS: I would try to get us all to unify to take the right actions to save our planet. We are headed towards a disaster, and the decisions necessary to revert our direction are not being made. We are properly fuc*#^ if we stay on this track.

WA:Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
AS: I really hope I can still maintain a life near the river, close to the people I love.

KayakSession 20

WA: Do you have any advice for the younger generation or anyone looking to push themselves?
AS: GO FOR IT!! Take your time to master your skills. Whatever you do, bring your own style to it. Be real, believe in yourself and the amazing things you can do when you put all your energy and heart into something. No dream is big enough.

WA: Any dream kayaking destinations you haven’t gotten to yet? Anywhere you want to go for something other than kayaking?
AS: TSANG PO for sure. I also really want to go surfing somewhere sick here in South America or Indo. 

KayakSession 7
photo: Matias Mondaca

WA: Shoutouts?
AS: Big shout out to everyone who’s been supporting me for years… Especially my family, friends, and amazing sponsors that allow me to live this incredibly special life! @redbull @wakakayaks @kokatatusa @gopro @astralfootwear 

WA: Thank you Aniol !






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