Pedal for the medal

By Frank Steinmann
Photos: Frank Steinmann

The Hobie Fishing European Championship 2021

Hobie – this brand name has long been considered the generic term for a whole genre of nautical and fishing aids: fishing kayaks. “Deonym” is what linguists call this phenomenon and not least the success of these products, which contribute to the typification of a generic brand, is due to quality and practicality.

Now, when after 2 years there finally is a European championship in kayak fishing, hosted by Hobie, of course we do not miss the opportunity to attend this spectacle!
Stad aan het Haringvliet, the ichthyological hotspot of the Dutch coastal region, was chosen as the venue. Where the Rhine has branched its delta into the North Sea, the biomass of fish is so enormous that the waters around the coast have long enjoyed cult status among international anglers. The Dutch, who are considered quite liberal, have recently become actively involved in the magnificent fish population of the country’s own waters with their C&R strategy.

Business unmasked

Covid-19th – yes there has been something around, exactly. Fortunately for those who could call a hobby their own that took place “outdoors” and indulged in “solitude”. The entire outdoor business was booming, and even the sale of Hobie kayaks was temporarily outstripping the available supply. Today, at Haringvliet, I no longer notice much of the social distancing, feeling almost vulnerable without a mask and unusually uncovered. One will probably get used to this condition only slowly – in any case, all 75 participating kayak anglers from various European nations clearly notice how well being together with like-minded people is good for the “clan primate” Homo sapiens.
That’s what I generally like about the Hobie family: even in a competition there is never any competitive pressure, people know, appreciate and understand each other, unsportsmanlike behavior is never in evidence at this event!

No place for Frikandel

Two full days of fishing are available to competitors to qualify for one of the titles. Of course, the same applies here: Whoever catches the most, that from the categories P, Z, P – i.e. perch, zander, pike, takes home the trophy! Quite clearly there are still the posterior ranks, the “Big Fish Award” and so on – none of the places 10- 1 should go empty-handed and the prize structure for the lucky aqua-matadors turned out quite attractive. Various echo sounders, lithium batteries, fishing rods and other high-quality prizes were to become the winners’ own. In addition, the first place secured the participation in the “Hobie Worlds”, i.e. the world championship, which will take place next year!

Food and catering are also a legendary part of any competition event at Hobie. Who should assume now, one would (have to) be fobbed off with the Cuisine hollandaise, thus an ode to the deep-frying grease in all nuances of the acrylamide, was far from reality with this oily vision! A full team of BBQ masters conjured up a potpourri of grilled poultry, seafood and burgers on the live grill. They also served a variety of deli meats, salads and even vegetarian arrangements that left nothing to be desired. Accompanied by an open bar, the first evening of the competition became a wonderful festivity.

Of technology and technicians

At dawn the following day, the actual competition began and after the Dutch national anthem was played, Angus Young accompanied the competitors beyond the starting line on his Gibson, paying tribute to the trinity of targeted predator prey with his three unmistakable power chords. The tight field of colorful kayaks soon evaporated on the expanses of the Haringvliet.
The two tournament days turned out to be extremely exciting, the fish played along and were in a biting mood. For me as an observer it was exciting to see to what extent the mechanization of fishing kayaks has undergone a certain evolution. Digitalization seems to have reduced its half-life here as well, with new and improved equipment constantly entering the market. Last but not least, the sonar or echo sounder industry must be noted here as downright “spooky” innovative. The establishment of “Live-Scope” and “Scout Mode” on the high-end models of fish finders enables the angler to locate the target fish so precisely that the conflict-laden discourse that arose with the introduction of these devices is well justified! As “pelagic sharpshooting” one of the participants calls this fishing technique, he also uses it extremely successfully and can book a huge pike of 123 cm, which will bring him the “Big Fish Award” at the end of the competition.

And the winner is:

What was the outcome of the Hobie European Kayak Fishing Championship? Well, the first place was secured by Salah El Barbouchi, who competed for Germany and is a well-known full-blooded angler in the scene. He secured the first place for the second time (after 2018)! Routinely he could hand in his competition cards completely filled on both days and got the victory quite deserved. Besides charm and sympathy, Salah also exudes this perfectionism when it comes to fishing. We accompanied him for some time with the press boat and it seemed almost unbelievable how he lured fish out of their dugouts on cue.
All winners were satisfied, there was neither envy nor resentment among the participants, a fair and well organized tournament should come to an end after two days.
Not least the fact that the kayaks, which are powered by pure muscle power, offer a sporty alternative to the motor boat, impresses me enormously. But also the maneuverability and the efficiency that these sporting devices offer contributes to the fact that you don’t have to go to a body of water with a combustion engine or an electric motor in order to do technically skilled fishing. It doesn’t matter which age group you belong to, also at this tournament there were some participants who probably had their grandchildren sit on their laps in their family life long ago, nevertheless they fish relaxed from the Hobie kayak. So if you still haven’t tried it out, you should do so as soon as possible! Maybe one or the other will participate next year, when the Hobie Euros will take place in Italy…

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