Humberston Goes for Gold

Humberston competing in a lifeguard competition while using a surfski.

French teacher, Nathan Humberston, recently traveled to Szeged, Hungary to compete in the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships.  Humberston represented Team USA, and competed amongst 53 other countries.

Humberston started kayaking in 2013.  He was first introduced to the sport through competitive lifeguarding tournaments.  For lifeguarding, he used a kayak called a “surfski” to simulate lifeguard rescues in the ocean.  Humberston realized his passion for the sport, “I paddled around Bermuda, and that was probably the most visually stunning experience ever.”

In 2015, Humberston moved to Jacksonville and began to further pursue kayaking.

He began long distance ocean racing, learning how to use a different type of kayak.  “It’s a little bit of a different boat because you’re not necessarily going in and out through breaking surf, you’re trying to ride the waves and use the wind to go long distances.” Humberston’s usual long distance ocean or river race is approximately 15-20 kilometers.

In 2017, a local coach recommended that Humberston try sprint kayaking on flat water, “You basically just see how fast you can go for either 500 meters or 1000 meters.”  Less than two years later, Humberston was competing for the National Kayak Team.

Humberston practices by himself on the Intracoastal, a waterway that connects to the Atlantic Ocean. Humberston says, “You’re always doubting yourself and thinking ‘Ok, well what if someone is training harder than me?’ And you don’t know.  So you almost push yourself harder that way.”

In their two weeks in Hungary, the National Team trained the first week, and competed the second.  During the first week, Humberston explored the country.  “We were busy and focused on what we were doing, what we were there for.  But we got to spend a day in Budapest, which was gorgeous.”

The second week, Humberston and the National Team traveled two hours South to Szeged for the actual competition.

Humberston participated in three races at Szeged.  Humberston was in a four man boat for 500 meters, a four man boat for 1000 meters, and a single boat for 1,000 meters.

Humberston said that he was not expecting to compete in three different events, “The coach said ‘Ok, so whoever wins the 5k at National Championships is gonna do it at World’s’ and I won it there.  So I didn’t know until two weeks before the competition, so yeah it was a little bit of a surprise but it was fun.”

In the k4 500, the team did not make it to the semifinals.  In the k4 1000, the team made it to the semifinals, and missed the finals by one second.  “We paddled a good race and we had a good time.  Just under three minutes for the 1000 meters.  There hasn’t been an American k4 that’s done that in a long time. So, it was a good result for us, even if we would’ve liked to be in that final.”

In the 5k, 40 countries competed in the event, Humberston placed 26th.  “It’s chaos at the start.  A lot of people fall in, and the race is all about riding the wash of people around you and unfortunately training here alone, by myself I don’t get a lot of practice with that.  So that was a challenge.”

Humberston chuckles, “But yeah I’m not too upset with the results, 26th is ok.”

Humberston’s next big competition will be The National Trials in April.  After that, Humberston will go to Chile to compete in the Pan American Olympic Qualifier which will determine if he will compete in  the 2020 Summer Olympics.