By Brendan Curson, Saskatoon Whitewater Kayak Club Program Director and Head Coach
The summer of 2010 has been excellent for the Saskatoon Whitewater Kayak Club. Coming into their second year as Saskatchewan’s premier whitewater club, SWKC has proven again this year that Whitewater kayaking is a fun and viable paddling option in the middle of the prairies.Things started to look up early in the season with plenty of rain. Though this did not go well for other areas of the Province, the kids of the Saskatoon Whitewater Kayak Club were stoked to see high water, strong eddies and fast waves for their paddling enjoyment!!
As soon as school ended, it was time to hit the river for a whole day. Loaded up with boats, gear and lunches the SWKC kids headed upstream of Saskatoon to Paradise Beach for a day trip down the South Saskatchewan River. The day started off well with fabulous views only available from water level and a great lunch on a sandbar in the middle of the river allowing time for a short swim. As the afternoon wore on the weather deteriorated and the three hour trip became four hours then five. Though the skies were threatening to open up and the wind was whipping up huge head-on waves, spirits remained high and everyone had a blast bouncing and surfing their way to the take-out.
Summer continued to be tremendous with warm weather and high water levels. Finally the water started to drop allowing the club to head up to Gardiner Dam to play in the waves and fast water below the power plant. Paddling in the fast whitewater was a new experience for many of the kids but they were eager and keen to learn. Now, having a group of kids with no sense of fear is a great thing when you are a whitewater kayak coach but it means that you get your fill of exercise fishing kids out of the water!!
In the middle of August, the Club travelled to Alberta to take part in the Albert Youth Camp. The Alberta Youth Camp is a whitewater kayaking camp which takes place every second year as a wind up experience for the kids who take part in the Alberta Summer Games. This year the camp was held on the Red Deer River west of Sundre and drew kids from clubs all over Alberta and of course Saskatoon. The week was full of great paddling on a challenging river and it was amazing to watch the progression of the kids from beginner paddlers splashing through the small waves to running big drops and surfing. The week ended with a slalom race at a spot on the river called Double Ledge. The advanced course had a couple of incredibly hard moves namely the first move of the course which had some serious consequences if you missed so all the Saskatoon kids chose to participate in the novice event which started below the big drop. Proving that a lack of whitewater training facilities is not a handicap, the kids from Saskatoon paddled hard and raced to three podium finishes!!
The next stop for the Saskatoon Whitewater Kayak Club and the last stop for the summer paddling season was Kananaskis, AB for the Alberta Provincial Whitewater Championships. This year, the club decided to head out for a few days before the race weekend to learn the ins and outs of the Kananaskis River. The Kananaskis is a little different than other rivers because it is mostly man-enhanced which means that all the features are built and placed with a purpose instead of created naturally. What this means as a paddler is that the river features are stronger and much more defined than you would find on a natural river. To an eleven or twelve year old this makes things a lot more difficult because every paddle stroke and every tilt of the boat counts!! The kids spent three full days on the river learning new skills and preparing for the competition on the weekend. Even though the water schedule allowed for two paddling sessions a day, the water was cut short during the week so the rest of the time was filled with checking out some fabulous Kananaskis hikes.
The Provincial Championships rolled around on September long weekend and with it came crowds of young paddlers and rain. The Alberta Provincial Whitewater Championships is a very cool event which encourages paddlers of all ages and abilities to take part in a multitude of whitewater events including slalom, wildwater, freestyle, boatercross, and the annual Settlers of Catan board game tournament. Each event you take part in earns you points toward the overall title. Competition was tight in every event and category and the Saskatoon Whitewater Kayak Club kids once again proved that whitewater paddlers from the prairies are up for the challenge raking in multiple podium performances in events throughout the weekend.
On behalf of the Saskatoon Whitewater Club, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all our youth members on their tremendous paddling this summer. I would also like to thank our Club Executive and Canoe Kayak Saskatchewan for all their help and support. Of course, a youth paddling club is only as strong as its parents and volunteers so a HUGE thanks goes out to our club parents for all the time and commitment to the club and their kids.
The Saskatoon Whitewater Kayak Club is now gearing up for the winter pool season. We will be hosting a variety of paddling programs from introductory lessons to slalom training in Saskatoon. For more information on our programs please visit our website at http://www.saskwhitewater.wordpress.com or contact Brendan Curson at firstname.lastname@example.org.