The Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club held its annual Whitewater Rodeo on Aug. 23 and 24.
Things started with the freestyle competition, raft race, and packraft king and queen of the wave events on Aug. 23 on the Yukon River in Whitehorse before intermediate and advanced whitewater races on British Columbia’s Tutshi River approximately five kilometres south of Tutshi Lake on Aug. 24.
Turnout for the Whitehorse events included 20 racers in the raft race split into four teams, 12 paddlers in the packraft king and queen of the wave competition and 12 competitors in the freestyle competition split between beginner, intermediate and advanced categories.
The winner of the beginner freestyle was Kieran Knowles, while Camdyn Kellett won the intermediate freestyle with Gwenaël Sinquin finishing second.
Mael Pronovost won the advanced freestyle, Olivier Roy-Jauvin finished second and Kevin Daffe finished third.
Event coordinator Lawrence Brennan said seeing locals on the podium was a proud moment.
“If we look at the advanced freestyle, the top three finishers are all born and raised Yukoners — two of them having competed at the world freestyle championships over the years,” said Brennan. “It was very inspiring to see people growing up, having to leave the territory, paddling all over the world and still coming back to compete and paddle in the Yukon.”
The queen of the wave was Alison Daffe and the king of the wave was Kellett.
In the raft race, which involved teams reaching a designated point on each shoreline before crossing the finish, the team of captain Roy-Jauvin, Doon McDowell, Luanda Pronovost, Jamie Furniss, David Morissette and Anthony Thibeault was this year’s winner.
While all the events on day one were old hat for returning competitors, day two’s races were a new addition.
“It was kind of an idea I had,” said Brennan, explaining he’d been involved in a similar river race on Vancouver Island while at school. “This year I just kind of thought there is this other aspect of whitewater kayaking besides the freestyle. So it was a way we could showcase the river running and creeking side of the sport.”
Creeking is a type of paddling involving descending steep low-volume whitewater.
The inaugural races split the field in two for an intermediate and an advanced race. The intermediate course was longer and included teams of two as a safety measure, while the advanced course was shorter and more technical with intermediate racers assisting at major drops.
Despite some rainy weather — paddlers don’t really care about rain, Brennan said — a total of 15 paddlers made the trek to British Columbia for the races.
Brennan said one of the best parts of the weekend was all the racers paddling the river together.
“We did a group run down the two courses beforehand,” said Brennan. “So having 15 kayaks and packrafts and C1s (solo canoes) all on the river at the same time was quite special.”
Low water on the Tutshi River made for some very technical drops on the advanced course, but Brennan said it also had the benefit of helping encourage paddlers on the intermediate course.
“At high water (the intermediate course) can be quite intimidating,” said Brennan, adding that if you flip you may have a long swim before you can get back into your boat. “(One of the highlights was) seeing a couple people step up and run a couple of drops on the Tutshi they’ve been kind of nervous about all summer.”
Although not a sure thing, Brennan said he hopes whitewater races will be included in future years as well.
“The river changes every year so it’s always tough to commit a year out,” Brennan said. “But I think I had a lot of fun organizing it, I think a lot of people had fun racing it, and so hopefully it’s not a single event.”
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com