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Long time champ falls, boogie boards debuted at Whitewater Rodeo

Whitehorse's Kevin Daffe had won so many consecutive freestyle kayaking titles at the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club's Whitewater Rodeo, no one seems sure when the streak began - maybe five or six years ago.

Whitehorse’s Kevin Daffe had won so many consecutive freestyle kayaking titles at the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club’s Whitewater Rodeo, no one seems sure when the streak began - maybe five or six years ago.

So a few jaws dropped on Wednesday when the champ lost his crown to Terrace, BC’s Jeremie Drouin.

“It’s unreal; I don’t believe it,” said Drouin. “It was fun. I’ve never been in a competition before - we’re so isolated in Terrace. If we see a kayaker with a boat on their car, we’re like, ‘Stop, come back!’”

With three years of freestyle kayaking under his belt, Drouin, who’s in town to work for the summer, dug deep into his bag of tricks to beat Daffe.

“Kevin is unreal on the wave, he just has it dialed,” said Drouin. “He was doing cartwheels and spins with the loops, so I just figured I’d try doing whatever, throwing loops.

“I’m surprised I beat him.”

Daffe, who finished second in front of Sam Penner, represented Canada at the junior worlds for freestyle kayaking in 1999, finishing 22nd in the world.

“It’s good,” said Daffe of the end of his reign. “It was only a matter of time.”

Although he came up short in the freestyle event, Daffe was on top in the slalom, which began by the fish ladder and ended at the Millennium Trail Bridge. Finishing the course in two minutes, 40 seconds, Daffe outpaced Drouin by four seconds and third place finisher Jason Zrum by six.

“A lot of it is reading the water and knicking the boils at the right times,” said Daffe. “We only got one go at it, so we just went for it.

“Last year it was a mass start, so it was easier to gauge where you were.”

The hosting club is not about to change its name to the Yukon Canoe and Kayak and Boogie Board Club, but it took a step in that direction at the competition. For the first time in its history the event saw a boogie board competition on the manmade wave under the bridge where the freestyle event took place.

“Somebody came out with a boogie board a couple of years ago, tried it and got into it,” said Canoe and Kayak Club board member Walter Brennan. “Over the last year or so, when we come down on Monday nights or Thursday nights, people have been taking out the boogie board and just having some fun. So this year there has been a plethora of people getting on a boogie board and having fun.

“It’s a lot easier than the kayaks once you get out there. So we decided to this year have a boogie board competition.”

Pulling off such tricks as - albeit often with improvised names - the Superman, loop spin and back flip, Trevor Cunningham took the boogie board title.

“I know some people have been doing it for a while, but I just got here this summer and have been doing it since I got here,” said Cunningham. “They are basically unnamed, but I basically tried to do a flat-spin - the tricky one is to do a flat-spin and let the water catch the edge of the board and try to jump and pull it around. None of these tricks are named, but we’re inventing names.”

Coming in behind Cunningham was Isabelle Gagnon and nine-year-old Mael Pronovost, the only participant to get up on his knees on the board.

“I’m not a kayaker, I’m just a boogie boarder,” said Cunningham. “It’s excellent, a lot of fun. They obviously do (the rodeo) every year and I’ve been hearing about it for a few years, so I’m excited to be up here for one summer to do it.”

Top results

Freestyle kayak

1st Jeremie Drouin

2nd Kevin Daffe

3rd Sam Penner

4th Brendan Zrum

5th Joel Brennan

Boogie board

1st Trevor Cunningham

2nd Isabelle Gagnon

3rd Mael Pronovost

4th Chris Pinkerton

Kayak slalom

1st Kevin Daffe - 2:40

2nd Jeremie Drouin - 2:44

3rd Jason Zrum - 2:46

4th Jeff Cousins - 2:59

5th Joel Brennan - 3:17

Canoe slalom

1st Trevor Cunningham - 2:11

Raft race

1st Kevin Daffe/Trevor Cunningham/Mark Pronovost/Jeff Whiting

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