New flatwater paddling camp a splashing success

The Olympic sport of canoe and kayak sprint racing was first introduced to the territory last summer. Expect to see a lot more of it.

The Olympic sport of canoe and kayak sprint racing was first introduced to the territory last summer.

Expect to see a lot more of it.

After its meager beginning last summer with four boats donated by the Manitoba Paddling Association, the sport seems to be taking flight with the Canoe Kids Summer Camp.

The camp is wrapping up its fourth of four weeks on Friday and has introduced the sport to over 80 kids.

So, it’s been a success? “Very much so,” said the camp’s head coach, Daniel Girouard, of the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club.

“A lot of the kids want to come back next year and things are positive. So I’m hoping next summer we will be running camps throughout the whole summer.

“The camps are for ages eight to 13 this year, but next year I’d like to get some stuff going after four o’clock for teenagers and adults – evening stuff. And some dragon boating too, because we have a dragon boat.”

The camp, which is the first of its kind in Yukon, has operated out of the Schwatka Lake boat launch area off Chadburn Lake Road this summer. Through the work of Girouard, the fleet has grown to about 22 boats, and the camp also received permission to install a Sea-Can container at Schwatka to store the boats.

“I was working all last winter to get some boats and equipment and a Sea-Can with the help of some people in the club and some people from the city,” said Girouard. “And we were able to get all these boats up from Winnipeg.”

Sprint canoe and kayak racing – sometimes called flatwater racing – was introduced to Yukon last summer leading up to the Canada Summer Games in Quebec.

Yukon’s Games team got two paddlers to come on board, so to speak, who became the first to compete in the sport at the Games from any of Canada’s three territories.

The two paddlers, Jason Zrum and Andrew Crist, also raced at the B.C. championships before the Canada Games.

Girouard’s long-term goal is to send paddlers to the Western Canada Summer Games next year, more to the Canada Summer Games in 2017, and to the B.C. provincial championships and even nationals.

“B.C. invited us again this year, but we didn’t have any kids ready for this year,” said Girouard. “But I’m hoping next year we’ll be able to go and maybe do the Western Canada Games next summer. And there are nationals in Ottawa, so we’ll see.”

“It’s an Olympic sport, so it’s something some youth thrive for and it’s important to offer that to some kids. I’m hoping some people will enjoy and pursue it.”

Kids in the camp have lucked out having Girouard as a coach. He competed at the national level for seven years up to 2000 out of Montreal. He has won national championship medals in war canoe and C4 (four-person canoe).

As successful as the camp has been, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Last week Girouard and the campers showed up to find vandals torched the camp’s wooden boat rack and tarps suspended for shelter. But the day went ahead as planned with no damage to the boats.

“If people are interested in trying it out, my camps are done this week, and I’m free next week,” said Girouard. “If there are any youth out there or adults that would like to try some of these boats out, or even try the dragon boat, they can email me at yukoncanoeandkayakclub@gmail.com.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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