Paddlers riding high at Whitewater Rodeo

The annual Whitewater Rodeo is the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club's premier competition. It's also not very competitive. Paddlers flock to the event to ride big waves and have good times with friends, rather than win a title.

The annual Whitewater Rodeo is the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club’s premier competition. It’s also not very competitive.

Paddlers flock to the event to ride big waves and have good times with friends, rather than win a title.

“Fun” was the word of the day at the event held Wednesday by the Rotary Centennial Bridge in Whitehorse.

“It’s fun to come out and paddle and just have fun,” said Whitehorse’s Dean Bennett, winner of the intermediate freestyle kayak competition. “I’m not competing, I’m just out for a good time with friends.

“I like just coming out and supporting the paddling community. As I paddle more and more, I get better and better, and one day I’ll be able to do bigger tricks. Right now I’m just playing, just out for fun.”

Bennett threw down a flurry of back surf manoeuvres, a front loop and some cartwheels and spins to beat out last year’s division winner, Marc Pronovost, who placed second.

The advanced freestyle kayak division had a new winner crowned on Wednesday.

Whitehorse’s Olivier Roy-Jauvin, 23, won the division for the first time with a bag full of tricks – cartwheels, front and back loops, flat spins, and shuvits, to name a few.

“It feels good. It’s a lot of fun,” said Roy-Jauvin. “It’s all our buddies, we always paddle together. It’s just fun being out with them, with music playing, and doing some tricks on the wave.”

Roy-Jauvin placed ahead of Sam Penner, who tied for first place at last year’s rodeo, and past-champ Brendan Zrum in third.

“I haven’t been focusing (on freestyle), but I have been paddling a lot this year,” said Roy-Jauvin. “I spent about a month kayaking every day in the spring. Just being in your kayak a lot always makes you feel better on the water.”

Roy-Jauvin also topped the downriver kayak race, a mass-start event he won in 2011. The course had some of the biggest waves in years right down the middle, and that’s exactly where you want to be in the race, said Roy-Jauvin.

“The fast water is always down the middle,” said Roy-Jauvin. “On the sides there’s eddies and the current is actually going the other way. So you want to stay in the middle. It’s rough, there’s big waves, but that’s where the fast water is.”

Roy-Jauvin, who also captained the winning boat in the raft-flip race, wasn’t the only multi-winner at the rodeo.

Twelve-year-old Mael Pronovost won both the beginner freestyle kayak division and the boogie board contest for the second year in a row.

The boogie board competition was a real family affair. Mael defeated his nine-year-old sister, Luanda, in second and his mom, Isabelle Gagnon, in third to defend his title.

“It’s cool,” said Mael. “I finally made my 360 on my knees. I used to fall all the time. And sitting backwards – it’s the first time I made it.”

Whitehorse’s Jason Zrum has been doing a lot of kayaking lately, but a very different sort. Zrum and fellow Yukoner Andrew Crist became the first paddlers from any of Canada’s three territories to compete in flatwater racing at the Canada Summer Games last week in Sherbrooke, Que.

The jump from flatwater to whitewater didn’t prevent Zrum from taking first in the slalom kayak race at the rodeo.

All the flatwater training was good conditioning for the slalom, said Zrum.

“It’s good fitness,” said Zrum. “I can hop in a whitewater boat and I can be stronger, go faster, harder, longer.

“In the whitewater kayaks your knees are locked in, so you have edge control in the boat. In the flatwater kayaks your knees are in the centre of the boat and you push with your legs. You have far more core rotation and a lot more pushing with your legs. It does transfer (to whitewater) a bit.

“It’s just great to come out, have everyone come out, and have a good time,” he added.

This year’s rodeo had no entrants for the freestyle canoe division, but, as usual, finished with the raft-flip race in which teams have to flip their boat over during the race before crossing the finish line.

“We work all year round as a club, and there’s lots of activities and stuff that get me charged up, but this is the one that makes me think the club’s really great,” said club president John Quinsey. “We have a really great community here and when you see them all together at one moment … it makes all the work we do as the executive really worthwhile.”




Advanced freestyle kayak

1st Olivier Roy-Jauvin

2nd Sam Penner

3rd Brendan Zrum


Intermediate freestyle kayak

1st Dean Bennett

2nd Marc Pronovost

3rd Natalie Sands


Beginner freestyle kayak

1st Mael Pronovost

2nd Hudson Lucier


Boogie board competition

1st Mael Pronovost

2nd Luanda Pronovost

3rd Isabelle Gagnon


Downriver race

1st Olivier Roy-Jauvin

2nd Lawrence Brennan

3rd Connor Oliver-Beebe


Slalom kayak race

1st Jason Zrum

2nd Lawrence Brennan

3rd Olivier Roy-Jauvin


Raft-flip race

1st Olivier’s Raft

2nd Sam’s Raft


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