Rodeo paddlers bucked by waves

Leave it to Yukon Energy Corp. to add a little juice to an event. To give paddlers more vivacious conditions to compete in, Yukon Energy allowed a…

Leave it to Yukon Energy Corp. to add a little juice to an event.

To give paddlers more vivacious conditions to compete in, Yukon Energy allowed a little more flow into the Yukon River Wednesday for Whitehorse’s Whitewater Rodeo.

“We’re lucky to have Yukon Energy to be co-operating with us tonight,” said John Quinsey, president of the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club. “They’ll be giving us a little more flow later on tonight.”

Three competitions made up the rodeo that took place just downriver from Yukon Energy’s dam.

The rodeo began with a freestyle event in which kayakers surfed a stationary wave created by the contours of the river.

“We have a fantastic facility right here,” said Quinsey. “It’s a natural wave that we’ve enhanced, so it’s great for surfing.”

This year, a little more flow helped the rodeo. But last year, the event did not take place because there was too much flow.

“The water was too high, for one thing — really high water,” said Quinsey. “This wave here wasn’t very good because it was washing out and there’s nothing you can do about high water.”

Each competitor in this event was given two 30-second spots to perform as many tricks as possible. Finishing his second routine with a front-loop after discarding his paddle, Kevin Daffe won the event, narrowly edging out Olivier Roy-Jauvin.

“Olivier set the bar high by doing a front-loop and then a back-loop,” said Daffe. “So I went in and matched his loop and then did a clean-loop with no paddle.”

Daffe took the event because of his second routine after having a mediocre opening run.

“I think I was trying to be too calm and just take my time,” said Daffe, speaking of his first routine. “It’s harder than it looks to stay on for 30 seconds,” he added, speaking of staying on the wave. “The second one — I went for it.”

Daffe and Roy-Olivier also filled the top spots in the second event, the downriver race, which started at the fish ladder and ended at the Rotary Centennial Bridge.

Adding to the difficulty of the event, paddlers had to eddy-out twice during the race, once to touch a wall on the left of the river and then they ferried across to the other side to limbo under a paddle held out by an organizer.

Roy-Jauvin took top honours in the race after making a dicey decision to forgo a spray-skirt to save time.

“The whole time he was going down he was being swamped by water,” said Daffe. “But it gave him enough of a head start that when I put my skirt on I couldn’t catch him. It’s a risky move but it paid off for him.”

“My boat got full of water but I still made it down first,” said Roy-Jauvin. “He was so close behind me,” he added, speaking of Daffe.

The rodeo ended with the raft-flip race, an event not recommended for those who don’t like to get wet.

After tackling some rapids, crews have to purposely flip their rafts and then re-enter them before continuing downriver.

“We’re probably the most professional team out there,” said Joel Brennan, a member of the winning Bob’s Boat’s crew, speaking tongue-in-cheek. “We’ve been training for a few years.”

Three five-person rafts competed in the race that started at the fish ladder and ended at the old Whitehorse city intake. After flipping early on, while still in the rapids, Bob’s Boat moved up from second place and held the lead until the end.

“Push other people back, try and keep people behind,” said Brennan, speaking of some his crew’s questionable tactics. And “deflating other people’s rafts, but we didn’t get around to it.”

This Saturday the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club will be hosting its Chadburn Lake Regatta. Starting at noon, the regatta features a variety of events including gunnel bobbing, canoe jousting and traditional racing.

“You face each other in either end of the canoe and you stand up on the gunnels,” said Quinsey, describing gunnel bobbing. “You try to knock the other guy off.”



1st Kevin Daffe

2nd Olivier Roy-Jauvin

3rd Brenden Zrum

Downriver race

1st Olivier Roy-Jauvin

2nd Kevin Daffe

3rd Jeff Cousins

Raft-flip race

1st Bob’s Boat — Dean Bennett, Joel Brennan, Jeff Cousins, Olivier Roy-Jauvin and Jim Chisholm.