Category Archives: Canada

Kingston2Ottawa – a weekend in the wacky world of Marathon Canoe…

The Kingston2Ottawa  race is a 200 km marathon race for canoes/kayaks/SUP’s. It runs up the Rideau Canal system (a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest lock system in the world) from Kingston to Ottawa and has 22 portages spread over 200 km of river. It has to be completed in 36 hours and the winners this year did it in 23 hours. It is CRAZY!

We found ourselves in the midst of this world in late July because we volunteered to be pit crew for Grandpa Bob. Well, really Grandpa offered to pay Hunter to be his pit crew and Hunter needed someone to drive him, hence along came the rest of the family.

Shocker #1 was that the race started at 6am on Saturday morning… nothing like starting the day with the sun. As pit crew that meant some of us (Lee, the morning person) got up at 4:30 to get things organized and get the racers to the start line on time.This was actually a bit of a family affair with one team being Grandpa Bob (75) and his paddling partner Gwen, and another team being Uncle Mike and Aunt Fiona from Saskatchewan. Mike and Fiona were entered in the expert class while Bob and Gwen opted for the Adventurer class, which meant that their support team could run the portages for them. Turns out this was a great deal for Bob and Gwen!

It took us a lock or two to really get things figured out. The times out of the first section were so fast that they had already started the portage just as we got to the lock – not really earning our money there…By the third lock we had figured things out in terms of both the portages and the food, which had things flowing like a formula one pit crew!

We all wore London Canoe Club shirts to make it easy to find us and see us from the water. This isn’t like a running race where there is a super clear trail that you are following – often you are heading in a general direction along a lake trying to figure out where the lock actually is. The jumping up and down blue spots helped fine tune the direction.

There was a pretty broad variety of locks amongst the 22 and it was interesting to check out the different styles and stages. Some have been updated since they were originally installed and others are exactly the same – being opened and closed with chains, gears and levers.

Everyone we talked to said the hardest part of the race was crossing Big Rideau Lake due to the boat traffic. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the cruising traffic was high – lots of criss cross waves and boats that really didn’t give way to the racing canoes and kayaks. Challenge #2 was finding the channel markers in the dark – turns out they don’t reflect much and are only really present in the tighter channels vs larger open water.

It was an impressive feat – watching people paddle non-stop for 27 hours…although staying awake and being pit crew for the same amount of time did feel equally exhausting!

Mike and Fiona handily won the Expert class in 23 hours (2 hours ahead of the 2nd place boat) and Bob and Gwen won the Adventure class in 27 hours (over an hour ahead of the 2nd place boat).

For those that are intrigued but not committed, there is a 100km race that starts in Smiths Falls. I also understand that there will be a 50km version next year so maybe check that out… We will be sticking with our whitewater playing until they throw some waves in to make the course more interesting.

 

 

 

Grand River / Elora Gorge answers the search for whitewater in SW Ontario

We are down in southwestern Ontario hanging out with family right now. We had heard rumours of some whitewater around here so drove 2 hours up to the Kitchener/Waterloo area and thought a run down the Elora Gorge run on the Grand River would be perfect to test out our new Salus Marine lifejackets. It was down from flood levels a few weeks ago and running around 10 [m^3/s], which seems to be just higher than normal summer flows.

The put in is just below the dam in the town of Elora (park at the baseball diamond and walk across the bridge and then down the path on the opposite side of the road). The old mill is in the background and the new micro dam is just out of the photo on the right. Check out the blue heron photo bombing the picture!

The Elora Gorge is primarily limestone, with cliffs up to 72 feet on either side. At high water it can be quite crazy with a river wide hole that forms in the middle of the gorge and no sneak lines… At lower waters it’s a tubers paradise and a scenic class 2+ float with lots of eddy hopping and mini waves to surf.

The run took us about 90 minutes and we definitely milked it for all we could since we had been off the water for 10 days.

Lots of scenery to check out and enjoy along the way, and warm water to go with it!

It made for a fun family day on the water… If you are interested in going, you can find flow levels here: https://apps.grandriver.ca/waterdata/kiwischarts/rf_uppergrand.aspx (look at Shand Dam).

 

Canadian Junior & Senior National Slalom Team Trials

photo by Kelly Vanderbeek

National slalom team trials for juniors, U23 and seniors were held in early May on the Kananaskis course in Alberta. Hunter is a cadet (under 15) so not eligible to make the junior team but we participated as a development experience.

photo by Ric Matkowski

There was a week of training ahead of the race weekend and we were grateful for the fabulous coaching from Brendan Curson of the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence in B.C.. Hunter was able to feel like he was part of a team and Brendan did a great job keeping it fun while focusing on skill progression.

photos by Ric Matkowski

Competition weekend was 2 full days of racing for Hunter. They set one course each day and you had two runs down it. For him that meant 4 runs per day as he competed in both K1 (single kayak) and C1 (single canoe). The course was a very technical course, with lots of offsets and it was geared towards the senior members.

photo by Ric Matkowski

Tim acted as a safety boater both days – not much action when you are talking about kids at the national level… At least he managed to find a sunbeam both days as it was COLD in the river valley the whole weekend.

The most exciting part of the weekend was Hunter’s progression. He went from missing gates and struggling during the first morning of races to having an almost clean run and finishing ahead of a few juniors for his last K1 run. In his words… “it just clicked”!

photo by Kelly Vanderbeek

The entire week was well worth the stop for us. He came away excited about training for slalom this summer and has seen what could be possible at nationals in August. Hanging out with amazing paddlers like Olympian David Ford can have that kind of inspiring effect!

Whitehorse Daily Star: Yukoners improve at canoe slalom national team trials

FOCUSED – Hunter Vincent eyes the next gate during a kayak run at the national canoe slalom team trials on the Kananaskis River in Alberta last weekend. He was the first cadet in kayak over the weekend and finished second in canoe. Photo by KELLY VANDERBEEK

Yukoners improve at canoe slalom national team trials

At his first Canadian canoe slalom national team trials, Hunter Vincent improved by leaps and bounds.

By Marissa Tiel on May 15, 2017

At his first Canadian canoe slalom national team trials, Hunter Vincent improved by leaps and bounds.

“Hunter’s progression through the weekend was awesome,” said mom, Lee Vincent, from Idaho this morning.

Vincent, who at 13 is too young to qualify for the national junior team, used the weekend as race experience, rubbing shoulders with the likes of five-time Olympian David Ford.

The trials this year were held in Alberta on a lower section of the Kananaskis River slalom course, which was last used for a national competition in 2009 and last hosted team trials in the late 90s.

The course has changed a lot since both of the those competitions, even more so with the Alberta floods in 2013 and further man-made developments to the river in the years after.

“It was easier back then,” said Alberta high performance coach Michael Holroyd.

The weekend’s events were joint trials for the senior, U23 and junior national teams.

“We set fairly hard courses with tight offsets,” said Holroyd.

In slalom, paddlers navigate through poles suspended over rapids. They must complete the course in the correct order, going through both upstream and downstream gates without touching them. The paddler with the fastest time including penalties – two seconds for touching a gate and 50 seconds for missing a gate – is the winner.

The offsets are how much the gates are set apart from each other in the current.

There was a high number of missed gates over the weekend, due in part to the high-stakes competition, but also to wind gusts.

Vincent, racing in two classes – C1 and K1 – progressed over the weekend. He went from missing a number of gates during his kayak runs on day one, to touching only two gates on his final run on day two.

“I was able to get pretty much every single gate almost clean,” he said.

“It all lined up that day… it felt easy.”

Vincent has competed at nationals before and won medals. Over the winter he worked with Physio Plus to strengthen his muscles and attended slalom sessions in the pool.

Now, he and his family are travelling the states for the summer, stopping to paddle, bike and adventure.

Their next destination: a whitewater park in Idaho. Vincent’s next time in a slalom boat will be at the national championships in Ottawa this summer.

“I want to keep improving my skill in both (classes),” he said.

Joining Vincent at team trials was 15-year-old Mael Pronovost, who had also been training in the pool over the winter.

Pronovost, at his second team trials, improved to eighth overall in the junior division.

“I was really happy with some of my runs,” he said from Calgary this morning.

“Mael has been training hard,” said Holroyd. He has attended camps with the Alberta team in Oklahoma and B.C. this winter and was working to develop consistency over his racing.

Holroyd said coaches from across the country were impressed with his progression.

In the best three-of-four runs race format, Pronovost’s 7th, 14th, 6th and 8th put him in 8th place overall.

On his third run of the weekend, he even had a top 10 finish among the senior and U23 divisions.

Pronovost was also the only junior to race C1 and K1 and was only a couple seconds away from qualifying for the junior team in C1.

“He did well in C1 for how little he paddled,” said Holroyd. Pronovost had only paddled C1 in the pool over the winter and during one or two days of training in Alberta.

“C1 teaches a lot of boat control,” said Holroyd. “At his stage, where he’s learning to race, it’s beneficial to have more starts.”

Looking forward to a summer of training, Pronovost is anxious to get the training gates set up on the Yukon River at the Intake this week.

He said he’s been invited to do some trips with the Quebec team and also plans to do some training at the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence in B.C.

His next major race will be the national championships in Ottawa.

“I’m really happy,” said Pronovost. “I did a lot better than I expected.”

North of the Arctic Circle

 

I realized that we don’t talk much about our northern adventures and for those that haven’t been here – you should come. Everyone should visit the north at least once. The views are breathtaking and the people are resilient, creative and fun.


Last week I headed up north of the Arctic Circle to spend 3 days in Inuvik, NWT for work. Flying in the north is an adventure in itself. My flight from Whitehorse stopped in Dawson City and Old Crow before hitting Inuvik – the milk run approach makes flying affordable, which is really important when you live so far away from most things.

One of the neat things about this flight path is how low you fly and how you really get to see the terrain change. The Whitehorse to Dawson City leg is fairly mountainous, with a few rivers and lakes splattered about.

Flying into Dawson is tricky at certain times of year due to high levels of fog that gather in the river valley and the need to flight between two mountains to get to the airport. On the left you can see the frozen Yukon River and the rows of white on the right are all the frozen tailing piles from placer mining.

Flying further north you continue to see mountains until all of a sudden they just stop and you see a landscape full of lakes and rivers with a little land in between.

Old Crow is a fly in community of approximately 245 people – that means there is no road access and the only way in or out is by airplane. Every few years there is an ice road built in the winter time to allow them to bring in heavy machinery and goods for construction projects.

This is their access in and out of the community… and the airport is a place of community gatherings – sending people off with celebration and welcoming people home with just as much joy.

How many airports do you know where you can pick up a passenger with your snowmobile and throw their bags in your toboggan?

Between Old Crow and Inuvik you continue to see the delta come to life – water every where and little land bridges connecting it. In the winter time the rivers become major roads for people to actually drive on to get out to fishing and hunting camps.

Inuvik is a town of approximately 3,500 people. It has been through many boom/bust cycles with oil and gas development and is currently in one of it’s lows. It has a great spirit and the sense of community is impressive – many people come for a job and then stay for the lifestyle.

Because of all of the permafrost, Inuvik has above ground utility corridors which are especially odd to see in the summer time. They look like a whole matrix of round and square pipes running through the town.

Similar to housing on the east coast, Inuvik has incorporate colour to help keep things cheery during the very dark winter – they go months without full daylight!

There are many interesting buildings in Inuvik but the most popular is definitely the local Catholic Church – also known as the Igloo Church.

Most Northern towns in the NWT and Nunavut have a Northmart – it is really the central hub for the town and provides groceries, take out food (pizza hut & KFC), clothing, electronics, toys, and of course bikes and snowmobiles! I can’t imagine all of this under one roof in any southern town or city.

Similar to Old Crow, the Inuvik airport is a social place – the flights are all turn arounds (i.e. the people flying out are waiting for the plane to arrive so they can depart) and the arrivals all mingle with the departures. Oh – I guess I didn’t mention that there is no security clearance on this flight, no luggage X-ray, just show up 30 minutes before to get your boarding pass and then hang out and talk to people until it’s time to go. You can even chat with people that have just arrived until the boarding agent walks around the airport checking with each person to see if they are heading out. They will even go outside the terminal to round up everyone that’s out for a smoke to tell them they need to board!

I’ve been to Inuvik a number of times. I definitely prefer summer over winter as when the wind gets blowing it is COLD… If you go, be sure to check out the craft store at the Inuvialuit building – amazing pieces straight from the artists with much lower mark ups!