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!

Dominical surf life – Pura Vida (Costa Rica 2016)

The second week of our time in Costa Rica was spent in the small surf town of Dominical, on the southern pacific coast. Check out our first post here to learn about our super fun week kayaking. According to locals it has changed a lot in the last 5 years as the main coastal road has been developed – more tourism which is good for the economy and the services but it’s also meant more people and a faster pace of life for the former hippy town.

We drove from Turrialba to Cartago and then up to San Jose with the Costa Rica Rios gang and then got a ride from “Johnny” through San Jose to Ortonna and then down the coast to Domnical (yellow highlighted roads show all the places we explored in our 2 weeks).

Cartago is considered by some as the most religious place in Costa Rica. It felt like a moderately large city with traffic and all the other main structures that you find in cities. The main plaza and downtown area is dominated by the Santiago Apostol Parish Ruins, which are beautiful and function very much as a metropolitan green space. The church / parish was under perpetual construction between 1575 and 1910. A series of earthquakes brought down the churches and in 1910 it was decided not to continue with construction. No single church was ever actually completed.

The Festival de la Luz was about to start as we were driving through San Jose so we got to see all the floats as they were preparing for the parade that evening – they are quite elaborate!

Half way through our drive we stopped at a local crocodile sanctuary – it was mind-blowing (and a little scary) to see that many crocodiles sunning themselves on the river bank. Especially when you stopped to think about the amount of time we had just spent in rivers and were about to spend in the ocean. Luckily crocodiles (and piranhas) don’t like fast moving water and we just needed to stay away from estuary areas when on the ocean.

In Dominical we rented a 3 bedroom house for the group and it worked out really well. We were about a block from the beach along a dirt road, easy walking distance to the central part of town and it came with a pool which really helped as it was HOT…

Just beyond our back fence was a large green field that came with various types of lizards and iguanas – big, small and everything in between. We would go in search of them throughout the day to see what they were up to. Hunter is pointing them out to Tim in the photo.

Jeanine from Dominical Waverider was a huge help in getting all of our Dominical fun organized. Tim, Hunter and I took surfing lessons for 3 days and the instruction was great – they even took photos of us! It was a low surf window while we were there which was good as it meant we got to surf right in Dominical (normally only for experts) but it also meant that some days it was tough to find waves. We were pretty worn out from our river adventures so not our best surfing, but we all came away with some improvement and good suggestions. It was also great to have Hunter back out on the water surfing with us (he took a self-imposed hiatus last year).

The main Dominical and Playa Hermosa beaches all have lifeguards, which is great to see and comforting as the rip tides can be quite strong at times.

Jeanine also took us to a local waterfall – some people are adventurous enough to slide down the waterfall or jump off the top. We decided to just enjoy the cool and refreshing pool at the bottom. The ocean temperature was like bathwater – I found it amazing, the boys found it too warm.

We had fun exploring Dominical and stopped in at the CongoMongo restaurant for lunch (much to our surprise it was vegetarian so I was happy, the boys not so much… but they did like the swings) and Tortilla Flats (where you MUST have the passionfruit basil margarita while watching the sunset). There are 5-6 good small restaurants within walking distance of the main area and all are worth checking out.

It was fun to have some “beach time” after all the time on the river. It’s always hard to leave those amazing sunsets and head home but we did… It leaves us excited for our next beach visit. If you are looking for some surf time in Costa Rica, be sure to chat with Jeanine at Dominical Waverider – we strongly recommend them!

Kayak Costa Rica 2016

We spent 2 weeks in sunny Costa Rica in mid December with an amazing group of friends; 8 days under the excellent care of Costa Rica Rios and another 4 days hanging at the beach enjoying the sand and surf in Dominical. This post covers the first 8 days with a second post covering beach life!

Getting anywhere warm from the Yukon is an adventure in itself… and usually takes over 24 hours of travelling. This trip was 30 hours from airport to airport, including 4 airplanes & 5 different airports, 1 lost luggage adventure mid trip, 1 case of cancelled tickets mid trip, and another 6 hours driving in Costa Rica to get to Turrialba thanks to traffic issues. We spent from 1:00 am to 4:00 am attempting to get some sleep in the underground of the Houston Airport in between flights – Hunter’s first exposure to life as a dirt bag kayaker…

Our winter paddling adventures are about more than just finding warm water, they are a great opportunity to experience new cultures, see new animals and amazing scenery, try out new foods and to continue to practice our spanish.

Our main base camp while kayaking was Villa Florencia just outside of Turrialba, which is located in the Central Valley mid way between San Jose and the Caribbean Sea. The hotel was beautiful with lush grounds to walk around, a swimming pool and hot tub and large spacious rooms. The highlight of the amenities was the Foosball table, where even the chef showed up to take on the strongest one of our group. The biggest challenge was trying to dry 3 people’s wet gear in a humid climate in our room.

Our first day of paddling was on the Pejibaye River, a tributary of the Reventazon River in the Turrialba Valley. The morning session was class II and our “check out” paddle where the guides get to determine skills/abilities etc. It also allowed us to get used to the rental boats that we were using. After lunch at an old school house on a dirt road a group of us put in on the upper class III section and others did the lower section again. The upper section was fun with a good assortment of boulders and felt like a nice creek run in the middle of the jungle.

Days two and three were spent on the Sarapiqui River, which was 3 hours NE near Puerto Villejo. It runs from the Central Mountain Range just north of San Jose to the San Marcos River which runs along the shared border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  It was further into the rain forest and we definitely found the rain that goes with the forest! Our first run down was on the lower section of the river (class II/III) and it ended in pouring rain, with everyone standing delicately in the bus to get to the hotel to avoid getting the bus soggy for our long ride home. Our second day was on the La Virgen upper section (class III+) and came with a fabulous surf wave and some fun revolving whirl pools. Hunter also shifted into an RPM as he had watched our lead guide Arnaldo having so much fun stern squirting with it on the first day.

Days four, five and six were spent on various sections of the Pacuare River, which is one of Costa Rica’s classic rivers running 108 km from the highlands to the Caribbean Sea through primary rain forest and lowland tropical forests. It is a mix of class III, IV and V depending on the section you run. On day four we ran the Upper Upper section (class II/III) and a smaller group of us ran the 5 class IV rapids before you get into the class V Upper section.

Day five and six were an overnight trip on the Lower section, with a stay at the beautiful Pacuare Outdoor Centre in the middle of the jungle. Lunch break on day five was at a fun tributary that turned out to have a small cave hiding behind the rocks, which Hunter loved. If you look hard you can see his face and hands sticking out of the wall of water. Riverside lunches were always yummy, plentiful and held in creative places!

It was quite the hike up and down from the river side to the POC lodge but so worth it for both the view and the amazing amenities. The wide open kitchen/living room common space was so clean and inviting that Hunter ended up sleeping in one of the hammocks overnight while Tim and I enjoyed our small cabin with nothing but screen between the room and the jungle – lots of noises and with a full moon out it never really got dark.

Our last day of paddling was a mix of III+ and IV and so a smaller group paddled and the others had a great day in the raft. Hunter chose to paddle and styled the class IV rapids thanks to some great guiding by Arnaldo Perez, Costa Rica’s top slalom racer.

Overall we were really impressed with the staff at Costa Rica Rios and would definitely recommend them for anyone looking for a kayaking or warm weather winter adventure trip. They are very family friendly and also open to customizing adventures just for you.

More  photos can be found on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChasingthesunYT.