Paddles UP!Paddles UP!


This website was started, created and is maintained as a place where I could provide online information to the paddlers I was coaching in Chelsea Quebec and it grew from there.  It has now become a location for me to refer new paddlers to when they ask about paddling and racing although I no longer coach except on occasional outings.  However I keep learning new things and since my memory isn't as good as years ago, I put this stuff on-line so I can learn it all over again in the future.

I first started paddling at a boys scout camp in 1960.  It wasn't the best intro because we had to demonstrate that we could capsize (very easy), right the canoe (a beautiful old cedar chestnut prospector), climb back in (not so easy), bail and resume paddling.  Most kids didn't pass the test and neither did I - only a few of us got our paddling badges.

Paddling Flat Water
      in a ProspectorMy paddling became more frequent after graduating from University and increased significantly after a whitewater canoe trip in 1979.  It was a "boys only" trip and we swam more than paddled, ate well but drank too much (perhaps that explains the swimming).  However, I was inspired by the ability to use whitewater as a way to leave the crowds behind and I started going on more frequent wilderness canoe trips.  I lived in the Outaouais area of southern Quebec at the time so my trips focused mostly on Algonquin park which was nearby and the forest reserves of Southern Quebec.

In the early 1980's, a small group of paddlers started a whitewater paddling club in Ottawa and I joined them in their 2nd year.  We learned whitewater skills as a group by trial and lots of errors.  Over time that group became quite proficient especially after some fabulous instruction from paddlers such as Bill and Paul Mason who lived nearby my home in Chelsea.  Over the next 20 years a great variety of challenging rivers were paddled including the local Petawawa, the Dumoine, and more remote rivers such as the Nahani, the Mountain river, the Bonnet Plume and many others.

Cascades Club Paddlers in PragueIn about 2002 I had to stop the wilderness trips due to a bad knee and a friend suggested I try joining a local Dragon Boat club - lots of paddling and no portaging.  That was the start of my competitive paddling.  By 2004 I had paddled my way onto a competitive team that went on to paddle in Berlin at the 2005 World Dragon Boat Championships for National teams. By the end of 2009 I had paddled in 4 World Championship Dragon Boat competitions (Berlin, Hogtown, Sydney, Prague) with teams that won 20 medals of which 17 were gold. 

First V1 RaceAs part of the Dragon Boat paddler selection process for finding the fastest paddlers, coaches started to use paddling tests, often in outrigger canoes.  I soon discovered that I enjoyed paddling outrigger and my coach suggested I try qualify for the 2008 World Outrigger Sprint Championships in Sacramento California.  I qualified for that competition via a time trial and my first heat at the championship was also my first real sprint race.  I did well and brought home my first Solo Medal for 60+ V1 500m - Bronze.  My next International competition was not until 2012 primarily due to shoulder injuries resulting from all the training for the 2009 Dragon Boat competition.  But by 2012,  I was ready for that competition in Calgary and brought home a gold medal in V1 500m (and set a new time record of 2:25.54) and 4 more gold medals in team races.  The next Major competition was in Rio Brazil (our competition became world famous for being ground 0 for the Zika virus outbreak) where I rounded out my collection of V1 medals by winning silver, losing against Tahiti.  The 2006 competition in Australia was my last in the 60+ age group and while I did make the final race in V1, I was last out of a field of 8 and the winner broke my world record by a considerable margin.  So my medal count in Outrigger is 14 of which 6 are team gold plus a gold, silver and bronze in Solo V1.   I had been looking forward to the 2018 World Outrigger Sprint world championships in Tahiti as Tahiti is the recognized home of outrigger sprint paddling.  Despite qualifying to compete as part of the Canadian team, I declined and ended up dancing with my Mother on her 97th Birthday on the same day as the wedding of my brother's son and the same day as the competitions in Tahiti.   

I have not paddled in International competition again since 2016 however, I did qualify for solo V1 in 70+ and a spot on the 70+ and 60+ teams for the World Sprints Championship in Hawaii in August 2020.  With a world-wide virus pandemic I did not have to drag this old body to the start lines yet one more time . . . as of September 2021, I've retired from competition so my paddling will become less competitive now.

Paddling with
      Nappy in MolokaiMy Racing hasn't all been in sprints.  When you paddle fast in sprints, teams sometimes assume you would also be good in distance races.  So I paddled the 65km Molokai Hoe 4 times starting in 2011.  Our teams managed to win the silver medal for 60+ three years in a row and in a determined effort to finally win gold, placed third and got bronze.  It's a grueling race and from now on I'll leave it to the younger paddlers.  However, to truly understand outrigger paddling, going to Hawaii (and Tahiti) is a requirement.  It's as ingrained into the local psyche as hockey is in Canada. 

My coaching started in Chelsea Quebec after taking the courses for the first two levels of coaching Dragon Boat - community and competitive.  I had the extreme good fortune of getting help from some of the best coaches in both Dragon Boat and Outrigger and received much encouragement from them.  Most of my inspiration came from the Cascades Snr Master Women team who worked very hard and did very well internationally in a very competitive category.  Their coach gave me occasional opportunities to step in and help coach and those were outings I will always treasure - they showed me how to work hard and have fun at the same time.  When I first paddled in Chelsea, there were no outriggers.  I started bringing some in and even became an outrigger dealer for eastern Canada for a few years.  By the time I left chelsea in 2012, there were over 16 outrigger canoes and on my last return trip they even had an OC6!  Paddling that OC6 with the Cascades paddlers was a real treat that I will always remember.

So that's my guiding principle for outrigger - get some exercise, improve your paddling skills and have fun too.  Very easy to do in both locations I frequent - the baja and the kootenays.  Last year and again this year we will go camping in the Baja on the Gulf of California using our OC6 somewhat like I did in the 1970s when I first started canoe trips in Ontario and Quebec.  And that's what Paddles UP is all about - paddling as a lifelong activity for the enjoyment of the outdoors. 

Credits: Thanks to all the CdB paddlers - whitewater skills translate really well to getting a good catch and learning how to paddle hard! The Cascades Canoe Club and Jubee brought me to competitive paddling - what a great group of paddlers - thanks for the inspiration!. Francis was the best paddling buddy ever - he pushed me to my V1 world champion gold! And certainly not least, the Calgary club and their coach who welcomed the guy from the east with open arms - and provided life changing opportunities.

Paddles UP!
Paddles UP!
Celebrating over 60 years of paddling in 2021
Loreto Bay, BCS, MX and Woodbury Point, Kootenay District, BC

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email: alex@paddles-up.ca