Spreading the love: New association launches to expand paddlesports community

New Revelstoke Paddlesport Association seeks to unite Revelstoke's burgeoning paddling scene.

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Paddlers take to Lake Revelstoke to practice rolls at the June 17 gathering. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

By Cassidy Randall

I pull my skirt for the third time, and when I surface from the frigid water, I hear my personal kayak teacher shouting, “That was great! You were so much closer!” I don’t feel any closer to being able to roll a kayak, but at Martha Creek on a sunny Saturday with free gear, powerhouse volunteer instructors and a literal party on the beach waiting for me when I towel off, I couldn’t care less.

The gathering at Martha Creek on June 17. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The Revelstoke Paddlesport Association officially launched on June 17 with a bang. With a mission to develop, provide, and promote recreational and competitive paddlesports events and activities around Revelstoke, the Association is a new rallying center for the town’s kayakers, canoers, and stand-up paddleboarders (SUPers, to those in the know). Membership in the association is free this year.

“Revelstoke has incredible watersport opportunities, but the scene here is still pretty small,” said Jacque Kelsall, one of the crew helping out with the launch and donating their time to pass on knowledge to newbies. “If you don’t have a lot of gear, paddling can be hard to get into. We wanted to change that by giving people an easy entry, and start spreading the love of paddlesports.”

Canoeing at Martha Creek. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

And the launch day at Martha Creek was a smashing success in that regard, if the scene from the beach was any gauge, with upwards of five canoes, 10 SUPs, and 12 kayaks on the water at any one point. Dozens of people waited on shore for their turn to try out vessels, passing the time playing music, introducing themselves to each other, and trading adventure stories.

Canoe legend Bill Pollock, president of the association, quietly reigned over the afternoon between leading canoe clinics. Pollock is the mastermind behind the first major competitive event the association will host: the upcoming Dave Thompson Paddlesport Classic taking place August 18–20, a three-day race from Mica Creek to Revelstoke spanning 125 kilometres of paddling and portages — the longest paddlesport event in B.C.

Pollock was joined in leading clinics by the likes of professional kayaker Katrina Van Wijk, coaching people on kayak rolls and paddling technique, and Carmen Legate with Stoke Paddleboard Adventures leading SUPers around the bay. Flexpeditions stepped up to provide boats, PFDs and wetsuits. Local paddlers also gave their gear and their time to accommodate the droves of people who showed up to play on the water.

The association bookended the adventure-packed day at Martha Creek with film festivals for maximum paddlesport stoke. The international Reel Paddling Film Festival showed on Friday night, and people turned out in force to support Saturday night’s River Reels, full of flicks from local filmmakers.

“I’m really pleased with this launch — we’ve had a better turnout than any of us expected,” Pollock said between tossing me tips on speed paddling from the stern of his racing canoe. “We might do more than one of these annually.”

Good, I think. Maybe then I can finally get my roll down. In the meantime, maybe I’ll sign up for the Dave Thompson Paddlesport Classic and put my new racing stroke to work.

This article first appeared in the July issue of the print Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

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Melissa Jameson is the civic affairs reporter for the Revelstoke Mountaineer. She handles the newsy side of goings on about Revelstoke. Got a news tip? Feel free to contact Melissa at [email protected]