Another River Conquered

Friday, April 19, 2019 - By: Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20

Persistent drizzle, chilly temperatures, and foaming rapids did not stop a hardy group of Outdoor Pursuits students from attending the Cowichan Youth Kayaking Festival this past weekend. Mr Norman has been organizing this youth-centered whitewater paddling festival for seven consecutive years, with the goal of developing skills and a passion for paddling in youth from Brentwood and across the province. This year, about 60 youth paddlers attended, along with many incredible volunteer instructors. Skills ranged from experienced paddlers to those climbing into a boat for the first time, but the weekend was educational and fun for everyone involved. 

On Friday afternoon, we headed to the Horseshoe Bend Group Campsite, situated on the shores of the beautiful Cowichan River, and set up the campsite that was to be our home for the next three days. Following a delicious dinner of steaks, garlic bread, roasted vegetables, and baked potatoes, we headed to the pool with kayaks and paddles. The objective of this pool session is to ensure that everyone is able to exit their kayak quickly and safely in preparation for flipping in rapids over the weekend, however after that was met, we all had a chance to practise skills at our level, from t-rescues, to rolls, to stern-squirts. With many instructors offering to share their expertise, there was incredible opportunities to receive different strategies to help us achieve our individual paddling goals. 

Saturday morning dawned drizzly and gray, but that didn’t stop everybody in the camp from clambering out of cozy tents to enthusiastically enjoy a breakfast of french toast, fruit, and sausages, prepared by a few ambitious Brentwood students. Soon after, wetsuits, spray skirts, splash tops, and life jackets were donned in preparation for a day on the river. Students were divided into small groups based on paddling experience and skills. With each group under the supervision of two or more incredible volunteer instructors, everyone had a safe, challenging, skill-building, and fun morning, paddling various sections of the river. After a quick lunch back at the campsite, the paddlers headed back to the river to dive into an afternoon of adrenaline-inducing rapids and high-quality instruction for paddling skill development. 

Aatya A, Allard ‘20, remarked that it was a great opportunity to “meet a bunch of new people with similar interests and it [was] nice to have a lot of professionals around to help out”. The festival was incredibly lucky this year to have many dedicated, skilled, and enthusiastic volunteer instructors, four of whom were students who had attended previous CRYK festivals. While the volunteers are appreciated every year, the caliber of instruction this past weekend exceeded all expectations. 

The sun broke apart the clouds late on Saturday afternoon, leading to a dry evening, perfect for hot chocolate, cards, and camp fires! Sunday morning was another session on the river, and in the afternoon was the tradition of the mass-paddle down a section of rapids. After packing up tents and peeling off soaked paddling gear, we gathered for awards, acknowledgements, and the much-anticipated raffle. While there was much exciting paddling-related gear to be raffled off, the most thrilling of all was a white-water kayak donated by the festival, which was won by an ecstatic Eme L! 

As Sam S, Ellis ‘19 put it, “My experience was honestly wonderful. Not only was it very educational, it was also very fun and the instructors were very helpful in their teaching methods. Everyone was also so respectful and nice and patient when anything happened, from flipping over in kayaks or waiting for people to catch up.” 

On behalf of all the students at the festival, I would like to extend an enormous thank you to all of the dedicated volunteers, as well as Mr Norman for his hard work in organizing the incredible experience! 

Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20 

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