Passionate Paddlers at Puntledge

Saturday, June 11, 2016 - By: Hannah R, Mackenzie ‘18; Photo by Dan Norman

At 7:00am on Saturday, May 28th, while most enjoyed a sleep-in, a small group of students boarded the bus, laden with backpacks, sleeping pads, and wetsuits.  These eight dedicated ODP white-water paddlers, along with Mr. Norman and our assistant paddling instructor, Thyren, napped, chatted, or played chess on the drive to Courtenay, BC for the 2016 Puntledge River Festival. 

Before so much as setting up our tents, we launched for the first run of the weekend. Coming from the Cowichan River, which is currently running at about five cubic meters per second, the cold, fast, 75m3/s Puntledge River was a shocker for those who had never seen the likes. After two enjoyable, if wet and challenging, runs, we peeled off clammy wetsuits and set up camp. 

The after-dinner relay race put on by Brentwood, and a raffle of paddling gear were both successful. From the very young ‘princess’ in Egyptian Chair to seasoned paddlers, all laughed and raced their hardest as “left, right, left, right” was chanted at the site of the Ukrainian Ski challenge. The raffle/prize give-away proved fruitful, too, as Jacob N’s jumping skills and Chenoa H’s quick catching reflexes resulted in a few new shirts and hats for various members of the group. A lucky raffle ticket even won a new paddling helmet for Hannah R, which everyone else felt obliged to knock on, just to “test it out.”

Once it got too dark to see our playing cards and the pie had all been eaten, it was time to quiet giggles and chatter, snuggle into sleeping bags, and get some well-deserved sleep. 

Sunday morning, in contrast to the previous evening, dawned bright and sunny – perfect weather for a day of paddling. Paddle we did, experiencing the highest water most of us had paddled: a rushing 120m3/s in the afternoon. The high river level tested our skills and provided mandatory roll practice for many, but it also sported some excellent surf waves to catch and a swift current to play in. 

Paddling the Puntledge River was an excellent skill-builder for all members of the group, with a few paddlers managing their first white-water rolls. The most experienced paddlers had the opportunity to paddle a more difficult section, as well, which was described to the rest of us as ‘kinda scary,’ to use the mildest descriptors. 

A full weekend of ODP is tiring, but, while the rest of us read or rested, the Grade 9s still summoned the energy to play cards all the way back to school, and, come Tuesday, we eagerly loaded boats to return to the Cowichan. 

Thank you, Mr. Norman, on behalf of all the paddlers, for organizing our participation in the Puntledge festival – it was a great weekend!  

Hannah R, Mackenzie ‘18

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