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At one point during every month I panic a bit thinking of a new sport for the next EA sports column. Then I read something, meet someone new or see a segment on a sports channel that makes me realize they are so many sports I haven’t even touched on yet. It was actually due to a friend’s CBC sports blog about her husband’s retirement that sparked my June article.
Kelly Vanderbeek is a veteran women’s downhiller on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. Sidelined the past two years due to injury she has been writing an awesome sports blog for CBC as well as commentating and doing other sports journalism. Kelly’s husband is five-time Olympian, two-time world champion and a countless top ten performer kayaker David Ford. Kelly’s recent posting* on cbcsports.ca was a very heartfelt article about her husband’s amazing career.
While his recent attempt to qualify for his sixth Olympic games just fell short and retirement is looming, he clearly was a pioneer of his sport in Canada. Reading the article not only made me want to send David out huge props on his career, but it also made me think a bit more about the sport of whitewater paddling and how it actually is very prevalent in our Fernie community.
Whitewater kayaking is a definite test of strength and dedication. About six or seven years back I took a couple kayak lessons. We spent three hours in a lake near Calgary trying to master the Eskimo roll. I have never been so exhausted or so dizzy from all the blood rushing to my head. I then proceeded to paddle a couple rivers (very mellow rivers) with my new techniques. Let’s just say that I maybe got the Eskimo roll dialled only 50% of the time and much of the river was spent boat bottom up with my head in the water. Clearly I would need years of work on my techniques and a big set of cojones to really get into that sport. The only paddling I have done since is in the Powder Pedal Paddle race (and if you have read previous articles you know that didn’t go so well either).
While not all paddlers navigate whitewater through the gates, drops and eddies of a race course like David Ford, they are all thrill-seeking water lovers. Think about the time you may have been white water rafting and experienced class four or five rapids in a huge raft that is basically being manoeuvred by a trained guide. Now imagine that but with bigger rapids, waterfalls, currents, waves, everything the water can throw at you in a small kayak, alone. Needless to say kayakers are hardcore and Fernie is full of them.
Recently there has been some great news for our Fernie paddlers, those in the surrounding area and anyone keen to try out the sport. Fernie now has a whitewater society that has put together a plan and is actively working towards implementing a whitewater park here in the near future. 200+ people showed up at the Clubhouse restaurant in early May to learn more about this exciting endeavour. World renowned paddler and whitewater park designer Scott Shipley put on an excellent presentation complete with pictures of other whitewater parks he has created, including the upcoming 2012 London Olympic venue. Paddlers and non paddlers alike seemed to be impressed with the concepts and plan presented.
While permitting and funding will ultimately dictate the timeline, the society is definitely heading the project in the right direction. Set to include a surf wave as well as training features and a race course, the park will be a great addition to our beautiful town as well as another place to watch Fernie’s finest honing their skills. Check out updates on their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/FernieWhitewaterPark