Last Place Victory

Probably few people have ever been so pleased and proud of a last place finish. Two different paddling club staff enthusiastically responded to my email inquiry and encouraged me to come out for this event today (Shack Attack, Feb. 19, 2006) for my first ever competition – having bought my first canoe less than two years ago at close to 60 years of age. In hind sight, maybe I should have taken that as a warning. I was skeptical that there would even be any
other recreational canoes in the “anything else” category listed after the Surf skis, OC-1s, OC-2s and kayaks. (I paddle a Wenonah Voyager touring solo.) But I supposed at least the largest category would be made up of the ubiquitous sea kayaks.

I arrived to find an impressive display of surf skis and OCs being off-loaded from vehicles and arrayed on the park lawn near the beach. Altogether, solos and tandems, I think there were 18 entrys. I wandered around talking with paddlers about their sleek, racy craft and getting “a sense of the competition”. All seemed very knowledgable and experienced. One fellow did come over and express interest in my open canoe. He allowed as how it would have been a
good boat for that expedition he completed in the Yukon. That was just before solo kayaking down the coast of British Columbia from southeastern Alaska to Port Hardy! Eventually I did finally see one (!)solo sea kayak arrive on the beach.

I went to the registration desk and started to make my reservations known that maybe I was just a little outclassed here(!?!?). They wouldn’t hear of it. I admitted I had tried to pre-run the course on Thursday without managing to complete the return from the turn around point. One of the surf ski paddlers spoke up to say, “at least you
got there in those conditions. I tried it Thursday and after finding myself in the water, I gave up!” Well, fools rush in where angels fear to tread, so I registered for the day’s race.

The safety boat operator, a fellow named Chris, one of the encouraging club emailers, was most supportive and kept me in sight despite my being well behind from soon after the start. I was within a few hundred yards of the turn around when the first of the surf skis passed going the other way. They were followed by the OC-1s and OC-2s. Conditions were perfect with very little wind and less tidal current than I had feared. I was able to cut the rocky headlands very close and take the shortest route everywhere. My pre-run knowledge gave me confidence.

There were few boats still on the beach when I finally finished. As I was rinsing the salt water off my boat a club representative came along to say they would be starting the awards ceremony shortly in the park facility. Someone with a GPS said the out and back distance was 6.35 miles. Unofficial results: first surf ski in something over 50 minutes. First OC-1 within a minute of one hour. Yours truly in the lone open canoe: somewhere between an hour twenty-five and an
hour thirty. I’m not displeased. Besides the difference in equipment, most, but not all, contestants were young enough to be my children if not my grandchildren. There was one remarkable grey hair who had been pointed out with awe by another competitor. I think he took second in OC-1, four minutes behind the winner!

And yes, the lone kayak and the lone open canoe were each awarded water bottles containing clever little chocolate canoes. And I won a paddling cap in the draw. Are my shoulders and back sore? You bet! Do I love it? You don’t have to ask. I finished strong, feeling like a lot more of an athlete than I have any right to. That hour and a half was not longer than I have done before. Nor was it the hardest effort I have done for shorter periods. But it was certainly the hardest I have gone for such a distance. I guess that is part of what competitions are all about, an inspiration to go a little further, a little harder, to do our best. I’m a happy paddler, grateful to the club and their forebearance with my last place victory.

` Paul Glassen – Naniamo Canoe and Kayak

Winter Paddling – Rio Style

Rob and Carmen – Pacific Reach

On Dec 4th, after 22 hours of travelling, Rob, Carmen, Carrie, Richard, Leanne, Lucy, and Brian (our manager) from Pacific Reach arrived into Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The weather in Rio averages between 26-33 degrees, with humidity up to 90.

Before the race weekend we paddled around the shores to see the spectacular landscape while testing the 12 foot swells and wind conditions around Sugar Loaf, Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach waters. The endless beach of Copacabana is covered with beautiful Brazilian bronze bodies in colorful “body strings”.

The Rio Va’a was well attended with visiting teams came from Italy, Argentina, California, Hong Kong and other surrounding Brazilian Clubs. The majority of the teams were Men’s crews. The Tahitian teams had cancelled.

On the 1st race day, they unloaded the new Tahitian rudderless OC1’s for the races at the Praia Vermelha Beach (boats made by Ron Williams, 1 of the 3 Rons who used to live in Vancouver and paddled with the Blade Runners DB team). The OC1 races ran smoothly in the blazing 33 degrees heat. Later in the afternoon teams were paired up at random for V12s as demonstration races for the beach crowd.

On the V6 race day, the weather turned for the worse into a huge rainstorm. Teams arrived at 7:00am to rig the V6’s bearing torrential rain conditions and hovering under sun umbrellas for hours until the race officials decided it was somewhat safer to begin the race. After long debates the race course was compromised due to the rainstorm and poor visibility, reducing the original 34km course to 24km iron. The entrance to the bay of the race site was pounded by turbulent waves that pulled the boats towards the boulders from multiple directions, but at the same time pushes them back into the middle of the “washing machine”. That was Mother Nature?s gateway to test every team’s leap of faith in each other as a crew to pass the pit. The helicopter and safety boat video crews were cancelled due to safety reasons. After the race everyone was welcomed into the beach restaurant for a buffet and a very generous awards ceremony.

This was a great location and unforgettable experience for racing in difficult water conditions. Rio is a very beautiful and modern city with a lot of history and interesting architecture. Brazilian bbq buffets and local cuisine are great. Beer is $1 – $2 Cdn and is available on all beaches. The national drink is Caipirinha which is a killer version of Mojitos. The local Portuguese language and sign language is easy to pick up.

Thank you to Nicolas and his Rio Va’a Clube for their kind hospitality and Nicholas’ passion to make this venue a success. Ola and Seasons Greetings from Rio de Janeiro!


2005 World Master Games

World Masters Games has been a good experience and an international event. All that I was hoping for.

The marathon races had attendees from Canada, USA, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Australia, England, Scotland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and more.

Events included Kayak1, Kayak2, Kayak4, High
Kneel Canoe1, High Kneel Canoe 2, OC1, Marathon Canoe2, and Marathone
Canoe 1, in both men’s and women’s. Competitors ages ranged from 30
into the 70’s. The depth of experience was incredible, and ranged
from beginner racers to world class racers still actively paddling and
retired. Concurrently running was the Canadian Marathon Canoe
Championships. I have never seen such a good showing of marathone

The distance course was challenging for some while others had full
experience with the situation. The course was on a river and paddlers
were having to deal with current and depth fluctuations which all
effect boat speed. The current was changing daily because rains, and
overflow from an upstream dam, so what was clean water one day could
be shallows the next. It was not uncommon to see someone stuck in the
shallows. To the experienced marathon canoeists this was a practised
event, to the outrigger paddler it was a bit intimidating. For those
of us who had little experience with river running we tended to follow
the leader and hope they knew what we were doing. I have a greater
appreciation for river running and the knowledge needed to create the
“best line”.

The sprint events showed even more participation from other countries.
The course was well layed out. Events included all of the ICF events
and OC1 both in 500 and 1000m. Age categories started at 30 and went
on to the 70’s. The races were well run and very punctual.

WMG’s has left some lasting impressions on me. Here, aging, which is
happenig to all of us, loses it’s hinderance. Life becomes
celebrated. One impression for me was at the medal ceremony for K1
Men’s -70. It was obvious that the fellows knew each other very well.
They were from different parts of the world but very connected.
Although I don’t know for sure, it is entirely possible that these men
have been competing together for their entire paddling careers. For
them, at this event, time had stood still. Another was in
conversation with Hugh Fisher, Olympic Gold medalist. His comment
that he began chuckling to himself in a race just because he felt like
a kid again – charging down the river with international competition.
Seeing these athletes competing at all ages is truly remarkable and
I’m glad that I have had the opportunity to compete in this
international experience.

~ Neda