A group of young paddlers from Jasper returned last week from the Alberta Summer Games in Lethbridge with new friends and some additional experience in unfamiliar disciplines.
While experienced riding the alpine rivers close to home, the members of Jasper’s canoe/kayak contingent have had less opportunity to practise the types of events held at the Summer Games, namely slalom, kayak polo, and wildwater racing.
“It’s not wild at all,” 11-year-old Hope Deagle said of the latter event, at least when it came to the course they rode in the host city on the Prairies.
“It goes down like this all the way,” added fellow kayaker Thea Catto, also 11, as she demonstrated the river’s pitch with her hand, moving it in a slightly descending, almost horizontal motion.
Tyler Lausen, 14, turned in his best performance in the slalom event, which he said is “kind of like” riding the fast-moving waters of the mountain rivers he’s used to.
With more practice on a slalom course, he figured he could excel in the event but he said it’s difficult without a nearby facility dedicated to it.
Slalom kayaking and canoeing are events featured in the Olympics, where paddlers have to navigate a whitewater course – usually an artificial, man-made waterway – and make their way through a series of gates – some upstream, some downstream – as quickly as possible.
“It’s very exciting because the Olympics are on right now so Thea is very keen and she’s been watching,” said Sue Catto, who chaperoned the Jasper kids at the Alberta Summer Games.
The Jasper team did manage to win two of their games in the polo event while competing in Lethbridge, Sue noted.
Despite not medalling in any of the events, Lausen said the Summer Games were a great learning experience and also an opportunity to meet and make friends with other paddlers from around the province.
In addition to Deagle, Catto and Lausen, four other Jasper paddlers competed in Lethbridge July 26-29: Bentley Fawcett, David Broemeling, Liam Fengler-Wood and Reed Eady.
The local paddlers said they are now looking forward to provincials in early September, where events will take place on a more familiar waterway: the Kananaskis River.
“I went there earlier this year. It’s really fun,” said Lausen. “I checked out the course. It’s a good river – actual whitewater.”