Over 200 racers flocked to Regina’s Wascana Lake to test their speed and skills on the water, competing in the Canada Day Classic regatta.
The two-day competition saw most racers coming from Western Canada like Alberta or Manitoba, but there were others that came from as far away as Seattle and Oklahoma City.
“We drove about 22 hours north to come here and race,” Oklahoma City team coach Aasim Saleh said.
The American team of canoers and kayakers, was made up of 25 boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 18 years old.
He said they made the long drive because of the high skill level in Canada.
“We get to come up here, train with the Canadians. They’re some of the best paddlers in the world,” Saleh explained.
Athletes can race in singles, doubles or even in a 14-person war canoe, with varying age groups.
“People can start as early as seven years old and there’s competitors that’s 65 years old,” Don Anderson, Wascana Racing Canoe Club Vice-Commodore, said.
Among the racers is Zoey Bourgeois. She started paddling at the age of 10 years old, and six years later, it’s become part of her lifestyle.
“I’ve just been in the sport for so long, I don’ t know what I would do if I didn’t come down to the club everyday and go for a paddle,” Bourgeois said.
The 10-time medalist at the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games said the sport has given her new meaning to the phrase “float your own boat.”
“You’re doing your own thing.”
“You’re out there, you’re all alone just in your boat with your paddle,” she said.
Coaches said the sport is an alternative to more popular sports but it’s just as important.
“There’s a lot of kids that haven’t really found their place in athletics or just in general, and kayaking is a place that a lot of kids… find a place,” Saleh said.
The two-day event has races going almost every five minutes, from shorter distances like 200m to 1000m sprints.
“It’s all about being in time, so there’s single boats, there’s K2 (which means) two-person kayak,” Anderson said.
“It’s all about being in time with your teammates. The better time you’re in, the faster you’ll go,” he said.