Alberta provincials – a celebration of whitewater!
Words and Images: Lee Vincent | Team Jackson and Aquabatics Ambassador
The Alberta Whitewater Provincial Championships took place over the Labour Day long weekend this year, a week early than normal due to the pending construction at Canoe Meadows.
It is a gathering of canoe/kayak clubs from across Alberta – coming together to learn, compete and celebrate the sport of whitewater paddling. With over 70 competitors and 100 attendees this years’ event had amazing energy – even though it rained off and on the entire time.
Although athletes are competing for the bragging rights of Provincial “Champion” the weekend is more about fun and engagement than competition. The organizers have designed a points system that incents athletes to participate in as many events as possible, even if they are not strong, in order to access an amazing array of prizes on offer. Events cover the range from downriver, slalom, freestyle and extreme slalom. It’s not uncommon to see kids wearing multiple spray skirts to allow them to transition quickly between slalom and downriver or freestyle boats. People trying C1 that have never paddled C1 before. People teaming up to paddle C2 that have never paddled C1 before, let alone a C2 boat! And there is swimming… and laughing… and more laughing!
One of my favourite events is the beginner slalom (K1 and C1) – these races take place AFTER the water has been shut off. There is a small amount of current and pooled water that runs through the lower section of the racecourse where there are 5 gates set up to create a short course. The athletes are anywhere from 6-10 and are in a mixture of plastic and small slalom boats. Sometimes it’s a young K1 athlete doing their first C1 attempt or a younger sibling of a cadet or junior paddler taking a kick at paddling K1. Either way, it has the biggest smiles – both during and after the event. They never want to get out of the water after the event – a sure sign of success!
Alberta Provincials is open to everyone in terms of skill level and geography. There are categories from age 6 to 100 and an event to suit everyone’s interest. It is definitely a family event with parents are out competing with their kids, siblings with siblings and lots of cheering. I completely recommend it to all Western Canada whitewater paddlers.
As an Aquabatics Ambassador I was especially proud to see how involved Aquabatics was this year – the team ran clinics, helped run events, competed in events and provided prizes. A great Alberta based organization that is investing in our local paddling community.