Darren looking dapper at a snowy Franks Slide. (photo credit to Thomas Redman) 

AQOutdoors have recently started a blog series in which we highlight local paddlers from all genres. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to be our first Whitewater paddler.  Darren Thompson, from Edmonton Alberta, Canada. 

With me being newer to the local to Edmonton area paddling scene, and working at Aquabatics  you tend to meet a lot of paddlers from all paddling genres and walks of life.  One of the first Edmonton local paddlers I had the pleasure of meeting is Darren Thompson.   He walked into the shop all smiles and stoked on our existence.  Every time since, he always speaks with passion about paddling whether sharing some of his own adventures, telling me about United Alberta Paddling Society  club events, or tolerating my tales of kayak fishing adventures.  Darren is stand up individual and the paddling world in Edmonton is a better place because of him, his stoke, and everything else he does for our paddling community.

So, without further ado, I present 20 Questions with Darren Thompson.

Who the heck are yeah?

Darren Thompson - just a guy with a love for the outdoors, paddling and the paddling community.

Where yeah from?

I hail from southern Alberta but have called Edmonton home for a while now.

When did you start kayaking?

My first river trip was in late August 2009. A 12hr paddle trip from where the forestry trunk road crosses the North Saskatchewan down to the Brierlies... in a rec kayak... and 2 female pieces of a breakdown paddle... My paddling partners were a father/son team in a tandem canoe. We only stopped long enough to pee. I loved it and couldn't wait to get on the river again... armed with better gear and some training!

Why do you paddle a kayak when there’s so many other ways to get on the water?

Prior to kayaking I had been on several commercial whitewater rafting trips. I loved the thrill of whitewater but needed a vessel that I was more in control of after one epic high water trip down the Kicking Horse river where 5 of 7 rafts flipped in the aptly named rapid Shotgun/Portage - mostly because the customers were not ready for how full on continuous class IV is and couldn't maneuver their boats. A kayak was the obvious choice for me and I still think so.

Do you remember what your first kayak was? colour?

The Spring after my first river trip I went to the annual Aquabatics Boat and Gear Swap where I purchased my first used boat - a well loved, orange Wavesport ZG 54. A playboat that had been around for about 4yrs that had many lessons to teach me at the Brierlies about keeping my upstream edge up!

 If you could build the perfect whitewater kayak what would it look like?

I'm not much into designing - more testing... any new demo boats coming in next year?? ;)

The new Jackson Rockstar 4.0 is a sick boat! It loves to be vertical, is easier to balance and get huge air loops with than with any other playboat I have tried.  I'm looking forward to trying the Dagger Rewind when it comes in too.  Also, although possibly hard to get in Canada - I love the look of Gui Gui carbon playboats.


Christmas is coming! Darren holding his breath at Santa Claws (photo credit Sarah C Maxwel)

Where’s your favorite place to kayak, well one your comfortable sharing with the world anyway?

That's a tough one. Summer of 2018 I managed to tag along with a couple other local paddlers on an awesome trip through BC where we paddled a number of classics but the highlight of the trip for me was the Cheakamus river (upper section) near Whistler. Fast, full on class IV fun with easy logistics. www.liquidlore.com/bc/uppercheak/

 What's the longest commute you’ve made for a weekend of paddling?

That would definitely have to be for the  Slave River Festival. 15hr drive from Edmonton to Ft. Smith. I want to go back someday and stay longer than a long weekend! It's such a huge whitewater playground - and the water is crazy warm!

Do you enjoy kayak competitions? Why?

Sure, I love the way everyone gets into the events and cheer each other on - spectators and competitors alike. I like it when they are kept at a fun level and not too serious.

 Creeking, playboating, or river running?

I like them all but definitely prefer playboating.

How are you pushing yourself on the water?

I like to push my boundaries in small increments - sometimes paddling with others who are far better than I am and watching them styling their lines or how easily and efficiently they move through a difficult rapid or how they execute a particular trick.

Any tricks or runs your currently trying to dial in?

Hmmm. Maybe this will be the year I learn the Phonix Monkey!

Do you do any type of winter training?

I try to get to as many pool and wave pool sessions as I can and I am excited to try indoor climbing.

Darren putting in the work at a Scona Pool Sesh. (photo Credit Sarah C Maxwell)

What’s your dream run?

Any run with big play waves and a fun crew really. This summer I was fortunate to get on a 6 day trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with an awesome crew and a decent water level. I'd like to go back with a bit higher water and also continue down the Main Salmon.

 What’s the best advice you would give to someone brand new to whitewater kayaking?

Don't give up. It gets better! Lol.

If you could go kayaking with anyone in the world past or present who would it be?

It would have been cool to have gone down a river with my dad.

Is there anything you would change about kayaking?

We are pretty lucky in Alberta - for the most part, river access is not a huge issue but in other parts of Canada and the world it certainly is. It would be ideal if river access could be preserved and protected in such a way that makes sense for land-owners, industry and recreational river users alike. Is that too tall of an order??

If you were reincarnated as a superhero, what would your superpower be any why?

I'd be Super Monkey - because the 'monkey see - monkey do' power would save so much time learning how to do new tricks! Haha!

Is there anything I missed you wanted to add?

Welcome to Edmonton AqOutdoors! We needed a water-sports based store here to support the awesome whitewater community as well as others! If anyone in the Edmonton area is interested in learning how to whitewater kayak enquire at the shop for Alberta's best instruction and join our club at paddleuaps.ca to meet the community and get rolling in the pool to start!

Keep Up the awesome paddling Darren! Thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions for us. 

I urge everyone in the greater Edmonton area to check out the United Albertan Paddling Society (UAPS) They are a fantastic, welcoming group of paddlers, always down for a whitewater adventure. They run pool sessions weekly in the winter,  and other events throughout the year.  You will find Darren at most of them.


Written By: Andrew W, Questions Answered By: Darren T.