Whitewater lovers gearing up for Paddlefest 

Three day expo to promote recreational paddling in Whistler

"There is more potential for paddling out there to enjoy than there is for mountain biking," says Grant Lamont of Epic Events, an organizer of the Paddlefest 2002 festivities, which will run from June 7 to 9.

"People are already realizing the tourism opportunities and value of mountain bikers in the summer, and the same opportunity exists to bring kayakers to Whistler."

Not that Lamont is against mountain biking – for over a decade Epic Events and Lamont have organized the popular Cheakamus Challenge bike race from Squamish to Whistler. He just knows a good thing when he sees it, and wants to make a good thing better.

Epic Events is organizing Paddlefest 2002 in co-operation with Donny Butler of Captain Holiday’s Kayak and Adventure School and Paddler Magazine of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Paddlefest is a combination of exhibits and events. There is a commercial retail component, an educational component, an advocacy component, and a variety of competitions and demos thrown in to keep things flowing.

On the retail side, sponsors and retailers will be invited to set up tents to display and sell their gear.

For education, there will be numerous demonstrations and clinics, plus a special presentation by First Nations on the building and handling of war canoes.

"We are also trying to hook up with the kids, to introduce them to the sport," says Lamont.

The clinics include half-day, full-day and two-day introductions to kayaking, plus kids programs, family programs and rolling clinics, river running clinics and playboating clinics, all of which are available from Captain Holiday’s for half the regular price. For advanced paddlers, there will be a creeking clinic featuring some of the steepest runs in the area and whitewater rated Grade IV and higher.

The advocacy component will include a Waterworks Project, which will be a unique paddling enhancement project in the region that the Paddlefest will support. In addition there will be some discussion of issues affecting the paddling community.

One particular issue that’s hot right now is the topic of small run-of-the river hydro projects in the corridor.

"Before all these waterways are tied up with hydro projects, we need to raise the awareness of the other recreational potential these rivers have," says Lamont. "Kayaking is going to explode here in the next five years, and we can’t have all of our waterways blocked."

On Sunday there will be a guest speaker and information session on the issue, including an update from the Whistler Kayak Club.

The organizers will also promote dragon boat racing in the corridor, feeding on the international success of the Pemberton Laoyam Eagles Dragon Boat Team.

The B.C. Whitewater Association will host its annual general meeting in conjunction with Paddlefest this year.

In the demonstration department, there will be demo tours on Green Lake and Green River, as well as various product and technique demos.

There will also be a number of run competitions, including a Kayak Rodeo on the Upper Cheakamus River, canoe races on Alta Lake, and war canoe races on Green Lake.

As well, there will be food and entertainment throughout the festival, including salmon barbecues, and First Nations ceremonies.

More information on Paddlefest 2002 and the activities planned will be made available in the next few months leading up to the event.

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