As the date for the 2016 Canadian Surfski Champs has recently been set (July 16th, 2016 if you haven’t caught it yet), and with a few local representatives at the ICF Ocean Racing World Champs in Tahiti going on right now, the time is ripe for a post about the 2015 race earlier this summer.

There was a lot of anticipation coming into this year’s event, from us as the organisers, from local media, from people who raced last year and also from new competitors who had heard about the race by word of mouth. Suffice to say, we were excited.

As it got closer to the day of the race, that excitement only increased as we saw more local paddlers register as well as the international racers start to arrive. This year we were accepted as part of the World Surfski Series , and the draw of the Triple Crown of our race, the Gorge Paddling Festival and the US Surfski Championships meant that the big guns came to town.

Team Think were the first to arrive, with Ken Rice almost becoming a local in the three weeks he was here. His brother Sean came next, with Mackenzie Hynard and Teneale Hatton joining shortly after. For Epic Kayaks, Jasper Mocke arrived in the week before the race and really took his time exploring Deep Cove and Squamish. Stellar Kayaks Performance Director Wesley Echols also made the trip out, and he and his wife seemed to really enjoy their time here. We could name all of the guys who made it out – but thanks to everyone who travelled great distances to be here.

One way that our local contingent tested themselves before the race was in our Tuesday Night Race just a few days before the big race. The Elite racers in town started two minutes after the main field, and caught them up pretty quick, it was quite amazing to see. It was really lovely to see these guys enjoy taking part and interacting and they even came up to the Raven to enjoy that famous local delicacy, the Raven Burger, after the race.

Sean & Ken Rice racing surfskis

A lot of the chat at the Raven that night was about the wind. Last year’s race on August 23rd was not particularly blessed with wind…not at all in fact, which was a surprise to us because usually the wind is pretty predictable. This year, with an earlier date, the forecasts were good and everyone was talking about waves and swells and getting pumped.

Race day dawned, and even when we were setting up the tents at the finish line at 8am they needed tying down because of the wind. This boded well. By the end of check in everyone was present who was supposed to be, and we boarded the school buses to take us to the start lines. With race numbers on, the pre-race meeting got underway with Bob managing to offend pretty much everybody. Luckily it’s Bob so he got away with it. Racers to the start line and away we go.

Now I always get pretty excited about race starts even at the regular TNRs, but this was pretty special. I was watching from a clifftop vantage point looking out over the beautiful Howe Sound and when I heard the horn sound it was thrilling, I just got chills on the back of my neck reliving it! Start of the 2015 Canadian Surfski ChampionshipsAs we drove back to film the finish line, Bob was texting and calling with updates from the lead boat, and as I frantically tried to update facebook and the twitterverse with the action,a I couldn’t help but try and picture what the guys and girls in the boats were going through and I started to get pretty sweaty…that’s when we realised the seat warmers were on in the 30 degree heat. Nice one Dave.

The finish line itself was hectic, with sail boats, paddle boards and row boats all using the channel. As we waited for the racers to come in, speculation rose as to who was going to come in first. We knew that Sean took the Think Kayaks Hot Spot and led for most of the race, but Jasper Mocke took the lead for a while, and Michael Booth was looking strong too. The anticipation grew until finally we saw them…Sean Rice 1st, Michael Booth 2nd and Jasper Mocke 3rd.

For the women’s competition, we were really excited to have such a great field this year. Teneale Hatton for Think Kayaks won just ahead of Rowena Coghill and third was Tamlyn Bohm from Kelowna. Hopefully more and more women will take part in future years with role models like these women paddling.

One of the biggest cheers came in for Wes Hammer, last year’s fastest Canadian and one of our TNR regulars who came in 8th.  Other notables were the double of Carter Johnson and Ana Swetish from the US, as Ana at 13 years old was our youngest competitor, and Greg Barton, former Olympic Champion of the K1 and K2 and co-owner at Epic Kayaks was a fantastic 7th.

As predicted, the winds had blown, and there had been some lovely rollers for the racers to catch, however this threw some competitors off their game and we ended up with four racers being rescued by the various support boats. One of them was even handed a beer as they were brought back to the finish line – that’s how to get rescued in style!Podium of Canadian Surfski Champs 2015

After a very well received lunch with beer on tap from our favourite Bridge Brewing, everyone relaxed and congratulated the winners. As people started to dissipate, we could relax and bask in the knowledge that we had pulled it off. There are of course always aspects that could be  improved, and we will work on them for next year. For now, we thank all competitors, sponsors, helpers and everyone who helped to create such a great event. Squamish, we will be back in 2016! Keep an eye on the website for details here.

There have been some other great posts about the race, including the following which you should check out! Sean Rice/Your Paddle Life (Think Kayaks), Stew O’Regan (Think Kayaks), Jasper Mocke (Epic Kayaks), Michael Booth (Fenn Kayaks) and Paul Tomblin.