Different strokes for different paddlers

Paddlefest 2011 to highlight emerging sport

Participants in a paddling lesson get prepared to hit the water during last year’s Paddlefest. This year’s multi-faceted event happens Saturday (June 18) at Willows Beach.

Participants in a paddling lesson get prepared to hit the water during last year’s Paddlefest. This year’s multi-faceted event happens Saturday (June 18) at Willows Beach.

No, it’s not surfboarding, or canoeing. It’s a bit of both.

It’s standup paddle-boarding, a new phenomenon that enthusiasts say is making surfing more accessible.

“The average person can surf in a day or two, as opposed to years,” said Jason Maartense, a standup paddle-boarding instructor.

“If you can swim and stand, you can do it.”

Popularized by surfers like Laird Hamilton who use it for cross-training and to build core fitness, the sport now has a healthy competition scene. It also allows young children and seniors to have the experience of being on a bigger board, with the added stability of a paddle, said Maartense.

Stand-up paddle-boarding will be a key part of Paddlefest, a Canada-wide event promoting all types of paddle sports.

June 18 will mark the fourth year Paddlefest has been held in Greater Victoria, but the first time it’ll be held at Willows Beach.

Andrew Woodford from Mountain Equipment Co-op, which is running the event, said paddle sports are growing in popularity, but many people still think they’re too costly to pursue.

“They’re not as expensive as people think,” he said.

Instructors will be offering in-water lessons throughout the day for $10, as well as free demos on the beach.

Power To Be is one of the groups hosting demos of their adapted kayaks, designed for use by children and teens with mental or physical disabilities. The kayaks are fitted with pontoons to keep the canoe more stable, as well as special paddle holders that allow canoeists with poor motor control to grip them more easily, said Power To Be founder and executive director Tim Cormode.

Enthusiasts can buy and sell used gear through the Paddle Swap, by setting up a booth or table at the event.

Paddling organizations and equipment vendors will also have booths.

Paddlers are encouraged to bring their own boats and equipment if they have them.

To register for lessons or the swap meet, email Kieran Dowling at victoriapaddlefest@mec.ca, call 250-386-2667 or visit http://blog.mec.ca/events/mec-paddlefest/mec-paddlefest-victoria.

intern@vicnews.com