Every Saturday morning the Blondeau-Johnston family packs their skating gear into their bags, loads the car and heads to their 6:30 a.m. speed skating practice at the Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt.
After the hour-long practice is over, they pile into the car again and head to their home in Metchosin. It is routine for the family of four — Chris, Jane and their two children Morgan, 13, and Catriona, 11, who also practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
The sport has become a family affair (they are known as the Von Trapp family of skaters) since joining the Esquimalt Speed Skating Club two years ago.
After a couple of free practices, they decided to come as a family. Unlike some sports where parents drive their children and sit in the bleachers and watch, Chris and Jane were looking for sports in which the entire family could participate.
“I feel it’s important for our kids to see that mom and dad can be beginners at something too. We all started as beginners and we’ve moved and progressed together over the last year-and-a-half or so,” said Chris, who moved to Victoria from Quebec 25 years ago. “Here we all learn together.”
Practice also allows the busy family to spend some much-need time together since both parents have hectic professional lives. Chris works at Pearson College, while Jane is a realtor.
“We wouldn’t come out at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning if we didn’t think that it was worthwhile for the whole family,” Jane said. “It’s my only moment of sanity when I don’t have a phone. What’s interesting is seeing our kids and us given the opportunity to focus on one individual thing without a distraction — without TV or computers.”
Of course, there is a bit of friendly-competitiveness, especially between Morgan and Catriona who enjoy the quick pace of the sport and tease each other on-ice.
According to Ian Phillips, president of the club, speed skating is taken up by many local families as a way to spend time together.
“There’s very few sports where the entire family can participate,” he said. “With speed skating, the mom, dad and kids can come out and do their thing. It has that aspect that a lot of other sports don’t have.”
The Esquimalt Speed Skating Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season and are looking for new members. The first few practices are free for people thinking about joining. For more information call Phillips at 250-474-1491.
The club is also hosting an open house at the Archie Browning Arena on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., for its anniversary, which will include a skate, food and refreshments.