Those old-school summer camp activities like Capture the Flag and making friendship bracelets can be a lot of fun, but they just don’t compare to paddling over waterfalls. For teenage kayakers in Whitewater Riders camp, the campfire Kumbayas are replaced with surf waves and “boof “strokes.
By Adrick Brock
Already established in Ontario, Whitewater Riders is a fully immersive, two-week kayaking camp for teen boaters looking to take their skills to the next level. After three summers of successful paddling, the camp has migrated west and is offering its first ever BC creek edition this summer.
“In BC, you have this incredible network of waterways that flow right out of glaciers into deep, remote canyons,” says program founder Katrina Van Wijk. “It makes for the most epic and majestic kayaking.”
An extreme kayaker herself, Van Wijk’s parents own and operate Canada’s first whitewater school—the Madawaska Kanu Centre—and she says she started the Riders program as a way to address what she saw as a void in youth paddling options: most kayak camps focus exclusively on freestyle, and not enough on safety, teamwork and versatility.
The itinerary is enough to make any adult kayaker envious. The camp starts off in Vancouver with a full day of dryland safety courses, video reviews and teamwork exercises. Vans full of keen teen paddlers and a host of professional instructors and guides then head north to paddle local gems like the Squamish, Elaho, Upper Mamquam and Cheakamus rivers. Continuing inland, the crew will make stops at the Bridge and Thompson rivers before setting off on a week-long, raft-supported paddle down the Chilcotin and Fraser rivers.
“Our mission in kayaking is to always be conscious of our actions, both in pushing our own limits and in giving back to the environment. ‘Riders’ is about more than just individual accomplishment. It’s about educating the next generation to be smart and confidant outdoor leaders.”
Van Wijk says that BC creeks and rivers promise thrills, adventure and access to a remote wilderness, but their navigation requires a very different set of skills and risk management considerations than an eastern river. Beyond developing their creeking and safety skills, Van Wijk hopes the camp will help connect the kids to the landscape and people they encounter, including the stories and traditions of local First Nations.
“It’s so important to go beyond just paddling,” says Van Wijk, emphasizing the need to also teach river stewardship and conservation. “Our mission in kayaking is to always be conscious of our actions, both in pushing our own limits and in giving back to the environment. ‘Riders’ is about more than just individual accomplishment. It’s about educating the next generation to be smart and confidant outdoor leaders.”
The Whitewater Riders program runs August 1–14 and is open to any kayaker between the ages of 13 and 17, and the only prerequisite is being able to perform a whitewater roll. For everyone else, there’s always Capture the Flag.
From the new issue of Mountain Life Coast Mountains, available now.
With the Summer 2016 issue of Mountain Life: Coast Mountains just hitting the streets here are a few highlights of what’s in store. This issue is about finding solace and inspiration in a collection of stories and photographs that evoke the spirit of summer, of adventure, and of kicking back for a good read… Read more
Look for the issue at specialty retail, grocery stores, coffee shops and other fine establishments across the Lower Mainland and in the Sea-to-Sky corridor.