The Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club (YCKC) recently hosted training clinics with Canadian National Freestyle Kayak Coach Kalob Grady.
The clinics were held July 8-10 under the Blue Bridge on the Millennium Trail in Whitehorse.
The group focused on learning competitive tricks.
About 22 people attended the workshop over three days.
Grady, 28, was born and raised in the Ottawa Valley. He is a professional kayaker who started competing internationally in 2011.
He is also the Program Director for the World Class Academy Kayaking School.
“He grew up in Ottawa teaching and working for one of the rafting companies,” YCKC CEO Lawrence Brennan said. “I’m pretty sure he’s competed on the junior freestyle team; (he) has been a senior freestyle member for a while now. I think he’s been teaching for world class (academy) for six years .
“He’s also part of this paddling collective media company (Send). It’s kind of for paddlers who are some of the best in the world to really push the aspects of the sport, whether it’s tricks in freestyle or big rivers and big expeditions or big waterfalls.”
Brennan explained the purpose of the clinics.
“With kayaking there are a few different disciplines. There’s slalom, which is the Olympic discipline where you have gates set up and you race against the clock. There’s river racing, which is say you explore, going from point A to point B and then there’s freestyle – that’s what this clinic was – and you ride a wave and do tricks.
They all compliment each other.
“And the idea here is that we have…a cool feature here in town under the blue bridge by the dam and for our members…we’re always trying to provide programming that allows people to improve their skills. We’re also trying to fostering the community where we create events where people can come and learn but also find people they want to paddle with – their paddling group.
“And right now in town, with Tat (shenshini) Expediting and Yukon Canoe, we have…beginner classes, but we don’t have more advanced intermediate style stuff. So that’s a way for us – with funding from YG – to bring in someone who is an expert in their field to provide our members with the opportunity to learn from one of the best.”
As for how the event went, “It was awesome,” Brennan said. “Every day we had more and more people. It was the first time we had Kalob here and the first time in a long time that we had organized a freestyle course, so I think it was a good learning experience .
“Each day consisted of two sessions. Morning session for a few hours, lunch, then an afternoon session.
“I think one of the things we’ve learned this year is that a full day of boating is a lot. I think after two or three hours in the water at the ‘upside down, upside down, upside down, people So we were pretty tired so looking forward to next year we talked about doing more evening sessions during the week, then having one or two days on the weekend would be a full day.
“People in general were very grateful. Every time I was able to stop and say hello there were smiles everywhere and it seems like a lot of people are learning new stuff that they’ve been trying for years and just got this. objective look and that knowledge for are deceased – all of a sudden it started to click for people – it’s really neat to see.”
Brennan said there was a possibility that Grady would return.
“I think he looked enthusiastic. I think a lot of our members would love to see him again.”
“We were really grateful to have him,” Brennan added. “It’s always pretty cool, I think, when we start to have some of the best in the business coming to Whitehorse…as the club starts to grow, as paddling continues to grow with this momentum from COVID , it’s great to have more athletes up there .
“And we also have a long history of sending freestyle athletes down south – representing at world championships, on the world stage. I’m thinking of Kevin Daff and my brother Joel Brennan and Mael Pronovost and Hunter Vincent at the over the years and now we’re looking at the next generation that will be there.”
The YCKC is also hosting a fun freestyle competition on August 19th.
“It’s also a great way for people to learn new things and build confidence if they want to compete and have fun in August,” Brennan explained.
“All the fun competitions are from the fish ladder to the blue bridge and then we have wars and a barbecue in our bins a little further up the river at the old water intake at 25 Selkirk Street .”