Canoe-Kayak Community Clubs Elite Amateur Sport Rowing

My summer at Rideau Canoe Club and winning provincial gold

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Naomi van Walraven was a four-time winner in different events at the Trillium provincial canoe-kayak championships this past summer. Photo provided.

By Naomi van Walraven

Summer starts as early as possible at Rideau Canoe Club. As soon as the snow has melted and the temperatures have risen, our boats go straight out onto Mooney’s Bay. We practice all spring and once we get out of school, we devote our summer to training.

Every summer weekday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., we spend at the club, trying different boats, different drills and different crews. On the weekends we head off to regattas, practicing our race plans. 

Whether we are in the weight room, running at Mooney’s Bay Park or on the water, we always try our best with the final goal in mind: Trilliums, the Provincial Championship Regatta, at the end of the season. This is the regatta where we see if our months of training and practicing have paid off, where we try to win gold.

We are the Sprint Program, ages 8 to 14, at Rideau Canoe Club on Mooney’s Bay. You may have seen us paddling as you drive across Hog’s Back Bridge or perhaps as you took a stroll in Mooney’s Bay Park. 

At Rideau, we kayak and canoe in boats that contain one, two or four people. We refer to them as K1 (kayak, one person), C1 (canoe one person), K2 (kayak, two people) and so forth. There is also the crowd-pleasing war canoe, my favourite event, a large canoe that holds 14 paddlers and one cox, the steerer of the canoe.

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The road to Trilliums begins at EODs, which stands for Eastern Ontario Division and is the qualifier regatta in order to compete at Trilliums. In this regatta you can compete in as many as eight races.

Placement at EODs determines whether you qualify or not, it varies between each race. For example, K1s will take the top 20 paddlers (because there are more paddlers in this category) whereas K4 races will take top three crews. There is also WODs, Western Ontario Division, a regatta for Western Ontario clubs trying to qualify for Trilliums as well. In EODs, I qualified for all of my races.

My first race at Trilliums was K2 500 m with my amazing crewmate, August Sibthorpe. This was one of my most anticipated races because I knew we had the power to win but there was some really tough competition so I knew we would have to work hard for it. 

We would also have to be racing against our teammates, Vanessa and Diana, who we had been training with all year so we knew they were going to be really good. 

As we were warming up, I tried hard not to look at the other teams so as not to be intimidated, but it did not work very well. Instead I got really nervous. When the starter of the race began to line us up, I tried to just focus on our race plan. Suddenly the starting gun sounded and we were off!

We were not the first ones off the line, though. Burloak’s crew (from Oakville) had an exceptionally fast start but we knew we could catch up. We started to call pickups and were gaining on them very quickly, but they were not the only team we had to worry about. There were also our fellow Rideau teammates sprinting beside us.

We really wanted to win so we just went as hard as we could possibly could, even though we were exhausted. In the last 100 m, we pulled ahead and glided right through the start line into first place! We were so happy to be the best crew in Ontario! 

Another exciting race at Trilliums was Bantam, ages 13-14, Mixed (boys and girls) War Canoe 200 m. I love this race because of my position in the boat. I stroke the war canoe, which means that I am the person at the very front of the boat who sets the pace. It is a really stressful position because if I choose the wrong pace that could definitely make us lose the race. 

Rideau is very good at war canoe as we spend a lot time practicing it. In this race, we came first place also! Then we heard the news: there was to be a rerace. We could not bear the thought of losing the race after we had just worked so hard to win it.

The rerace was really stressful. Everyone was going even harder than the last time. Luckily our hard training paid off! We were the champions twice! Some other great races of the day were placing first in K4 1000 m and also winning Midget (ages 15-16) Girls War Canoe 1000 m race.

Our club also had the most total points, making us win the Burgee. All in all, Rideau is a great place to be. We are all friends, athletes and coaches alike, and we have great times together. We have so much fun paddling and we all love racing. Rideau Canoe Club is so much fun; I can’t wait to return next year!

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