Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 15/2/2016 (1714 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They were definitely up the creek without a paddle — and loving it.
If you thought canoes were only meant for water, like, the unfrozen, wet, liquid kind of water, 60 intrepid voyageurs could have taught you differently Monday.
On a 200-metre course where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet at The Forks, Winnipeg saw its first-ever Wild Winter Canoe Race.
It won’t be the last, vowed Karen Menkis, one of the event organizers.
A dozen canoes with crews of five elite athletes each propelled themselves down the frozen course, without a paddle. Instead, four members had a knee in the canoe and pushed off with the other leg, while the fifth pushed from the rear.
Two of the teams were rather closely connected — BWT had the five husbands, #SADgirls had the five wives. Members advised that spelling out the names in full would not be appropriate for a family news site.
Maura Champagne advised that the event was decidedly educational: "We’re here to educate the public on how to be amazing," she said.
Team #SADgirls was decked out in Jets jerseys.
"We wanted to wear tutus, but we couldn’t find them," Joelle Richard confided.
Their first experience in ice canoe racing had come, well, 20 minutes before on a brief test run.
"We made some adjustments," laughed Karen Lovell.
"We’ve all got grippies on our shoes," Gail Herlick pointed out. "We have to have our legs in the canoe when the horn goes, then give ‘er!"
Alas, the lack of traction did them in, falling behind in their heat, which had the crowd of hundreds of spectators standing along the frozen course chanting "Go Jets go!" while the team members’ kids ran onto the course to help push the moms to the finish.
As for their husbands, Sean Burbank apparently missed the memo about its being February. He was bare-legged with a bathing suit, and came equipped with a snorkel.
"It’s for wind resistance and aerodynamics," Burbank advised.
BWT tried a test run of 40 feet or so before bogging down.
Did you see that? Pure athleticism at its best. "This is like an Olympic event for us. We tried it once, pure success," he said.
Teammate Jeff Herlick said that his aunt volunteers for Community Living Winnipeg and talked them all into giving it a try.
Menkis said that the idea came from Quebec, which has serious ice canoe races. Monday’s event was a fun demonstration sport, but she hopes that it will be a really big deal next Feb. 20, when the second annual Wild Winter Canoe Race will be part of Festival du Voyageur and Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.
"This is about bringing people together. This is about introducing it to Winnipeg, so next year we’ll have a really big race" with 60 teams or more, she said.
Updated on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 10:20 AM CST: Tweaks third paragraph.
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