Members of the bronze medal winning Kelowna crew (background) push hard for the finish line at the Canadian Outrigger Paddling Championships in Gibsons last weekend. The crew finished five seconds out of second and 32 seconds from first

Kelowna paddlers come back for bronze at Canadian Outrigger Championships

Cut off at the start of 23 km race, Kelowna crew digs deep, goes faster than everyone to catch third place

A group of Kelowna paddlers placed third at the Canadian Women’s National Outrigger Paddling Championships last weekend in Gibsons, BC, fighting back after a tough start to the 23 kilometre race to stand on the podium.

The six paddlers, members of the Kelowna Paddle Centre, were racing together for the first time and despite falling behind at the start of the race on Vancouver Island, came back to pass several boats en route to a third place showing.

“It was fantastic,” said Leanne Stanley, who also competed and won the individual women’s championship. “It was a lot of fun and I was really proud to see my teammates step up. It was a grueling race. We had a bit of a hard start. We got cut off at the beginning of the race and we had to play catch-up. We fought hard for 23 kilometres and dug deep. It was the best I have ever felt that crew paddle.”

After falling behind at the start of the race, the crew put their heads down and paddled hard, coming back to close the gap on the two lead boats, finishing within a few seconds of second place and 30 seconds out of first.

It was the first event for the crew consisting of Stanley along with Kathy Montgomery,   Sandra Mowat, Kerry Willis, Melanie Durban and Christine Castrucow.

Despite being the first race together for the crew of six, Stanley said the team meshed together.

“The combination clicked, the personalities clicked,” she said. “Everyone was willing to put their body in crazy-uncomfortable pain. We had head winds, tail winds, currents from the ocean, waves to battle. There was so much excitement and so much pride. We are starting to make a name for ourselves in outrigger paddling.”

Stanley says if the race was just a few more kilometres long the Kelowna crew would have caught and passed the eventual winners, a crew out of San Francisco.

Stanley herself is already well-known in the relatively new sport of outrigger paddling.

The women are all members of the Kelowna Paddle Centre, a relatively new club that is establishing itself on the Kelowna waterfront. Membership in the club has quadrupled in the past year with the emergence of paddling sports like outrigger and stand up paddle boarding.

Outrigger canoes are traditional Hawaiian boats that are built to withstand heavy ocean waves and feature a pontoon out the side.

Also competing in the event as individuals were Kelowna paddlers Shuan Boo, Joey Wallick, Sharon Taylor and Francis Trowsee.

During the individual races, the 33-year-old Stanley spilled twice but was able to get back in her boat and battle back to not only win the women’s event but pass every individual man entered in the race but one, claiming the Canadian women’s outrigger championship and finishing second overall.

“It was an amazing race, it felt so good,” said Stanley. “I was pushing really hard.”

For more information on the Kelowna Paddle Centre you can check out the club’s web site at www.kelownapaddlecentre.ca.

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