Vernon local Lina Augaitis competes in her third race of the 2018 season. (Photo Contributed: Miguel Angel Rodriguez)

Vernon paddleboarder earns spot on Team Canada

Paddleboarder champion Lina Augaitis earns a spot on Team Canada.

Lina Augaitis is an athlete’s athlete.

Throughout her life she’s been a national level gymnast, played rugby, competed in wrestling, pole vault, rowing and running — marathons and triathlons. Her love of endurance eventually led her to try stand up paddleboarding.

“I sort of just fell into the sport,” said Augaitis, who recently won the 2018 Canadian National Stand Up Paddleboard Event and earned a spot on the Canadian National Team. “It was a big deal and sort of a turning point for the sport because in the past, earning a spot on Team Canada was more resume based because we didn’t have a national championship.”

The event was put on by the Canadian Surfing Federation and took place in Sidney May 25-27. Augaitis says that, despite being the first national championships, there is controversy about whether paddleboarding should be governed by the Surfing Association or the Canoe Federation. The Canoe Federation is also holding a World Championship later this summer. Augaitis explains the difference between the two events is that, unlike the canoe championships, competitors were required to qualify for the surfing championships.

The tournament consisted of three events: a 200-metre sprint, a four-kilometre technical race and an 18-kilometre distance race. Augaitis won — a feeling not foreign to her.

Related: Kalamalka Classic ready to roll

When she first picked up a paddleboard in 2010, she had no idea where the sport would take her. She was living in Vancouver at the time, working at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayaks when she heard about the Kalamalka Classic — a well-known paddleboard festival in the Okanagan. She asked Deep Cove to borrow a board and signed up. She won the first race she ever entered and began taking the sport more seriously.

She soon became the first person to do the Yukon River Quest — the 750 km expedition from Whitehorse to Dawson — on a paddleboard. She then quit her job as a teacher, earned a sponsor and began racing full time in 2014. She won three World Championships that season.

She began competing again in 2015 without realizing she was pregnant for the first time. She stopped racing three months into the season but picked it back up the following year. She signed up for the Yukon River Quest, who had officially allowed paddleboarders to compete in the official three-day race. Seeing as her son was only six months old at the time and still being breastfed, she says she figured out how to paddle and pump at the same time which enabled her to complete this event successfully. Augaitis then went on to win a World Championship through the Surfing Association in 2016.

Related: North Okanagan paddleboarder takes on lake for hospice

She found out she was pregnant again last year but she says that being a mom hasn’t slowed her down. Rather she’s using her maternity leave to train and compete.

“I’m trying to make my comeback now,” she said. “My daughter is seven months but I’m still breastfeeding her so she still has to travel with me. We just travelled to Thailand and Japan and North Carolina and she was with me in Sidney.”

She said that training is hard with two young kids — but it’s not impossible. She runs with the stroller and lifts weights when her kids are napping. She said the key to her success this season is having a supportive husband and being apart of the paddleboard community which she describes as welcoming and supportive. She joked that her daughter has already had a lot of babysitters when at these events — both domestic and international.

“My goal is to go to the World Championships and the Pan Am qualifiers and do some of the bigger international races and then see what happens after that,” said Augaitis. “Then just helping promote the sport and to show moms and families that you can do cool stuff even though you have kids.”

Though she plans on returning to teaching after her maternity leave, she is considering paddling during the stand up paddleboard Euro Tour this summer. She said that despite her competitive nature and her love of endurance, the reason she competes has changed since she picked up her first board in 2010.

“For me, it’s exciting that I can tell Aiste [daughter] when she’s older that she went to Japan and Thailand,” Augaitis said. “I’m hoping they soak in the idea of achieving goals and having dreams — that’s a big motivator for me now that I’m a mom. It used to be all about me but now it’s kind of changed to all about them.”

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Holding her daughter atop the podium, Augaitis celebrates winning the 2018 Canadian National Stand Up Paddleboard Event. (Photo Contributed: Miguel Angel Rodriguez)

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