When the dust finally cleared, the 23rd annual Duel in the Desert outrigger canoe race was one for the record books.
Nearly 100 canoes with more than 200 hundred paddlers took part in two days of racing on Skaha Lake. It was the first event hosted by the new Penticton Paddle Sports Association.
The association was created in March of this year with the joining of the Penticton Racing Canoe Cub and Penticton Dragon Boat Festival.
“We’ve had big years but never this big,” said PPSA’s Launa Maundrell about the record number of entries this year. “I think it may have been part because of the three-year hiatus because of COVID and clubs are finally back together and the world’s getting back to normal.
“Things have grown significantly in Penticton since we’ve merged the two. Now we have the dragon boat people that we can funnel into outrigger.”
Saturday’s event was for the larger outrigger canoes with crews of six paddlers in 33 outriggers navigating courses from eight to just over 15 kilometres.
Sunday’s small boat event included a mass start of the 64 one and two-person entries on an estimated 10-kilometre route.
Teams this year came from as far away as Calgary and Victoria with several others from the Lower Mainland and Kelowna and Vernon.
According to Maundrell, the competitive aspect of the association is just a part of what makes the sport appealing to so many people.
“In Penticton it’s very much about the community, the social aspect,” she said. “A good example is our seniors team, the Golden Dragons, they have 60 people on one team and they go out and practice and then sit in the park and have treats.
“There’s so many people paddling that have never done an athletic endeavour in their lives. They’re literally all shapes and sizes and abilities.”
Penticton’s Wayne Still, who turns 80 in July, was among the paddlers who took part in the weekend’s races.
“It’s not so much about the competitive thing for me any more, I just like getting out on the water for a paddle on a Sunday morning,” said Still after finishing the singles race on the final day. “The nice thing is there doesn’t seem to be any age limit on it. The way I feel I’ll be paddling until I can’t sit in a boat and paddle any more.”
During the two days, local paddlers turned in strong showings. Penticton’s Thyra Carroll and Don Mulhall had the second fastest time of the day Sunday to win the duel small boat race in 53 minutes, 23.6 seconds.
Also on Sunday, Penny Seeley and Catherine Combres won the OC-2 60-plus division and Melanie Mellaart topped the results in the OC-1 Novice category.
On day one of the large boat races, the Penticton Mixed team was first in the female/male Open Spec division and the Penticton Paddle Sports Wave Runners were winners in the female short course event.
The PPSA season continues next month with the June 9-10 Okanagan Super Sprints. The first day is for 55-plus competitors with the remainder going on the second day.
The annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival this year is Sept. 9-10, one of the largest of its kind in Canada.
By Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 16, 2023 at 08:58