Rivers still challenging for long-time kayaker 0
Kevin Rushworth photo President of the Pinch-O-Crow Creekers, Chuck Lee, spoke about his love of kayaking and teaching the sport to students.
As yet another spring and summer kayaking season approaches-mere paddle strokes away-Chuck Lee, president of the Pinch-O-Crow Creekers, spoke on the exciting progression of his students and how rivers still offer challenges for him decades after he first picked up the paddle.
Having spent 38 years in the kayak, Lee recalled his first time climbing into the boat and the instant connection he felt for the sport-though he's still unsure what aspects of the sport initially captured his interest
"I don't know what it was about kayaking that really sort of caught my imagination," Lee said between kayaking pool sessions. "It was one of those sports that I really enjoyed right from the get-go and i always say I have a passion for it."
Enjoying the opportunity to push off onto the rivers of the Crowsnest Pass and surrounding area, Lee said he also has a fond appreciation for not only the places he's seen with a paddle in hand, but the people kayaking beside him.
Lee said fellow paddler Ava Zimmerman-who once paddled for team Switzerland-was one of his inspirations to continue on with and challenge himself with the sport.
Well before hanging up his competitive paddle in 1991, Lee captured first place in the Pan-American championships in 1982, traveled to Europe for national competitions and even tried out for the 1991 Olympic team.
"The beautiful thing about paddling is even when you're training, it just feels like you're going out to have some fun," Lee said. "It's such a joy to be out on the water. Even when you're working hard, you don't realize how hard you're working because you're enjoying the experience."
The Pinch-O-Crow Creekers club was started in 1991 after Lee decided he wanted to begin teaching kayaking to kids. As an instructor, Lee said he wants to see the students not only progressing, but also challenging themselves each step along the way.
Lee said that each and every person is challenged in life in their own way; when it comes down to kayaking, the students each have their own threshold.
Though paddling at a Grade 6 level is the highest-such as launching oneself off a series of steep waterfalls-Lee said he has found his threshold at a Grade 4, which as he said is still quite challenging.
Starting out into the world of white-water kayaking can be daunting, Lee said. According to him, many are worried about the thoughts of tipping over. He said tipping over in a kayak is much the same as simply going for a swim.
"The challenge is mental and in your head," he said. "It's not necessarily physical, but it's (all about) being able to overcome these perceptions of risk."
With his background in competitive racing, Lee said he is able to teach his young students not only about the sport itself, but about confidence in the boats.
"I can teach them that they will have some setbacks and great accomplishments, but it's about staying the course and believing in yourself," he said.
While spring is only just showing itself in the region, Lee said there are already rivers ready to be kayaked upon. Lee and the rest of the Pinch-O-Crow Creekers are ready to get back out on the water.
"When we come back to the boats in the spring time, it's fresh, fun and we're all excited to get back in the boats," he said. "In the spring and summer, we're going to have a good time paddling and then in the fall, I'm going to put my boats away and wait until spring comes again."