Why JOIN the Parry Sound Canoe Club?
Small but mighty Parry Sound Canoe Club sees international success
Audra Nicholson, seen here with her paddling medals, went to Divonne-les-Bains, France, as part of the Canadian national team, for the European Club Crew Championship, July 27 – 30. (Photo: Sylvia Thompson-Nicholson)
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PARRY SOUND SIDEROADS AND SHORELINES — Constant and consistent strokes move the dragon boat forward. The paddlers’ focus is intense. Paddling on only one side, pulling rather than pushing the water of the formidable Georgian Bay to get further ahead quickly. Reaching far ahead and digging the paddle downwards into the water, then pulling quickly back and out of the water to start again.
These motions in unison demonstrate a dragon boat team in sync and ready to take on any competitor. The laughter and smiles of each individual between sprints, however, show a group of spirited youth at the Parry Sound Canoe Club who love paddling.
Mastering different elements of the dragon boat technique is not easy, but through consistent practise and dedication to the sport, Parry Sound teen Audra Nicholson made it to the national team that headed to Divonne-les-Bains, France, for the European Club Crew Championship, July 27 – 30. She is in good stead, along with youth from Parry Sound who have, in the past, competed with all five consecutive national teams that have represented Canada at the Czechoslovakia, Miami, Hungary, and Canadian championships.
It seems incredible that a small club without even a clubhouse has produced so many paddlers who excel at the sport. As a division of the Georgian Nordic Ski & Canoe Club, the Parry Sound Canoe Club has come from humble beginnings with only the love of the sport and dedication to youth from coach Gord Cole as the initial impetus for getting the club off the ground.
The laughter and smiles of each individual between sprints show a group of spirited youth at the Parry Sound Canoe Club who love paddling. Last year, the club saw record numbers join and they now have more than 70 members who take part not only in kayaking and dragon boat paddling but also in canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding.“Gord was the one who initially started volunteering his time and (coaching) the kids, and he paid for a lot of it himself, so that’s how it came to Parry Sound,” explains Nicole Boyd, vice-commodore of the canoe club.
With 31 gold medals from world dragon boat championships as a paddler ,and a coach at three world dragon boat championships, Cole is dedicated to the sport and to local youth who show an interest. He also has a robust history as a marathon canoeist with many medal wins over the past two decades.
Cole has also been an active member of the Georgian Nordic Ski Club for many years, and being a big believer in the cross training that makes for elite and well-conditioned athletes, he wanted to share his paddling skills with the youth at the ski club.
(Photo: Weichel Productions)
He began the marathon canoeing program in the late ’90s, scrounging for a few canoes to start the program. Soon, the kids began showing up and under Cole’s leadership, the program grew and talent blossomed.
Three times a week, he would take his trailer and canoes to the Sequin River and selflessly coach anyone who wanted to learn to paddle better. As the group grew, the Rotary Club of Parry Sound took notice and started supporting and donating to the club, and the dragon boat program grew out of their commitment. Since then, they have donated the dragon boat for training exercises.
The club has also benefited from another group’s donations. The Parry Sound Knights of Columbus have donated large sums of money to expand into kayak paddling, resulting in more than 10 youth participating in sprint kayak racing and placing at large kayaking events.
For Boyd’s daughter, dragon boat paddling was a new sport that she got into several years ago and through the club she also started kayaking and has been kayak racing for two years.
“She absolutely loves it. (The club) has introduced kayaking and all these different things that we never had in Parry Sound,” says Boyd. “I think it’s a good group activity for her friends. They all get together and they have a great time. It’s just a good, fun, no-stress sport.”
Last year, the club saw record numbers join and they now have more than 70 members who take part not only in kayaking and dragon boat paddling but also in canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding. Despite its humble beginnings, donations of money and equipment has allowed the club to emerge with its own equipment that is stored at the Georgian Nordic Ski & Canoe Club facility.
This summer, the club has launched a recreational program to complement its competitive program. This will include kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboarding to attract more families. The dragon boat and marathon canoe programs will still continue under the expert guidance of Cole. The club is always looking for adults to volunteer their time.
“Gord is still involved, coaching three days a week for free,” notes Boyd. “As long as the kids want to paddle, he will show up and coach but we definitely need more help with volunteers.”
For more information on how to be a member or volunteer with the club, email firstname.lastname@example.org visit the Parry Sound Canoe Club Facebook page.