When & Where: GO Rowing and Paddling Centre at the Selkirk Waterfront, 45 Jutland Rd., 4 p.m. Friday (March 9). What you need: A row boat, or anything you can row; listening skills; warm clothes; patience (to be sure everyone is counted).
When Adam Kreek first applied to set the record for the world’s largest rowing class he was told the number he needed to break was 165.
Kreek, the 2008 Olympic gold medal-winning rower, got approval by the administrators from Guinness World Records to try and break a record set in 2008 by an eager class of students on rowing machines in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
But then, just last weekend, a wrinkle in this Friday’s world-record attempt was discovered by co-organizer Eric Pittman.
“There has been an addition of drama to the event,” Pittman said. “A Swiss group just broke the record on Jan. 27 with 191. We just found that out on March 3, and it’s a good thing we found out.”
Friday’s attempt by Kreek, with help from the Go Rowing and Paddling Association, will hold a rowing class on the Gorge Waterway between the Selkirk Trestle bridge and the Bay Street Bridge.
“The goal is to get more people into human powered boats,” Kreek said. “It’s something I came up with that I thought would be really exciting for the kids.”
The record-size class is meant to promote awareness among youth about rowing as a sport and recreation activity, as well as emphasizing healthy living. It coincides with Saturday afternoon’s Victoria Paddle Festival, from 1 to 4 p.m. on the walkway and in the waters next to the Delta Ocean Point Hotel and the Songhees Walkway and Park.
Kreek has about 180 kids booked to come out from local rowing and paddling groups. The class is also open to the public.
“If people want to participate they can bring down their own recreational rowing shells. We’ll have counters there. We have to be together as a class for one hour to pass as a record.”
This isn’t the first time Kreek’s come up with a publicity idea for the sport of rowing. It was Kreek’s idea to have the Olympic torch relay cross Elk Lake during its path through Victoria for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The torch was passed from Kreek’s boat of gold medal winners to a group of select kids who represented the future of Canadian athletics.
“Events like this are really important for global stewardship and alignment,” Kreek said.
“Just by coming out, kids will be taking part in something on a global scale, and knowing they’re the best at something gives them something to build self-esteem around. All of a sudden a switch flicks in their minds that ‘Hey, I’m not just part of the biggest class in the world, but that I’m part of the world,’ and it creates awareness.”
Since winning gold in Beijing, Kreek has transitioned to a career of motivational speaking. He’s also drawn to adventure. In December, he and three others plan to row across the Atlantic Ocean, the latest O.A.R. Northwest expedition.
Their boat is 29 feet long, rigged for two rowers at a time, and is the most “technically advanced” row boat in the world, with a massive solar panel on the bow.
It will be on display during this weekend’s paddling festival.
The business of Guinness
Setting a world record means filing a pile of applications with Guinness World Records ahead of time, and executing the event according to specific standards.
“We have to launch all our boats and be (together) as a group for at least an hour,” Kreek said. “Once that passes, we’re in the Guinness record book.”
No one will actually be there from Guinness World Records, as it cost about $4,500 to have an official representative on hand. Instead, volunteers will count heads on Friday.
The person spearheading the recording of Friday’s Guinness World Record attempt is Eric Pittman of Pinnacle Events.
“They like publicity up front, and want something a little out of the ordinary that qualifies as a record,” Pittman said. “They don’t just want a video tape.”
In 2007, Pittman thumbed through the Guinness World Records and found “a silly one I knew I could achieve to help publicize my book.”
It took Pittman six months, but he learned to scuba dive and, up until 2009, he held the record for the largest under water press conference.
“I saw that I only needed 21. I though surely I could get that. We ended up being 61 people under the water at Ogden Point.”