Participants in last year's Pacific Paddling Symposium run through an exercise in the waters off Pearson College in Metchosin.

Metchosin kayaking event sells out in under an hour

Intimate retreat offers paddling community a chance to connect

Sea kayakers will storm Metchosin this weekend, hitting the waters for an exclusive three-day retreat.

In its fourth year, the Pacific Paddling Symposium gives kayaking enthusiasts a chance to develop their skills with sessions on techniques ranging from rescue training and rolling to coastal exploration and blending strokes.

In its first year it took about 12 days after registration opened before the symposium reached capacity. The second year it took a day and last year it took about five hours. This year the event hit capacity in under an hour.

“We were getting 30 entries a minute and I don’t think our server can take any more than that,” said Janette Galan, event director. Although, she joked those technical limitations put everyone on the same playing field to be able to register. She even said some participants have developed strategies to register with multiple computers.

“It’s very rewarding to see the response,” she said. She added every year they start a wait list just in case and those on that list are usually some of the first to register the following year.

Even with the incredible response, Galan said they have no desire or plans to expand the event to include more participants, even though she hates having to say “no” to people.

Part of that reason is the venue: Pearson College helps create that intimate “all-inclusive camp-like feel.” It also has a pool, a sheltered bay and access to varying water conditions. “It’s just very idyllic … So much of it just falls into place because of the venue,” she said. “It’s such a unique spot.”

When the symposium was created, it wasn’t built around a growth model, Galan said. “It’s always been about getting deeper.” They wanted to reach out to the sea kayaking community and really connect its members for a richer experience. “Everyone likes the smaller classes.”

With capacity for 100 participants, roughly 30 coaches and approximately 20 volunteers, Galan said having 150 paddlers on the water is manageable and it gives everyone a chance to get to know each other while interacting. “That is as many as we can comfortably take,” she added.

Those that do manage to register have a hard time hiding their enthusiasm. “They’re so excited they got in. That starts a snowball of enthusiasm and energy,” Galan said. “It just makes for really dynamic energy.”

Some of that enthusiasm has translated into volunteering. A number of paddlers that have participated for two or three years have asked to become volunteers, so others can have a chance to experience the symposium. “That’s been a very unexpected consequence of the event,” she said.

But the weekend isn’t just about participants expanding their skills, as the symposium also focuses on coaches’ professional development. “It’s something they have a lot of fun with,” Galan noted. “We all need to keep learning.” With coaches from out-of-town as well as local instructors, there’s a mix of expertise that gets shared.

It’s also not just the same group of paddlers year after year, she said. With a roughly 50-per-cent turnover rate – possibly a result of people not being able to register as quickly as others – it helps the event stay fresh.

“It’s still filling a valuable role … a need as much as a want.”

For more information go to pacificpaddlingsymposium.ca.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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