By Alison Appelbe, Staff Writer
The Vancouver Courier
Wednesday July 5, 2000
On a recent evening, the formidable women of the Jericho Outrigger Canoe Club demonstrated "water changes" in the cold waters of Burrard Inlet.
In this impressive feature of a growing sport borne in the waters of the South Pacific, canoeists jump from, or clamber into, a 45-foot canoe as the remaining four or five paddlers keep it moving.
Written instructions urge paddlers to prepare for "the change" by visualizing how they'll perform when they're in the water and the canoe approaches.
"Is your left hand up? ... Make contact with the canoe ... look for your grab spot ... focus on it ... legs are close to the surface ... reaching for it ... GRAB/KICK ... front support ... reach for the far gunwale ... get my legs/bum in ... there's the paddle ... GO!"
Jennifer Stanick is a four year memeber of the Jericho Outrigger Canoe Club, one of the three clubs in the Lower Mainland. She's passionate about the burgeoning sport, and relishes the water changes.
"That's the best part," says the ultra-fit 30-year-old. "You're in the water waiting for the boat to come and it's flying - and as soon as it comes, you grab the edge and pull yourself in anyway you can."
During the 41-mile world championship Na Wahine O Ke Kai race in Hawaii on Sept. 22, the 10 team members will do water changes every half hour, to and from an escort boat. Given that the Molokai Channel to Oahu race lasts seven hours, the required level of fitness and endurance is high.
Watching the women (average age 34) practice off Jericho Beach last week, club co-founder Kirk Taylor paid homage to the women who took top honours at the recent dragon boat competition in Vancouver, and placed 17th in the women's outrigger championships in Hawaii in 1998.
"Some of the best paddlers in Canada are out there, and they should get more recognition," Taylor said, as four boats, carrying 24 paddlers, sped by during a thrice-weekly practice. "It's not for the faint of heart. It takes some pretty good athletes to do this."
A strong back, taut abdominals and muscular arms are the rewards of a style of canoeing that Stanick describes as "riding the waves." Although she holds the position of stroke at the front of the canoe, she pays respect to experienced steerswomen like Wendy Pollock, who direct action from the stern.
"It becomes an art, because you have to pick the line - not necessarily the straightest line - that allows you to go with the waves and currents," Stanick explains. "And there are calls to be made - making sure that everyone's on timing's on."
For Pollock, 28, the goal is to place in the top 10 in the world championship. "We're very competitive," she says, as the 400-pound fibreglass canoes are slipped from the beach and into the water. "We're training very hard for Hawaii and we're putting in a lot of time. A lot of us are coming at six in the morning to train."
During the dead of winter, the women scrape ice from canoes stored outdoors at the Jericho Sailing Centre and paddle into False Creek. In spring and summer they venture as far as Howe Sound in search of waves. They will also travel to The Gorge in Washington State, Gibsons, the Okanagan lakes and perhaps Catalina, California to prepare for the Hawaiian race.
For more details, visit www.jerichooutrigger.com.