A look at four out of the ordinary sea kayak festivals from Adventure Kayak magazine.
If you’ve never heard of Timmins, you’re not alone. And if you have heard of Timmins, you’re probably wondering what it could possibly have to do with sea kayaking.
A boom-bust mining town in northeastern Ontario, Timmins usually conjures images of flannel shirts, lumberjacks and Shania Twain. Look it up on Google Maps and you’ll see a landscape pock-marked with pit mines and sawmills. But you’ll also see the Mattagami River meandering through town—a quiet, lazy river that transforms every August into a hotbed of kayaking fervor.
The Great Canadian Kayak Challenge and Festival will host 500 paddlers this, its fourth year, and hundreds more are expected to attend the associated festivities. In 2012, Festivals and Events Ontario named it one of the top 100 festivals in the province.
“The demographic ranges from six to 70 years old,” says event cochair, Guy Lamarche.“When you have hundreds of boats and such a wide range of people, it’s fantastic.”
Events in unlikely venues like Timmins can be found all over North America, proving that you don’t need an ocean, tide race or Great Lake to draw paddlers from far and wide.
Iconic kayaking symposium destinations like San Francisco, Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands or Charleston will always be atop the list of many paddlers, but events in off-the-beaten-path locations offer something altogether different. You’re less likely to get BCU certification or the chance to swap expedition tales with elite paddlers at these festivals, but as Lamarche points out, there’s more to it than that.
“It’s about community, too,” he says. “It’s a big, social, family pad- dling event.”
Boaters attend as much for the exhibits, shore lunch and evening concerts as they do for the main event—a series of races with a top prize of up to $1,500. Crowding into a back roads café, the dusty parking lot a sea of cars beneath kayak-heavy roof racks, or dominating main street sidewalk fashion with mango Gore-tex has an undeniable allure.
Indeed, this opportunity to connect with a like-minded subculture is enough to draw paddlers from as far away as the southern U.S. and the U.K. to as unlikely a sea kayaking hotspot as Timmins.
OUR UNLIKELY PADDLING FESTIVALS
THE GREAT CANADIAN KAYAK CHALLENGE
TIMMINS, ONTARIO www.thegreatcanadiankayakchallenge.com
THE GREAT RIVER RUMBLE
JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI www.riverrumble.org
SOUTH COAST SUMMERFEST
OCEAN SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI www.southcoastsummerfest.com
THE GREAT AMERICAN NORTHEAST KINGDOM FLATWATER KAYAK CHAMPIONSHIP & FESTIVAL
NEWPORT, VERMONT www.kingdomkayak.org