Local News                                                                       Wednesday June 9th 2010

Awaken the sleeping waters

 

The 53rd Annual Cultus Lake Water Sports Festival

People of the river hit the lake

 

                                                                                                                                          Craig Hill/Voice photos

Cultus Lake native paddlers line up Saturday for the first race of the day featuring men's singles.

 

 

he Cultus Lake Water Sports Committee held their annual Water Sports Festival at Main Beach Saturday.

 

Sto:lo people are known for their beautiful carved cedar canoes which at one time was the main mode of transportation in this country before the onset of motorized vessels. The Salish war canoes are world-renowned for their speed and often winning in international competition.

 

On Saturday, the group had special permission to camp lakeside at the waters edge for the weekend and the parkland adjacent to the beach was covered in tents, campers, mobile homes and vans for the weekend. The event was billed to have 8000 people but it's not clear if that figure was reached.

 

Starting line positions were determined in the "Captain's Draw." Paddle crews had names like Ocean Thunder, Mystical Lady and Sto:lo Princess. Once that was taken care of the canoes lined up along a yellow rope and waited for the sound of the air horn to go off.

 

There were events for both men and women which had up to 12         Emcee Phillip Lockerby (L) and Duncan, BC co-host Bill Rice.

canoes in the each of

the races. Paddle crews ranged from men's singles to eleven-seat war canoes and age classes ranged from juniors to seniors.

 

One of the judges, Art, spoke to paddlers about the race and rules.

 

"I've been asked to help out this weekend" he told onlookers. "I'm getting warmed up for the races next week in beautiful Cowichan Bay, "Valley of the Sun."

 

"I'm trying to find a joke to tell and have this one, 'Umpires can speak our language in baseball, because they always go 'Strike three knee-high' and so you that don't understand our language 'Neehi' means 'finish'," he quipped.

 

Surprisingly there were lots of rules but the basic ones were that paddles must be in the air at the start line, no bumping boats, slashing, clubbing or even a slight jab was allowed. Sometimes canoes get too close to each other on the turn and can at times hit each other.

 

"If you're interfering with another canoe, you're going to be disqualified," said Art. "I know it happens on turns, when canoes get into the turn if they come into the turn and the bouy pops up on the other side, that's ok, but if you miss a turn or you don't go along that turn intentionally you got to go back, if you don't go back (to pass the buoy) then you're not going to finish."

 

"We don't want anyone getting hurt, we want good clean races and we want the best canoes to win." he said to paddlers.

 

Stripped (fibreglass) canoes were banned. Singles were able to use paddles with a bent shaft but the big canoes were limited to straight ones.

 

The races were exclusive to aboriginal paddlers and if a non-native was caught paddling in any of the          Aboriginal cuisine offered on the Main Beach at Cultus Saturday.

races, the boat was DQ'd.

 

Prize money wasn't huge, about $20 a person which helps pay for the costs to attend the event.

Skowkale band member and emcee for the festivities, Phillip Lockerby, told the Voice that there was money available to help canoeists with their expenses.

 

"We'll give one canoe club travel money, because some come from Vancouver Island, some come from down in the states" he said. "Gas ain't cheap."

 

Co-emcee, Bill Rice, from Duncan was also helping Lockerby with the event.

 

Lockerby told paddlers to be ready. "Listen for the five-minute warning or ten-minutes Indian time."

 

                                                                                                                                                           

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