It's hard to wrap your mind around all that goes on over the course of this two-day event. There are clinics on strokes, rolling, rescues and fitness; booths promoting manufacturers, trips, clubs and causes; boats and gear to demo or buy; and land classes on navigation, weather and boat repair. Boats, paddles, spray skirts and PFDs are provided, and it's all hands-on and helpful.
|Participants can take four 90-minute, on-water clinics per day (here, Birgit Kuhle teaches a student to roll)...|
|...paddle demo boats (here, Liz Burnside, who organized the first MEC Toronto Paddlefest in 2005 and continues to put her all into it, answers questions about the P&H Cetus)...|
|...and even learn how to fix a damaged hull. Here, Roch Prevost, sales and marketing manager of Nova Craft Canoe, demonstrates boat repair techniques.|
For participants, it's a fantastic deal. Courses cost $5 to $10 apiece, and there are lots of freebies (water bottles, Clif Bars, Larabars). The only way to measure attendance is in blue wristbands (which signify that participants have signed a liability waiver). This year, more than 1,500 wrist bands were dispensed.
For us, it's an opportunity for cross-pollination of coaching ideas with colleagues in Paddle Canada. After a day of teaching, we spend the evenings talking shop with Erik Ogaard of Harbourfront Kayak and Canoe School, Michael Pardy of SKILS, Kelly Blades of P&H (not from Canada, but a fixture at this fest), David Johnston of Paddlinginstructor.com, and a host of other top-notch instructors from all over Canada.
|Erik Ogaard leads a paddling fitness class.|
|Dympna Hayes of Learntokayak.ca and Michael Pardy of SKILS evaluate strokes during a video analysis class.|
|David Johnston teaches a weather class.|
|Kelly Blades keeps it light.|
|A dragonboat departs from the beach.|
|Even the tiniest paddlers could demo boats that fit.|
|The range of participants is remarkable.|
|After loading 400 boats, MEC staff collected all the signage, boxed all the materials, and transported it all back to the store.|