Whitewater Riders Program – a new generation of complete paddlers
Top female extreme paddler, Katrina Van Wijk is now offering teen kayak camps of a new kind every summer in Canada on the Ottawa and the rivers around.
Kayaking over waterfalls is not your average summer camp activity, but for teens in the Whitewater Riders program, learning to boof is only the beginning. Whitewater Riders is a fully immersive two week camp for kayakers aged 13 to 17 looking to take their boating to the next level. It’s offered through the Madawaska Kanu Centre, Canada’s oldest whitewater school, two hours northeast of Ottawa.
Riders is the brainchild of extreme paddler Katrina Van Wijk. Van Wijk, whose parents own and operate MKC, was motivated by what she recognized as void in whitewater instruction for teen kayakers who already have a roll. “There are so many young paddlers out there who just need to be pushed a little further,” she says.
Her solution is a 12-day buffet of skills training and adventure. Unlike a lot of youth kayaking programs out there, Whitewater Riders promises to put kids in all kinds of boats, not just the ever-popular playboat. The goal, according to Van Wijk, is to inspire a new generation of “complete paddlers.”
Van Wijk is the camp leader both on and off the water, but she’s joined for each unit by world class instructors. This summer’s program will feature Canadian and US national slalom team members Thea Frollick and Ashley Nee, along with top freestyle competitors Martina Wegman, Kaleb Grady and Dane Jackson. Katrina’s sister, Stefani, is a wilderness canoe guide and will be leading the 3-day camping trip.
Beyond just skills-training, the focus of the Riders program is to inspire river citizenship in the next generation. A full day Swiftwater Rescue course highlights things like team awareness, rescue techniques and ropes systems. “We’re trying to build these kids into self-sufficient kayakers who don’t just focus on themselves.”
Whitewater Riders is a natural evolution in MKC’s Family Week and Kids Kayak programs. These are weekend and 5-day courses for everyone in the family, from 6 year-olds to 86 year-olds, kayakers and canoeists alike. “Young paddlers need the passion and support from their parents,” says Van Wijk. “Eventually it turns around, and it will be the parents looking to the kids.”
Van Wijk has been pushing boundaries herself. She spent August of 2014 completing two second descents in Norway, and her record time at the Green River Race is still unbroken in the women’s category. Her most recent exploit was the First Female Decent of Toketee Falls, a grizzly 85-foot drop in central Oregon.
Despite the international adventuring, Katrina admits it’s the July and August Riders installments she’s looking forward to the most. “I love hanging out with people who share the same passion as me. These kids love kayaking. They’re doing amazing things. I see them progress over two weeks into incredible boaters.”
The camp has two installments for the 2015 season, one starting in late June, the other in late July.