Paddling has a long history in the Okanagan Valley, dating back to the canoes used by First Nations people who settled here in the early 19th century. White pioneers who settled in Kelowna in the 1900s likewise used canoes -- to ferry supplies to their properties and to cross the lake if weather permitted.
When the Kelowna Regatta was established over a hundred years ago, canoe races attracted competitors from all over western Canada and northern Washington State.
That same competitive spirit lives on today with dragon boats being the primary racing canoe of choice. Over 160 dragon boat teams (representing 4500-plus competitors from near and far) come to compete by Kelowna's downtown waterfront. Spectators lining the seawalls cheer on their favorite teams, while the drums beating the paddlers’ cadence can be heard for miles around the water’s edge.
Endurance paddling is another competitive sport gaining popularity in Kelowna. Teams paddle to Vernon and back, for example, with fresh paddlers dropped off one at a time from a small power boat. Precise timing is a must! Each fresh paddler, dropped into the water ahead of their team canoe, boards between hull and outrigger as the canoe passes over them. The tired paddler jumps into the water and is picked up by the power boat... and so on down the lake the teams go.
Some high-performance paddlers use an ultra-light boat shell with outriggers, a type of canoe that performs well in surf conditions such as found in Hawaii. But Okanagan Lake’s waves, typically closely spaced, are not ideal surf waves for an ultra-light boat with outriggers.
A non-profit outrigger club in Kelowna has organized events throughout the summer months.