Yellowknife, already a canoeing and kayaking destination, is about to witness a revolution: people sitting backwards in the boat.
Members of the Somba K’e Paddling Club have acquired a double scull, a boat used in the sport of rowing. Now, Yellowknifers with rowing experience are introducing others to the sport while ex-university rowers are able to rediscover their former glory.
Lauren Hogan, who helped to organize the boat’s purchase from a youth group in Victoria, described “a stressful drive” escorting the double through British Columbia and Alberta to Yellowknife earlier this year. It’s now the only Olympic-style rowing shell north of 60 in Canada, she believes.
“In the end, nothing got broken, nobody died. It’s all good,” Hogan laughed.
“I’ve been coaching adults to learn how to row. We do eight sessions that are about an hour and a half long and I go through the basics of the stroke. We get out on the water and enjoy being outside.”
Eight people took part in the learn-to-row program, while around 10 people – dubbed “the masters crew” by Hogan – have sufficient experience that they don’t need her help.
Hogan said the club hopes to expand its rowing program in the next two years, eventually offering lessons for teenagers aged 15 and up.
Equipment, primarily more boats, is a priority. The club also needs to upgrade its storage space – at the moment, a sailboat cradle is being used to store the double. Some equipment currently being used was donated by the University of Victoria’s rowing team, while the City of Yellowknife has supplied a grant.
“There is an incredible opportunity to have rowing be a more popular sport in the North,” said Hogan, who came to Yellowknife in 2019.
“We have Great Slave Lake and so many different lakes nearby. To me, the access to water is so great. When I moved up to Yellowknife, I really wanted to rowing and thought if I don’t want to live without it, I’ll just have to try to bring it up here.”
Ultimately, Hogan hopes to see a “multiplex but for water sports” that allows residents to explore canoeing, kayaking, and rowing together. She also hopes to encourage a high-school league where students can compete against each other before pursuing the sport at university if they choose.
“It’s a sport that can help you stay fit for life,” she said. “I have a whole range of aspirations but I just want people to enjoy rowing.”