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Feature - The Skookumchuk legend

Kayakers from around the world come to surf the reversing rapids

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Many paddlers at Skookumchuk solve the challenge of paddling against the water flow by entering the water above the rapids and gliding in backwards. Two paddlers repeatedly using this formula were Whistler locals Corey Boux and Andre Benoit. The pair work respectively as a doorman at Maxx Fish and "saving lives" as a pool attendant at Meadow Park Sports Centre. Boux also safety kayaks for Whistler River Adventures and Wedge Rafting during the summer. Benoit says it was a mission to get to Skookumchuk but well worth it.

"Corey was working until 2.30 in the morning at the club and we had to catch the 7.20 a.m. sailing out of Horseshoe Bay," he says. "The only sleep we got was in the ferry terminal, but we try to get out here at least once a month."

So why go to all that effort when the Cheakamus, Elaho or Squamish rivers, for example, are so much closer to Whistler?

"Skookumchuk is like the best powder day, every day," he grins, before heading back to the water.

Incidentally it was training in powder and snow that helped Boux gain his current sponsored status in kayaking.

"I come from a competitive snowboard background so when you do one, it’s easy to get better at the other because you are in the right headspace," he says. "I just love this sport."

Taking a breather from the wave while munching on sandwiches were Candace Maines, Tristan Ray and Dean Wagner. The three are students in a Kamloops-based adventure guide program and were at Skookumchuk for the weekend. It was Wagner’s first visit and he was impressed with the rapids, although he says you definitely need to have mastered your roll to paddle here safely.

Maines agrees that kayaking Skookumchuk can be intimidating at first and you need your helmet for protection, not from rocks but from other paddlers.

"The last time I came there were at least 35 paddlers, which really sucks because you are sitting in the eddy forever," she says. "There were six women paddlers kicking ass (that day), which was great to see. The sport is growing fast."

Not surprisingly, the white water antics of the rodeo kayakers are becoming as much a draw card for visitors as the rapids themselves. What is surprising perhaps is that local authorities haven’t taken it upon themselves to plaster the prime viewing spot at Roland Point with warning signs or fences, in line with the usual government policy of saving us from ourselves.

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