Quinn Phare's top moment of the 2016 canoe season didn't seem like it was exactly setting up to be a highlight.
But at the first B.C. Cup race of the season in Burnaby, he shook off some rust and won the 200-metre U15 event before taking second in the novice 200-metre race.
Phare had spent the season to that point preparing for the Va'a World Elite and Club Sprint Championships, an outrigger race that put him in a different vessel than he was accustomed to, and he jumped right into the provincial event without any practice in his familiar watercraft.
"One of the regattas that probably sticks out most was my first one in canoe. I had just gotten off the plane coming back from Australia from outrigger and hadn't been in canoe at all that year. I thought I might as well just go just for fun and I actually ended up setting a personal best and coming in first in my 200-metre race," he said.
Those results, especially in context, prove how strong a competitor Phare is, and Canoe Kayak BC realized it, too. The organization named the Pembertonian their U15 Male Canoe Athlete of the Year at a banquet in Burnaby on Nov. 11.
"It means quite a bit to me. It's been a really, really long year," he said. "I've definitely put a lot of hard work in this year and it's nice to get some recognition after it's finished."
After three B.C. Cup events, Phare topped the U15 standings with 23 points and no other competitor had more than 15. Still, he acknowledged he wasn't expecting any honours when he showed up for the banquet.
"It came as a surprise," he said. "They had little programs on the tables and I looked at it and I was really surprised to see my name."
This winter, Phare will stay in shape as a member of the Pemberton Secondary School basketball team and in the gym.
"I'm off the water right now because it's getting too cold," he said.
Next year, he'll plan to return to the B.C. Cup circuit but also has the goal of heading to Winnipeg for the Canada Summer Games.
Phare also picked up sprint development awards in the novice and U15 divisions. He was joined by fellow Pemberton Canoe Association athletes Maddy Beaudry (female novice), Anna Beaudry (female U11), Oliver Esseltine (male novice) and Brendan Shippit (male U13), who all earned development awards in their respective divisions.