Dozens of kayakers made their way through the Clearwater River rapids during last year’s event. (Stephanie Hagenaars / Clearwater Times)

Dozens of kayakers made their way through the Clearwater River rapids during last year’s event. (Stephanie Hagenaars / Clearwater Times)

Clearwater Kayak Festival more than paddlers in the water, says organizer

The Clearwater Kayak Festival isn’t just kayakers going out paddling, said co-organizer Mat Kasunick.

“We have an amazing back story,” said Kasunick.

Clearwater Kayak Festival was started by Ben Earle in 2007. He was a local whitewater guide who passed away in 2008. Outdoor guide Brenda Parks kept it going for a while until she moved away. Two years passed without a festival but in 2013 a local committee formed to revive it in Earle’s memory.

Earle left behind a son and daughter, Rio and Finn, both under three years old when he died. Now, they present the festival’s most prestigious award, the Ben Earle award, given to the “most adventurous paddler who embodies the spirit of the kayak.”

The festival also donates funds an organization called First Descent which takes terminally ill patients on outdoor adventures. The money is donated in Earle’s name.

“Even though he’s no longer with us, he’s always giving back to the outdoor community that he loves,” said Kasunick.

Kasunick explained Earle was one of his best friends and roommate and he still organizes the event to keep festival going in his honour.

“Now it’s just become a legacy event and that’s why we keep doing it,” said Kasunick. “It’s the longest running and the biggest whitewater kayaking festival in Western Canada.”

The festival is back for another year, introducing two new events teaching event goers how to use a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) or whitewater kayak. Both classes are free and part of the festival that brings hundreds of people to Clearwater to kayak, camp and enjoy the live music.

The three-day festival will be held Aug. 5, 6, and 7.

Activities will begin on Friday evening with registration for participants and camping. The SUP beginner classes at 5 p.m. Registration continues Saturday morning as the downriver races begin. Beginner whitewater kayaking classes are at 8:30 a.m., followed by the Adrian Kiernan Boater Cross, advanced SUP race and the beginner boater cross race. The beginner’s SUP race is later that afternoon.

Saturday evening, there will be live entertainment at the Clearwater Ski Lodge with opening acts from Tim Johnson (Truck House Life), Darlene Fair, Richard Maggs and Chase the Bear headlining.

Sunday school yoga is held bright and early, followed by the freestyle event, which Kasunick said will most likely be held at Pink Mountain because of water levels. In this event, participants show off their beset tricks on a wave.

“We do some amazing things and that’s why I think we continue to grow,” said Kasunick. “It’s not about making money or winning your event, but everyone’s getting together and just celebrating. That’s why we’re such a great festival.”

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