Chilliwack Centre of Excellence History

Slalom paddlers began training on Tamihi in the early 70s, and by the mid 80s some groups of national and almost national team paddlers trained regularly at Tamihi, Cultus Lake and the Hope slough. In the late 80s a big group of Canadian, and a small, but high-quality group of American slalom athletes trained in the winter at Tamihi.

Because of high-water events, the slalom gates at tamihi needed repair frequently, so the athletes replaced wires and gates. This led to a club called the Chilliwack River Kayak Club. I spent the winter of 87/88, a month in winter 88/89, and then every winter from then, training at Tamihi, until I stopped training in Chilliwack. and I think it was in 1992 or 93 that I changed the name of the club to the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence, and began offering pool sessions for beginners at the Cheam pool.

The club used the outreach trailer, which belonged to the Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC (the paddling governing body at that time), and we begged and scrounged a bunch of kayaks. I spent a lot of time taking lots of people out in the pool, on Cultus and on the lower Vedder – mostly kids, but some young adults too. The beginner side of the club was supported by athletes on the national and development team in those days because it generated income for athletes who would take the time to teach others what they knew. Athletes like Saskia van Mourik, Keith Klapstein, Mike Holroyd all taught in the pool, the lake and the river. By the time I retired from competition in 1996, the CCE had a membership of probably 35 to 40 paddlers, of which about one third were racers competing and training at the national or development level and the rest were beginners.

The club worked out a deal with the Cultus Lake Parks Board to store equipment at the shed at the lake. The CCE had acquired a decent fleet of kayaks and other equipment by that time. In 1996, Morna Fraser ran national team trials at Tamihi with me doing the timing and many of the CCE beginners helping in a variety of roles. We ran paddles across Cultus lake a few times in the mid 90s on Easter.

The Hope Slough race was where national and provincial team athletes came out to run clinics for beginners. The race became a regular event starting about 1994 or so. Club trips to Tofino and a spring picnic at Cultus were initiated as annual events in 96, a year when mostly beginners attended, but a few racers always came, and the social side grew. Although there were many kids paddling between 1993 and 1999, the club really took on a local flavor in 1999 when Jon and Craig Allen and Derek Beer came to pool sessions. These young athletes were the nucleus of a group of local youth who really wanted to race. I went with them and their families on a drive across Canada to compete in the 2000 Nationals in Ottawa.

When we loaded the vans in Chilliwack in early July, the boys were probably not quite ready to race at that level, but we paddled lots on our way across and throughout Southern Ontario before the Nationals. When Nationals were over, I think all three were hooked. Their success was contagious and the following year at Nationals 2001 in Kananaskis, the BC Team competed with 14 juniors, most from Chilliwack. I am pretty sure that is the largest BC team ever at Nationals. That team included Craig Allen, Jon Allen, Derek Beer, Ross Slater, Anna and Ivy Williams, Deanna, Wyatt and Angela Knopp.

Most of the national team in those days trained at Tamihi all winter. We had a large, high-quality BC senior team. The CCE was the only club in BC supporting and promoting slalom racing, and the young talent that started then are still involved in many aspects of paddling today.

by Dan Norman