Excitement building for canoe festival

The first Stz'uminus Canoe Festival takes place this weekend at Kulleet Bay.

One local family is looking to keep the First Nations tradition of canoe racing afloat in Stz’uminus.

The first Stz’uminus Canoe Festival takes place this weekend (July 21-22) at Kulleet Bay, and organizers Adam and Margaret Seymour say the excitement is building.

“We want it to make it a community festival, and we want it to be annual,” Margaret said. “We want to keep this culture going.”

Canoe clubs from all over southern Vancouver Island, the mainland, the Fraser Valley and Washington have been invited to participate in the canoe races.

There will be everything from singles races and doubles, to six- and 11-member team races in both men’s and women’s divisions.

“There’s different age groups,” Adam added.

Spectators will get to see both strip canoes and traditional dugout canoes slice through the water.

“Both do very well in the water,” said Adam, who has been racing for about 12 years.

The event is open to spectators wanting to come down to the bay to cheer on racers or get a feel for the sport. An admission fee of $10 per day or $15 for the weekend will help with the cost of putting on the non-profit event and will help subsidize travel costs for some of the visiting clubs.

The races will begin and end at the waterfront at Kulleet Bay in an attempt to keep as much visible as possible.

Both Adam and Margaret say they would like to see their fellow community members get involved with the sport. Canoe racing in Stz’uminus has been traced as far back as 1914, Margaret said.

Races have been put on in the area in recent years by other canoe clubs, but the last one was more than four years ago.

The idea for a Stz’uminus canoe festival began with Adam’s brother Gordon Seymour, who passed away in March.

“He was telling us in November that we have to bring the races back,” said Adam. “He said the community always sees us training every night, but they never get to see the races.

“We want to fulfill his wishes.”

Margaret, Adam and three of their teenage children can be found on the water five to seven days a week. Margaret says it takes a lot of dedication and commitment to be involved in the sport, but it promotes a healthy lifestyle free of alcohol, drugs or junk food.

“Win or lose, we will have our health to be thankful for at the end of the season,” she said.

It’s also a sport for all ages.

“We’ll be able to paddle into our 50s and 60s,” Margaret said.

For more information on the Stz’uminus Canoe Festival, call 250-245-2960.