12 Oct 2013

 Article: Tennille Barber  Photos: Brendan Ginter

The thing about kayaking is the people who do it are incredible, and they are so enthusiastic and willing to share their knowledge that it makes you want to attempt boating and get the gear right away.  However, the kayaking here is a little knarly to be jumping into and there aren’t many good places to practise if you’re a beginner.  The bottom of the Jordan is a beginner run but it’s a very short time in which you can run it with 3 challenging eddys and no real features. The upper Jordan is the most challenging in the area at class 4-5. The Illicillewaet raft run is a minimum 2-3 class run that’s 23 km long separated into two parts that essentially take half a day each.  The big mountain boating around here is world class.  But what do you do if you’re a beginner?

The little wave train beside the path on the Illy, not far from the old water tower

One project by Kate Devine draws some super rad kayakers to Revelstoke to complete a creeking race on the upper Jordan, but it isn’t really a festival.  Having been to a couple kayak festivals, they are pretty family oriented.  Each time I’ve been, the group putting it on brings up the possibility of having one in Revelstoke.  The potential to bring a good number of people into Revelstoke’s restaurants and hotels is there.  There are just two things we’re missing: an easy and safe boating opportunity for beginners and children with good access, and some fun waves for playboaters, stand up paddle boarders and surfers.  When I heard rumors about a water park proposal on the Illicillewaet River by the old water tower in Revelstoke, I had to investigate.  Maybe I shouldn’t have sold my Werner paddle.

Brendan Ginter, a very inspired and enthusiastic kayaker brought the question of a wave park to other kayakers in town through a Facebook group.  The project, to begin with, needs a board of directors to start a society.  Before anything can be done at all they need to complete an engineering study.  A company run out of Colorado called S20, experienced in wave park projects has already completed a proposal.  Of course before it takes place they’ll need to fundraise to pay for it.  At a $13,500 cost before they can even start building, it will be a substantial challenge.  The group has already made many plans to get the funding for the project independent of the city’s involvement.


The company will be examining historical flows, informing them on whether the portion of the Illicillewaet that has been chosen is ideal to install the park.  They will consider the landscape around the area and what they will be able to utilize in the build.  A challenge with most of the area surrounding is that it’s loose rock and that means the river is constantly changing.  Concrete needs to be used to create formations.  It will solidify in water, but moving water is a challenge and getting it to form up is part of the engineer’s job.

There are a couple limitations they are going to face in building it. There are only 2-3 weeks at the end of August that they will be able to build because of water levels and fishery concerns.  In other situations there are dams that can control the levels making it easier to install features.  Not the case here.  This will mean the water park will probably be built one wave at a time, maybe extending the project over a couple years.  “I see this as a minimum 5 year plan,” he says.  They will start with a plan to make one wave suitable for kayaking, surfing or stand up paddleboarding. If it’s a success, trying to expand a bit should be a no brainer.

A concern most discussed at the meeting was the fish habitat.  Negatively affecting fish habitat on the river means repairing the damage you’ve done 2-1.  Department of Fisheries maintains that if 1 meter is damaged, 2 meters must be repaired.  However, eddies are fish habitat and will definitely be part of the design (trust me, catching an eddy is hard and probably the most important thing you need to learn as a beginner!), which means the project will create new spaces for fish.  There is a trout fishery ending at Albert Canyon and a salmon fishery ending at the industrial area by where they want to build.  Below Albert Canyon bridge (the top of the raft run) on the Illy, there is no fishing allowed all the way to the Columbia River.

Kayakers aren’t the only ones who could benefit.  Surfers, boogie boarders, stand up paddle boarders, and fishermen will want to take notice of this project.  Everyone at the meeting felt the priority needed to be the society formation to attain the goal of getting the park underway.  Considerations for making a club and getting insurance to be able to do trips with instructors will come at a later date but is being kept in the scope, just later down the road.  So far the society members include Jason Armstrong, Ryan Creary, Cory Beisel, Dean Thompson and of course Brendan Ginter. They are currently looking for others to join the board, especially from the surfing and stand up paddle board community.  If you happen to be interested, email brendan_ginter@yahoo.ca or join the facebook group.

The spot they are considering has amazing accessibility for random walkers to see the action because the paths are right there next to the river.  The potential for parking is there, the spot is beautiful, and it’s right in town bringing people to the heart of Revelstoke.  I’ll be watching and reporting on the progress of the project closely.  Here’s hoping Revelstoke dials another sporting market, making our big mountains not as intimidating as we all keep forgetting they really are.

The group is planning another get together soon, so watch the facebook group for updates.