Donna Klyn (foreground) tried a leisure kayak for the first time as she navigated the along the Bedford Channel on Saturday. She was among the many people who took part in the Fort Langley Canoe Club’s open house.

Ontario pair help guide paddlers of all levels on Fort Langley waters

The Fort Langley Canoe Club has a couple of national-level athletes on board.

A couple of top paddlers from Eastern Canada are currently calling Fort Langley home, as they lend their expertise to others along Fort Langley’s Bedford Channel.

Former Canadian team member Emily Raymond and national team hopeful Zaffia Laplante, both from Ontario, are working for the growing Fort Langley Canoe Club (FLCC), which in 2015 had 625 members on board.

Both were busy introducing the community to paddling during the FLCC’s open house on Saturday.

Laplante, a 19-year-old from North Bay, Ont., is spending the next few months in Fort Langley as the FLCC’s summer camps coordinator.

Camps start this week and run through to the final week of August. And from the first week of July into the late August, the FLCC hosts day camps that run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Anybody from [the ages of] eight to 14 can come out and try out the boats,” Laplante said.

This is Laplante’s first experience in Fort Langley and with the club.

“It’s still building but we’re hoping for a great turnout, especially with the try out day today,” Laplante told the Langley Advance on Saturday.

During the summer, Laplante will be teaching balance in the boats, while offering tips in both the sprint kayak and sprint canoe disciplines.

“We just want to offer kids the full paddling experience,” she added.

Laplante is very comfortable in a boat seat.

“I’ve been paddling my whole life,” Laplante said. “I’ve been racing for about seven years, now.”

Laplante has competed twice as a member of Team Ontario and made Canada’s U17 travelling team a couple of years ago. She also plans on going to the nationals this year.

Laplante saw the FLCC job posting on the Canoe Kayak B.C. website. She applied, scored the position, and arrived earlier in May.

She was buoyed by the turnout at the May 14 open house.

“The weekly programs start six weeks from now so this is really encouraging, seeing all these people out, trying the boats,” Laplante said. “It definitely gives some ‘thumbs up’ for the programs ahead.”

While here, Laplante will also be training under the tutelage of Otttawa native Raymond.

“Emily is a great coach,” Laplante said. “I’m learning from Emily and I’m learning from these kids. They’re obviously teaching me as I’m teaching them.”

They’ll all be honing their skills along the Bedford Channel, a body of water that Leplante calls “great.”

“These kids are very privileged in having such calm water [to paddle on],” Laplante said. “Even though the water does move fast it is very calm versus where I’m from, in North Bay, we’re on a lake and there’s whitecaps almost every single day.”

Experience abroad

FLCC has former national team member Raymond helping to steer the boat, as the club’s sprint head coach.

“I’m teaching all ranges,” Raymond said. “Right now, we’re a developing club, so we want to offer as many programs to the community as we can.”

Raymond raced for team Canada at the world championships held in Dartmouth, N.S., in 2009, garnering a 10th place finish in the K2 200m race.

She was also part of Canada’s World Cup teams the same year, and has raced in Mexico City, the U.S., and Europe.

At the tender age of 27, Raymond already has two decades of paddling experience.

“I started the sport when I was seven,” Raymond said. “My whole family is involved. Still, to this day, my grandfather who is in his 80s, is still kayaking. It’s a lifelong sport.”

Raymond’s transition to coaching came organically. At a young age, she started volunteering with the younger paddlers before her focus turned to high performance paddling and training as an elite athlete.

“After not making the London Olympics [in 2010] I took some time off to finish my degree, did coaching, and I sort of did a full circle and realized this is my biggest passion, this is what I wanted to pursue,” Raymond said.

Her duties include “coordinating everything,” Raymond said.

That includes supervising the FLCC’s summer staff, running a high performance group, as well as guiding the club’s sprint program.

For more about the club’s kayaking programs, click here and any questions can be directed via email: fwrep@fortlangleycanoeclub.ca.

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