Sean McBeath has been involved in paddling for more than half his life, and over that time, the sport/hobby has been very, very good to the 22-year-old.
In 1999, his father signed him up for recreational paddling with the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club (RCKC) in anticipation of a family canoe trip. They were planning to paddle, portage, and camp through Bowron Lakes, a series of seven lakes, on a week-long trip.
That’s when his passion for paddling took wing.
“The summer program was so much fun,” McBeath recalled. “I signed up for level one, and after that I was bugging my parents to sign me up for level two, level three, kind of thing.”
On Saturday, May 26, McBeath will share his love for paddling during the RCKC’s open house at Whonnock Lake Park.
The open house, for able-bodied paddlers of canoes, kayaks, and dragon boats, is also the official kickoff of the PaddleAll adaptive program run by the RCKC.
“All ages and abilities can come out that day and paddle for free,” said McBeath, who is heading up PaddleAll, a canoe and kayak program designed for people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
RCKC will be offering PaddleAll for both competitive and recreational boaters.
A group of 25 PaddleAll participants is scheduled to attend the open house.
In addition to RCKC’s summer program, the club also books PaddleAll groups throughout the summer.
“So a group can book a session and come out and paddle for a couple hours,” McBeath said. “With these group sessions, we hope people become interested and come sign up for the season-long program.”
The May 26 event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park, 27871 113th Ave.
Camp Without Borders, InterFit, and Headway are coming out to support the open house.
McBeath was introduced to PaddleAll through Zajac Ranch for Children, a summer camp in Mission for young people with illnesses and disabilities.
“It just occurred to me, the first time I volunteered there, that the sport of paddling is something I take for granted,” he said. “It was a privilege I’ve had, and almost seemed like work at most times. But for these kids and adults who don’t have that chance, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing a lot of the times. Being able to create this opportunity for them is something that’s important to me.”
For more information or to register, contact email@example.com, or show up to the open house. For more about the PaddleAll program contact PaddleAll@rckc.ca.
A 2007 grad of Maple Ridge Secondary, McBeath has quite a resume.
In 2003, he was a multiple medalist at the Western Canada Summer Games. He was a bronze medalist at both the 2005 and ’09 Canada Summer Games.
As part of the junior national team, McBeath captured two bronzes and a silver medal at the Pan Am games in New Mexico in 2006.
McBeath’s mother is Japanese, and because he holds dual citizenship, he was invited to try out for the Japanese junior national team.
He went on to win gold in the 1,000-metre, 500-metre, and 200-metre events at the 2007 junior national team trials in Japan.
“I got to meet the [Japanese] prime minister over there and stuff like that,” McBeath said.
Competing in canoes, McBeath mainly raced singles, but did some double and fours when he made the junior national team, and when he paddled for other clubs
Through Grades 10 to 12, McBeath travelled a lot for his paddling and spent a few months at a time in Florida training.
He’s now focused on coaching, and as such, splits his time between his hometown of Maple Ridge and Vancouver.
“I like the idea of passing on the knowledge through all the coaches I’ve had,” McBeath said.
McBeath is head coach of the high performance women’s distance outrigger program at False Creek Racing Canoe Club, and also works as a senior instructor with the RCKC.
“I’ll be in charge of a lot of the programs, including the PaddleAll,” McBeath said. “This is a really important job to me because that was my childhood: all day, every day, was at RCKC, at the lake.”
This marks the first time McBeath has put in serious time at RCKC, since he stopped paddling.
“It’s definitely an awesome thing, seeing all the new faces,” he said. “I want to recruit as many kids as I can this year.”
McBeath is at home on the water, saying paddling “definitely kept me out of trouble” in his younger years.
“A lot of time was spent at RCKC – two practices a day,” McBeath said. “It gave me a chance to travel the world. I’ve seen every major city in Canada. It’s just a really good sport, with good people involved. You get to make friends all over the country.”
There have been challenging moments through the years. McBeath admits it’s never enjoyable waking up at 5 a.m. for practices when it’s cold and rainy outside.
“There’s always those moments in the season where it’s like, ‘Oh, this is why I do it,’” McBeath said. “Getting to go to Florida for three months a year, stuff like that, was pretty awesome.”