There are big things happening in the world of water sports in Gig Harbor, and the Gig Harbor Paddle Cup and Expo offers a great way for the public to check it all out! Taking place on April 20th and 21st at Skansie Brothers Park in downtown Gig Harbor, the weekend promises two days full of competitive kayak, canoe, outrigger and SUP (stand up paddle board) races ranging from novice to expert. This event provides a great way to check out races, a complete expo of watercraft, and a huge variety of demonstrations. It also marks an exciting time for the sport in Gig Harbor; in 2012, the Canoe and Kayak Racing Team won it’s first national championship, the junior division of the USA Canoe/Kayak sprint contest!
The team of 48 youth athletes includes four with disabilities and are all lead by volunteer Coach Alan Anderson. For the team, everything really began in 2002 when Anderson decided to start up a canoe and kayak program for kids in Gig Harbor. It started out small, but eventually grew into a nonprofit organization with an ambitious mission statement: to develop athletes that can race in national, international and Olympic competitions by 2016. It just so happens that for the first time in 2016, paracanoe (a sport for physically disabled athletes that includes both kayaks and outrigger canoes) will be contested in the Paralympic Games. In trying to develop the sport more, USA Canoe/Kayak offered $25,000 grants to clubs that would be able to train Paralympic-level athletes, and GHCKRT was one of the only teams in the country to win one.
Part of the grant money is being used to outreach to disabled veterans through the Madigan Wounded Warrior Project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In March, GHCKRT offered its first demo camp for disabled veterans that was meant to give veterans a chance to get a feel for the club’s equipment and techniques—a camp the club hopes will be the first of many to come. Learn more about Coach Anderson’s inspiring ambitions here.
“We are really looking forward to this year’s Paddle Cup,” says Gig Harbor Real Estate Agent Karrie Griffin Betts. “It’s fun to see what local people are doing, fun to see the wide range of skill, too. As the downtown Gig Harbor area is lovely, it’s also nice to wander off to get a bite to eat down in the Harbor—I recommend Java N Clay Coffee and Eats, Suzanne’s Deli and Bakery, or maybe Seven Seas Brewery! I also know that this year, the budding singer and songwriter Sofia Boyden will be singing the national anthem which we are also really looking forward to.”
Check out the Cup & Expo website to learn more about the schedule of events, the course of the races, directions and more. Also, while you’re hanging out in downtown, it’s a great opportunity to check out all the other fun sights and delicious food the area has to offer. Learn more about downtown Gig Harbor!