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Paddles dip in Chester

Students at Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) took to the waters as part of the school's annual kayaking program in Chesterfield Inlet earlier this month.

photo courtesy of Victor Sammurtok School
Instructor Glen Brocklebank puts in a little one-on-one time with student Landon Makpah during the annual kayak program at Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet this past week.

2017 marks the eleventh year VSS students have been on the water during the kayaking program, which was founded by teacher-instructor Glenn Brocklebank in 2004.

The program is open to students in Grade 9 to Grade 12.

While students enjoyed the best weather the program's ever had in Chester this year, Brocklebank said course participants were trained for all eventualities, so everyone was prepared before hitting the open water.

He said the program started off with 26 students out for the swim test on Aug. 18, before the kayaks hit the water on Police Lake just outside of town.
“We've had 15 or 16 boats out every morning and afternoon during the program,” said Brocklebank.

“We did our self-rescue training on Mission Lake this past week, which is deep enough to be over their heads.

“The students had to capsize their kayak, get out, and then get back in within a minute.

“They practice that maneuver three times, and then we're ready to hit the ocean for some extended paddles, paddles over lunch and a full-day paddling, which we hope to be able to do this week if the weather holds.”

Brocklebank said this year there are more higher-need students participating in the program and some struggle to perform some of the more complex moves, like the wet exit.

“What we did to address that challenge was put pontoons on one of the kayaks to allow them to continue fully participating in the program,” he said, “so we've been fairly successful at making modifications for the program to be more inclusive.”

Brocklebank said every student who has participated in the kayak program speaks to how much fun it actually is.

He said, over the years, the instructors have done a good job of disguising the learning that's hidden in the fun.

“A student can no longer tell me they can't do something after they've flipped over a kayak, got back in it, and then paddled two kilometres all on their own.

“We've proven with kayaking that they can, in fact, do, so now we just need to apply that to the other aspects of their lives.”