Tanner Fisher joined the University of Alberta paddling club to become better at kayaking.
Years later, as the president of the club, it’s now about a lot more than just improving his skills. Fisher, who works as a kayak guide during his summers said he initially envisioned going to the club and working on his kayaking skills over the winter, but eventually got involved with instructing newer students.
There’s more to kayaking than most people think, Fisher pointed out.
“When you tell someone you kayak, they usually picture you going on a lake,” Fisher said.
Whether it’s taking a day trip on a lake, a multi-day trip down a river, or kayaking down a section of white water, Fisher said that the sport has universal appeal.
“There’s a level for everyone in it, there’s the competitive side and the more casual side,” Fisher said. “I don’t know if I could pick a favourite, they all have their bonuses, but the majority of the time it just depends on who you’re with.”
Fisher also said the kayaking community is a big reason why he enjoys the sport so much.
“The people in the community are just honest, down to earth people, and they’re just out there to enjoy all that there is to see,” Fisher said.
In addition to free paddling time during their weekly sessions, the club also hosts games of canoe polo, a game similar to water polo, but with the added complexity of kayaks and paddles, which can be used to jostle other players for position.
The time in each session is split in half between free paddling and games of canoe polo, which allows to club to cater to a more varied audience.
“I myself come for the open sessions, but there’s people that come just for the polo, because that’s what they like,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s journey from member to president has come full circle. At first, he joined the club with the intention of improving his own skill, but now he enjoys the role of teaching others the things he learned.
“I enjoy teaching people just as much as I do paddling,” Fisher said.
“Seeing them succeed is just as much fun now as learning something new for myself.”
The club has fostered a learning environment that cultivates attitudes like Fisher’s — once people learn something, they’re very eager to pass it on to others.
“I’ve taught four or five people that have done the same thing that I have. They start to learn and now they’re starting to teach other people,” Fisher said.
“That’s one of the reasons why I became the president, to grow the paddling community in Edmonton. I think it’s a cool sport that not a lot of people (participate) in.”
The club holds pool sessions Wednesday and Friday nights at the east pool in the Van Vilet building. Fisher also noted that the club usually rents out the West Edmonton Mall Waterpark wave pool once every school year, so paddlers can learn how to deal with choppier waters. Students who are interested can attend one session for free, and can purchase a membership after that if they’re interested in joining the club.
Updates on events are regularly posted on the club’s Facebook page, and memberships can be bought from the customer service desk in the Van Vliet building.
With the way the club drew in Fisher, the next president will probably have just as much enthusiasm about the sport as he does.