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Newfoundland and Labrador hailed as paradise for paddlers

Gander’s Barry Hicks is among dozens of kayakers preparing for a trip along the coast toward Salvage as part of the Paddle Newfoundland and Labrador Annual Retreat. Hicks’ boat is a 16 ½ foot Eastern Island Makkovic – a fiberglass composite sea kayak manufactured in Twillingate. Megan Frost photo
Gander’s Barry Hicks is among dozens of kayakers preparing for a trip along the coast toward Salvage as part of the Paddle Newfoundland and Labrador Annual Retreat. Hicks’ boat is a 16 ½ foot Eastern Island Makkovic – a fiberglass composite sea kayak manufactured in Twillingate. Megan Frost photo - Contributed

A kayak on the roof of an SUV is not an unusual site in Central Newfoundland.  

If you find yourself stuck behind a convoy of vehicles laden down with the colourful boats in the Glovertown area at the end of May, however, you have almost certainly come across the paddlers for the Paddle Newfoundland and Labrador Annual Retreat.

Montreal’s Santiago Berrueta was the guest speaker for the 18th Annual Retreat hosted by Paddle Newfoundland and Labrador. Berrueta spent Saturday on a group paddle departing St. Chad’s and Sunday (which started with light snow) teaching paddling skills on Sandy Pond in Terra Nova National Park. Megan Frost photo
Montreal’s Santiago Berrueta was the guest speaker for the 18th Annual Retreat hosted by Paddle Newfoundland and Labrador. Berrueta spent Saturday on a group paddle departing St. Chad’s and Sunday (which started with light snow) teaching paddling skills on Sandy Pond in Terra Nova National Park. Megan Frost photo

This year marked the 18th annual retreat with 45 canoeists, kayakers, and paddle boarders from across the province based at Splash n Putt Cabins in Glovertown. The group took part in boating, education and social activities from May 17 to 20.

Gander’s Barry Hicks was among sea kayakers at this year’s retreat. Hicks has been paddling for more than 15 years after a friend with a spare kayak invited him to try it out.

“I fell in love with the feeling of being on the water and being connected to the waves. I grew up on the water but when it’s work, it’s a job. As a paddler, you see the appreciation," he said. "I imagine when you’re someone who makes a living from the sea, it’s like it’s the enemy. When you’re a kayaker, it’s a different appreciation. It’s good for you physically, as well as mentally.” 

Hicks’ kayaking experience has been almost entirely limited to Newfoundland and Labrador but he has not gotten bored yet with paddling in central Newfoundland. 

A draw for locals and outsiders alike, Newfoundland and Labrador offers a lot of variety for paddlers.

“It’s the endless playground without nature being spoiled by humans,” said retreat guest speaker Santiago Berrueta. "You can never explore all the coast of Newfoundland. Having the crown land equals freedom.” 

Berrueta has paddled in many places including Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, the U.S., Mexico, and Chile. 
“It was one of the most awesome paddles I have ever had. Right after we got out of the bay, we saw an iceberg. I have seen a lot of things while kayaking, but never an iceberg,” he said of his experience on the Eastport Peninsula.

Sharing the spotlight with this year’s guest speaker was George Burke of Bishop’s Falls who was honoured with the Jim Price Passion for Paddling Award at Sunday night’s banquet. Burke was praised for introducing hundreds of people to the world of paddling and demonstrating real excitement and enthusiasm for paddling in the province. 

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