Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vinessa Currie, One Helluva Woman

A good friend of mine died on Friday night. She was driving to Saskatoon with her family to take part in the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium the next day. Vinessa was a founding member of the Common Currents Paddling Association and part of our small organizing committee. The following is an extended version of what I wrote for the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium website.  

Vinessa speaking at the 2014 Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium that she instigated. Here she displays her ever-present smile in one of it's more subdued forms.  

Passion. Vitality. Energy. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Laughter. Rather busy at times. But above all, passion. These are some of the words and phrases that come to mind as we remember Vinessa Currie-Foster.

On Friday, April 24th, 2015, the night before the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium, Vinessa was en route to Saskatoon for the symposium with her young family. Tragically, she never made it to her destination and the paddling world, her family, friends, and all who knew her, are left to mourn her passing. Vinessa’s death hung heavy over our hearts throughout the symposium, yet she would have loved to see so many people together, celebrating paddling, and being brought closer as a paddling community, reaching out to embrace new members in that community.

Without Vinessa, there likely would not be a Common Currents Paddling Association or a Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium. It was her bright vision which lit the spark that brought the 2014 Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium into being, and it was the success of that initial event that brought Vinessa and the rest of us together in its wake to create the Common Currents Paddling Association as a vessel to continue to bring the paddling community together. This was just one of her pursuits. She was also involved in Nature Saskatchewan (Education Director), Canoe Kayak Saskatchewan (Vice President), Leave No Trace Canada (Master Educator course provider), Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association, Tourism Saskatchewan, Canada Nature Escapes and more, not to mention running Clearwater Canoeing full time.

Just 35 years old, Vinessa was a force to be reckoned with. She was passionate about paddling, the north, wilderness, Saskatchewan, history, and passionate about her family. Not only was Vinessa a rising pillar in the paddling and tourism community, she was also a mother, wife, friend and sister. She will have a legacy in the people she has inspired to do great things, and her legacy will be reflected through her children and family. Those of us who have met her twin boys know that they, too, have a fair share of their mother’s energy.

Over $3800 plus the donation of a canoe was raised during the paddling symposium, money that will go to helping Vinessa’s family in the aftermath of her death. If you wish to contribute to helping her family, there is a GoFundMe campaign started and there is a trust account in memory of Vinessa set up at the CIBC in Maidstone, donations to that account can be made at any CIBC branch with the transit/account #00378/72-70933.

We also hope to be able to create something in Vinessa’s memory that will endure for the long term, but what shape that takes has yet to be determined. If this is something you wish to contribute towards through ideas, work or a donation, please contact us at

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium, April 25th

Hi folks, the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium is less than three weeks away! April 25th is going to come very, very fast. But, everything IS coming together very nicely, albeit a tad hectically. I am super excited.

Check it out at and see you on April 25th!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Pogies vs. Gloves for Coldwater Paddling

I've had some discussion (argument) recently with a knowledgeable fellow about wearing pogies versus gloves while cold-water paddling. The other fellow dismissed pogies as not adequate and argued that gloves are better because they keep your hands warm if you end up in the water, a valid point. Pogies are attached to the paddle shaft and if I swim, I'll have to take my hands out to perform the rescue and now have bare hands. The argument goes that you should always have something on your hands. 

Here's the thing, for me at least, gloves don't work. I have thick neoprene gloves and I'd much rather wear the pogies (mine are NRS Mambas). In the gloves, my hands get wet and cold. Once cold they will stay cold. Further, have you ever tried to do anything wearing thick neoprene gloves? It's hard. Grabbing deck lines is hard. Performing any sort of task is difficult, even when the hands are warm. Once you have cold hands in cold neoprene, they become practically useless for hanging onto anything smaller than a paddle shaft. 

By contrast the pogies act like a good set of warm mitts. My hands are toasty warm even when wet. I can pull the pogies off, perform some task with bare hands, and get them back in the pogies fairly quickly to re-warm or perhaps before they get cold. And my hands do re-warm in the pogies. In a rescue situation I now start out with warm dexterous hands, can get myself back in the kayak with a minimum of trouble, and get my hands back on the paddle shaft and back into the pogies. Gloves slow my rescues and keep me in the water longer. 

For me & my large hands, pogies + thin gloves does not work well since my pogies fit snug enough to make getting them on with gloves tough - and they do need to fit properly. However this may be a good option for some people. 

I should note that I do bring gloves with me when I cold-water paddle, and I keep them accessible. 

Whatever you do there is one major point that I would like to make - MAKE SURE IT WORKS FOR YOU. Try different combinations. Practice your rescues in the conditions you paddle. It's one thing to conclude that something works, but you have to ensure it still works when the sh!t hits the fan. Go for a swim then make sure you can still use your hands.

Going for an icy swim close to shore is a good way to verify that your clothing system actually works, without getting in over your head. If it passes this test with a few minutes in the water, move on to rescues to ensure that you can still help yourself. 

I enjoy paddling in conditions that many call "crazy", but I won't do it with the deck stacked against me. I paddle what might be considered dangerous conditions, in a very safe manner.