ALERT BAY—Three years ago, Alert Bay harbourmaster Eric Gregory had an idea to boost eco-tourism by holding a paddling event around Cormorant Island.
This Sunday, the fourth annual Alert Bay 360 Eco Paddle will draw top top paddlers from around the world to an 11-kilometre, human-powered circumnavigation of the island that is jointly hosted by the Village of Alert Bay and the ‘Namgis First Nation.
“I started it out with word of mouth and advertising on my own,” said Gregory, who remains involved as lead organizer of the event. “It was successful, and now we’ve got a lot of great sponsors who have come on to help us with prize money.”
This year’s Eco Paddle will boast more than $15,000 in cash and prizes, and Gregory emphasizes you don’t have to be a world-class paddler to claim some of it.
“I’m not even calling it a race,” he said. “Usually the top three males and top three females get cash prizes, but no matter where you come in you’re eligible for the prize draws.”
Since the Eco Paddle began, it has drawn world-ranked rowers, kayakers and other paddlers, including visitors from Australia and other international destinations.
“We’re really fortunate to draw good crowds,” Gregory said. “Mostly we get paddlers from the West Coast, but we also had some from New York City last year.”
The event is open to all self-propelled craft, and typically draws everything from single kayaks to war canoes and dragon boats. Sails and motors are prohibited, and members of Coast Guard Station 508 in Telegraph Cove and several auxiliary crews will be on hand for safety purposes.
The event actually kicks off late Saturday afternoon with a free welcome barbecue at the Village campground that will carry into the evening.
Sunday morning begins with a breakfast buffet at Pass’n Thyme Inn starting at 6 a.m. Registration and packet pickup will be held at the dock from 8-10:30 a.m., and the paddle begins at 11 a.m.
The awards ceremony kicks off at 3 p.m., and at 5 o’clock the action moves to the ‘Namgis Big House for a feast including a seafood buffet dinner and cultural singing and dancing. Tickets to the Big House celebration are $35 each.
Registration and other race info is available at www.alertbay360.com. Registration is also taken at the dock the morning of the event, but the field will be limited to 200 entries. For more info, call Eric Gregory at 250-974-5727.