The event celebrates the past year’s most inspiring paddlers, adventures, and expeditions, as well as the sport’s most worthy philanthropic causes. After 9,200 votes, an all-star cast of presenters announced the deserving winners, nominated by their peers and selected by readers and everyday paddlers.
In a year defined by expeditions that went the distance—across Baffin Island, down the entire Amazon, through the Caribbean—it was Aleksander Doba’s 5,400-mile voyage across the Atlantic Ocean that earned the third annual Awards ceremony’s marquee Expedition of the Year Award presented by Nexen Tire.
Doba, the bearded adventurer from Poland, crossed the Atlantic again (this time by plane) to accept his award in person to the night’s most raucous cheers.
“I’m not old, I’m 68 years young,” an ecstatic Doba joked in broken English before fellow Polish friend and exploratory kayak legend Piotr Chmielinski took the stage to translate Doba’s feelings of gratitude.
Distance also defined the night’s Spirit of Adventure award, which went to Janet Moreland, the first woman and first American to paddle her country’s longest river system with her 3,900-mile, 223-day “Love Your Big Muddy” source-to-sea kayak journey down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. “Don’t give up on your daydream!” Moreland implored the audience, hoping her adventure would inspire others.
Moreland wasn’t the only female winner to inspire the packed crowd of 300. Sage Donnelly, a 14-year-old phenom who’s made her mark in freestyle, downriver, and slalom competitions, took home the Female Paddler of the Year Award presented by Shred Ready.
On the men’s side, race savvy also carried weight for voters as reigning Green Race winner Pat Keller took home the Male Paddler of the Year Award presented by Shred Ready amidst a stacked and tightly contested field of nominees.
A pair of heart-felt presentations bookended the evening. First, expedition kayaker and decorated marine veteran Cody Howard presented the philanthropic Paddle with Purpose award to winner Team River Runner. Then to close the evening, Idaho whitewater icon “Rapid” Rob Lesser—the recipient of last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award—presented the 2014 honor to the late Jaime McEwan.
In a stoic yet emotional acceptance speech to close the ceremony, McEwan’s 1992 Olympic slalom partner Lecky Haller paid tribute to a friend he described as a true “renaissance man,” who taught him “to feel good about your performance even if you don’t win the race.” Haller closed the speech thanking McEwan for his “lifetime of service to our little way of life,” bringing the crowd to its feet in standing ovation.
In addition to Lesser, Howard and Chmielinski, awards presenters included whitewater pioneer Mick Hopkinson as well as two stalwart chargers continuing to push the sport forward in Evan Garcia and Louise Jull. Nominees as well as some of the biggest personalities in the sport came together once again to celebrate the best in paddling and in one another.
THE 2014 CANOE & KAYAK AWARDS WINNERS
Male Paddler of the Year Presented by Shred Ready
• PAT KELLER
Female Paddler of the Year Presented by Shred Ready
• SAGE DONNELLY
Spirit of Adventure
• JANET MORELAND – LOVE YOUR BIG MUDDY
Expedition of the Year Presented by Nexen Tire
• ALEKSANDER DOBA – TRANSATLANTIC KAYAK
Paddle with Purpose
• TEAM RIVER RUNNER
Lifetime Achievement Award
• JAMIE MCEWAN
Info: Check CKAwards.com