Each summer for the past five years, the world’s largest audience of paddlers speaks, nominating and selecting those who inspire adventure, endurance, performance, progression, teamwork and community. At this year’s Outdoor Retailer tradeshow the paddling community gathered in downtown Salt Lake City to celebrate the winners of the fifth annual Canoe & Kayak Awards, honoring the Male and Female Paddler of the Year, Paddle with Purpose, Spirit of Adventure, Expedition of the Year presented by Nexen Tire, and Lifetime Achievement. The ceremony also announced the winner of the $10,000 Dream Adventure Contest expedition award presented by Nexen Tire. And the envelope, please…
After a vote that totaled over 25,000 ballots cast, host and paddling-adventure extraordinaire Tyler Bradt opened the evening program by presenting the philanthropic Paddle with Purpose award to Whitewater Healing. Program organizer Jim Coffey accepted the award on behalf of his nonprofit, which enhances the lives of families touched by autism by exposing them to paddling and wild rivers.
The Paddler of the Year awards went to a pair of Southeast paddlers, both first-place finishers of their respective classes in the 2015 Green Race. A five-time finalist, Dane Jackson finally took home a win in the Male category, while Adriene Levknecht took home the custom paddle award as the event¹s first two-time Female Paddler of the Year winner (Levkencht also won the honor in 2012).
For C&K¹s second annual $10,000 Dream Adventure Contest, presented by Nexen Tire, C&K Editor Jeff Moag took the stage, honoring the winning team of expedition paddlers Evan Garcia and Eric Parker for their upcoming “Patagonian Triple Crown” dream to descend the Patagonia region of South America¹s three most infamous rivers (the Rio Baker, Rio Bravo, and Rio Pascua) from their source to the Pacific Ocean, and to raise awareness about the energy development plans which threaten them.
One of the evening¹s most electric moments came during Dale Sanders acceptance of the Spirit of Adventure Award for his 10-week solo canoe descent of the Mississippi River, staking his claim as the big river’s oldest paddler to complete the feat. “I might be 81 but I can still jump around and jump up and down!” Sanders yelled after leaping on the stage.
For the Expedition of the Year, presented by Nexen Tire, five of six members of the Rediscover North America team were on hand to accept the award for their eight-month, 5,200-mile voyage from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.
Finally, the crowd quieted for closing presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Nantahala Outdoor Center founder Payson Kennedy. Taking the stage, Kennedy, at age 83, humbly accepted the honor in a heartfelt speech in which he deflected personal achievements in favor of recognizing “an incredible group of people who have come together the last 45 years.” In summarizing that group, who helped him build the nation¹s largest outdoor recreation company, Kennedy noted the North Carolina center’s connection to 23 Olympic kayakers representing the company, including a final link to Michal Smolen, who represented the U.S. in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Snapshot: Expedition of the Year: Rediscover North America
The Team: Winchell Delano, John Keaveny, Dan Flynn, Jarrad Moore, Adam Trigg, and Luke Kimmes
What: 5,200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean
How: In eight months, this six-man team traveled south to north across the U.S. and Canada, including a first 2,000 wintry miles upstream on the Mississippi River, and finishing in the deep wilds of Arctic Canada. Funded in part with the $2,500 Expedition Grant presented by Shred Ready, which was awarded to Winchell Delano’s 2,600-mile Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition upon winning the 2013 Canoe & Kayak Awards Expedition of the Year, the Rediscover North America team upped the ante with 245 days of classic canoe-tripping, eventually reaching the mouth of the Coppermine River in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. Read more HERE
SEE THE FULL VIDEO PROGRAM FROM THE 2016 C&K AWARDSHERE
CHECK OUT A FULL GALLERY OF PICTURES FROM THE EVENING HERE