With a growing interest in performance sport, the Erne Paddlers took on the Junior Bladers program focussing on K boat sprint racing. The program is to bring juniors into the club within the 10-14 year old age group who have never paddled before and introduce them to K boats. For those who have ever paddled K boats this would seem a challenge, with K boats being built for speed and lacking stability.
Through contacts within schools and the local council, twelve juniors signed up for doing five sessions on Tuesday evenings which started at the end of June. Sonja Cassidy and Mantas Jarusas who have competed nationally and internationally in K boats were on hand to get these juniors on to the water, and give them encouragement and advice on mastering getting into the boats, keeping balance, learning how to use wing blades and getting the best use for forward paddling. Something they had to learn was how to empty boats as a few discovered necessary after a few capsizes, which was all part of the fun!
After a few weeks, these kids began to show good technique and keen to enter the novice race held at the Irish National championships hosted by Erne Paddlers. Next on the calendar was the Irish Sprint championship held at the newly developed international standard sprint course at Lough Rynn in Co. Leitrim, where Luke Harron won his first medal, coming third in the U14 200 metres. The following day was the Salmon Leap marathon race at the same venue, with four competing in the novice race again and all doing admirably. The final race for the year was the Northern Ireland school championships at Newferry with Jamie Hogg winning the U12 and Aimee Fitzpatrick the U14.
These kids will go on training through the winter months, linking up with other clubs and junior squads for coaching sessions at weekends and working through the week on ergo machines to build up technique and strength and stamina and core stability balance exercises. Erne Paddlers are seeking to bring international K boat racing to Fermanagh in the next few years, giving an aim for the juniors as they train and develop. For those interested in the program, contact Trevor Foster the co-ordinator of junior bladers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.