Kalamalka Classic is a stand up event

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STEVE MCNAULL

VERNON, B.C. - Four years ago a newbie paddle boarder showed up at a little-known competition called the Kalamalka Classic in Vernon, B.C.

That neophyte paddler, Lina Augaitia, a school teacher from Vancouver, would go on not just to win Queen of Kalamalka, but become Canadian champion in 2013 and world champion this year in Nicaragua.

Lina Augaitis, the reigning world champion and Queen of Kalamalka, will be at the Kalamalka Classic again this year.
Photo Provided by the Kalamaka Classic

"Ya, she's reigning world champion," says Kalamalka Classic organizer Kevin O'Brien.

"It's pretty cool that she started at Kalamalka and is coming back to Kalamalka again this year."

This year's event is the weekend of Aug. 30 to 31 at Kalamalka Lake, that shimmering green-watered beauty that runs between the towns of Oyama and Coldstream, close to Vernon.

Its calm waters, beautiful beaches and Okanagan Valley-meet-mountain setting make it the perfect locale for a stand up paddle festival for the whole family.

Growing sport and event

Just as the sport of stand up paddle board has grown exponentially, so has the Kalamalka Classic.

From humble beginnings just five years ago, it has blossomed into one of Vernon's premier annual events and it even hosted the SUP Canadian championships in 2013.

"We get about 250 competitors," says O'Brien. "I'd say the majority of them are what we call recreational competitive."


Kalamalka Classic is expected to attract 250 competitors this year.
Photo provided by the Kalamaka Classic

On the Saturday, fun is key with kids activities on the beach and on the water.

There's also some beach sprints, some recreational class paddle events and some short course races for points.

"We're an event that's big on fun and small on rules," says O'Brien.

Kalamalka Crossing – bucket list worthy 

Sunday is the marquee event, with the Kalamalka Crossing covering the six or so kilometres of the lake from south to north.

The fastest competitors will be able to make the journey in about one hour and 45 minutes. The average is about two-and-a-half to three hours.


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"It's one of those bucket list paddles," says O'Brien. "It's beautiful."

In fact, the scenery is so alluring that a guy showed up last minute last year and enjoyed the ride while paddling a heavy and old windsurfing board.

King and Queen 

Times and points from the short-course competition on Saturday and Kalamalka Crossing on Sunday are combined and tallied to determine the overall winners who are crowned King and Queen of Kalamalka. Last year, Augaitis was crowned Queen. 

She's an incredible athlete who's previously competed in a diverse bunch of sports from rowing, rugby and wrestling to gymnastics, ultimate Frisbee and triathlon.

Stuart Robinson, the owner of Compass Adventure Water Sports in Comox, B.C., was King.


Stuart Robinson, 2013's King of Kalamalka, owns Compass Adventure Water
Sports in Comox, B.C.
Photo provided by the Kalamaka Classic

Fastest growing sport in the world

From a quiet Sunday morning paddle alone on glass-flat water to elite racing, SUP has become one of the most popular, inclusive and wide-ranging sports on the planet.

"It's the spirit of the sport," says O'Brien. "There, of course, is the connection to water and the Hawaiian feel of its roots, where water, family and fun are all important."


The Kalamalka Classic runs the weekend of Aug. 30-31 on Kalamalka Lake
near Vernon, B.C.
Photo provided by the Kalamaka Classic

O'Brien also likes that everyone's perspective on life is a little different when on the water. "It's freedom. You paddle at your own pace, get a little exercise and just enjoy," he says.

About the organizer

Kevin O'Brien ran national and Olympic BMX bike events for 20 years before reconnecting with the water in a big way.


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"We ended up living in Vernon and ocean surfing wasn't an option," he says. "So on a hockey trip to Vancouver I saw a paddle board and brought it back to Vernon. This was before the sport was hot. It all led to me opening Kalavida Surf Shop on Kalamalka Lake in 2010."


Kalamalka Classic organizer Kevin O'Brien, also owns and operates Kalavida Surf Shop on Kalamalka Lake with his wife Michelle Mitchell.
Photo Provided by Steve MacNaull

Kalavida is an inspired name that ties into the Hawaiian word 'kala,' meaning laid-back and the store's location on Kalamalka Lake.

O'Brien continues to do commentary for BMX events on CBC-TV.

Interested in trying out Stand up Paddling for yourself? Enter our contest and get we will get you out on the water this summer! Details here.