Skip to content

Friendly fun aboard the 'war canoe'

Burnaby Canoe and Kayak Club gearing up for busy summer season at local lake

Pick up your paddle and head out to Burnaby Lake because things are heating up this summer for the Burnaby Canoe and Kayak Club.

With nine races, or regattas, occurring this summer (since mid-May), the club is still looking especially forward to the upcoming national championship, masters championships and the B.C. Championship, which could be held at Burnaby's own lake.

"Burnaby Lake is really beautiful right now, it's really great," said Ali Nematollahi, who wears many hats for the club, including public relations, fundraising officer, webmaster and others. "They've done all of the dredging and they took the machines out of there. It's really beautiful. You can enjoy the boats, the club and the view."

The club has been around for the last 12 to 13 years and in the past year, it's brought home many medals from national regattas, according to Nematollahi, who's been with the club for the last 12 months.

"We won a lot of medals," he said. "Actually at the master's nationals, we were the third top of all of Canada, in terms of number of medals and races we finished. We did a really great job."

The club is a non-profit organization which relies on the help of many volunteers.

Many programs are also offered by the club, from beginner's classes, introduction to kayaking up to the war canoe team and school dragon boat program.

"War canoe is a big boat that accommodates 20 people in it," he explained. "It's basically a team boat.... Two by two in each row."

One person steers the boat in the back and it's otherwise very similar to a dragon boat. However, rowers are given the extra challenge of kneeling.

"What happens is you have to get more balance in your core," he said. "You have to have more strength so you keep the boat balanced because the boats are really narrow. They rock a lot, especially if the water is choppy."

"There is no nice board for you to sit on."

War canoe is also only popular in Canada and the U.S., according to Nematollahi - unlike a similar sport, the dragon boat.

The dragon boat program that the club offers is for grades 5 to 12 students every summer.

This year, it ran from May 2 to 20.

"Usually every year, we have this program for school-aged kids," he said. "We have an instructor for three weeks, it's usually with national certified instructors."

The program wrapped up on May 28, in time for the Annual B.C. School Dragon Boat Championships. The schools that participated in the program raced against each other with teams from all over the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Apart from offering a competitive dragonboat and war canoe program, the club has more to offer by way of sprint kayaking, racing, professional coaching, paddling technique development and more.

"You don't really have to have any background in kayaking (or canoeing) at all," Nematollahi said. "Some of the people who are with the club have no background in kayaking and now they're basically sprinting and racing."

But, you don't have to race if you're only in it for the activity, companionship and experience.

"Some people don't really like to race," Nematollahi said. "They just want to be getting into shape and staying healthy. You don't really have to race. It's not a mandatory thing at all for the club."

Participants are welcome to join the club, and signing up is easy. Go to for all the information for fees and membership forms.

"We would love for people to join us," he said. "We're a non-profit organization. We're not in it for the money, we're in it for the sport. This is our passion."

As a kayaker, Nematollahi said canoeing requires more physical exertion.

"I'm not a canoer, I'm a kayaker," he noted. "I have a lot of respect for canoeing because it's really hard in comparison."