Paddling Towards Victory

Students of Sehome walk back with international wins


Yoshimi Lin, Arts/Media Editor

Over the week of September 9th through September 15th, four students traveled abroad to Europe to compete at the international level for kayaking. Three of them traveling to Slovakia competing at the Olympic Hopes Regatta while the other traveled to France for the 2019 International Canoe Federation (ICF) Ocean Racing World Champs. 

Kayaking has been an ongoing sport in the USA for a while now, it premiered in the Olympics during the year of 1936 and has continued to be an event ever since. Bellingham has a sprint kayak and canoe team that has about 30 team members.

In addition to sprint kayaking which is in short, kayaking on flat water, some of the team members participate in surfski. Holding some similarities as sprint kayaking, instead of paddling on flat water, the action takes place on moving bodies of water such as coastlines and open oceans. 

Students of Sehome, Elena Wolgamot (12), Sierra Noskoff (12), and Jonas Ecker (11) took off on September 5th to compete at the Olympic Hopes Regatta (OHR). The OHR is hosted in different locations every year and this year was chosen to be hosted in Bratislava, Slovakia. 

“I felt like I had a very solid race,” Sierra Noskoff (12) said. “I crossed the finishing line feeling strong and knowing I left everything I had on the racecourse.” 

This was Noskoff’s third year competing and was the best the United States had ever done at the OHR. As a group, they made 12 A Finals, 7 B Finals, and received three medals. Their ranking was 14th out of the 36 nations.

One of the medal recipients was Jonas Ecker (11) who received the third-place medal in the U17 K1 500m. “Being at an international competition, the level of difficulty is even higher than a local or even national regatta,” Ecker said, “Every single person on the start line represents the best of their country for their age.”

The competition is divided into various age groups varying from 15 to 17. Within the age groups, there are different categories of distance as well as singles, doubles, etc. for both kayaking and canoeing. 

Ecker only competed in K1 events this year but Elena Wolgamot (12) took the fourth place position with her partner Kali Wilding (12), a kayaker from Hawaii for the K2 500m race. “I wasn’t nervous just because I have raced at so many international competitions before,” Wolgamot said. This would be her third year competing at the OHR. “I for sure do still get the small jitters that cause adrenaline and help me focus and go faster.”

Ryan Paroz, Greg Barton, Wilson Reavley, Ana Swetish (12), Mimi Swetish (10)

Not too far from Bratislava, only 926 miles away, another kayaking race was being held in Brittany, France. Competing in the 2019 ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships was Ana Swetish (12). This ICF race was a surfski race located off the coast of France, the southern part of Quiberon Bay. 

This was Swetish’s first time traveling internationally for a surfski competition although she has been competing in many local surfski races before the trip. The competition had about 500 competitors and there were 20 people in Swetish’s race category. Swetish was also one of the four Americans that competed, with one of the four being former Sehome Alumni Wilson Reavley. 

“The race was very professional,” Swetish said. “We all had to wear jerseys while we raced and we all had GPS trackers.” This was Swetish’s first European race and described that there was even a parade of nations, opening and closing ceremonies, as well as an awards ceremony. 

The course was a total of 22 kilometers long and took Swetish an hour and 54 minutes to complete the race. She won the Junior Division, finishing the race five minutes ahead of the second U18 racer behind her and received the title as the Junior World Champion for Surfski. “If I could change something about the race, I would probably make it more windy and in the right direction,” Swetish said. “We had waves coming straight on our side the entire 22 K. It would have been a lot more fun if I could actually ride the waves.” 

Reflecting upon her achievement from her race, Swetish hopes to win U19 in her upcoming races in Perth, Australia. The races will take place in November and following, she hopes to win U18 next year at world’s and placing top 15 overall. 

Now that the paddling season has wrapped up and winter soon approaches, many of these paddlers plan to train for their final races left of 2019. Looking ahead towards their next season they hope to achieve higher rankings and place