(All photos by Billy Durr Photography)
One of my life mottos is “If you plan it they will come”. (Are you old enough to get that reference?) As far as mottos go, it’s one that always works. If you want to participate in fun things you just need to plan fun things.
The Glow Paddle came about whilst chatting on the river about how I had seen glow paddling tours offered in Costa Rica. Jennifer Durr was immediately on board and soon after suggested dates. We did a trial run ourselves to see how it would work and then opened it up for the community to join us. We’re now gearing up for your 4th Annual event. The Glow Paddle is free of charge and is essentially just community members agreeing to meet up at the same time and place. All children (15 and under) must be
accompanied by an adult and you are responsible for your safety.
The premise of the event is simple but it typically becomes the highlight of the summer.
How it Works
All participants of the Glow Paddle are responsible for supplying everything they need.
• a watercraft (kayak, canoe, SUP, etc)
• PFD – all participants must be wearing a life jacket at all times
• glow items to decorate your watercraft
• flashlight or headlamp
• whistle (recommended)
Part 1- Decorating
The event is broken up into two segments. First up is the decorating portion. Participants meet at the location (Woodlawn Free Park – next to the Dog Park) at 6pm to get their crafts ready. Everyone sets up on the grass and starts decorating. Over the years of “glowing” events we’ve found great options for lighting up your boat.
Glow Sticks – get a bunch of them and get them early! We’ve been known to cause a glow stick shortage in town in the days leading up to the Glow Paddle. Glow sticks can be worn on your person and adhered to your craft. We find that clear packing tape works great to stick the glow sticks to your kayak or SUP. You can also order them in bulk online.
Battery Operated Mini Lights – these are super handy to really get your craft lit up but there are a few things to be aware of. First, make sure you place your power switches close enough that you can reach them while you paddle. Next, the colour of lights makes a big difference. Often the white and blue lights attract a lot of bugs once it gets dark and it’s not a ton of fun to have bugs dive bombing at your face or covering your craft. Instead, opt for multi-coloured lights or muted lights. Bright mini lights also make it really hard for you to see past them and can make it hard for those paddling near you to see as well.
“Neon” Lights – Dollarama sells a faux neon light string that is battery-operated. It’s a great muted glow that doesn’t typically attract bugs and it’s easy to install.
Fibre Optic Lights – Battery-operated fibre optic light stands and strings look awesome on the glow paddle. Some have even attached them to helmets to be worn on the head!
Underwater Lights– You can purchase underwater LED light strips that you can attach to the bottom of your craft or you can make your own. One year I took battery-operated mini lights and I sealed the string of lights completely in clear packing tape. I then attached it to the bottom of my paddle board (keep the battery pack above the water obviously) so that I glowed from below. It. Looked. Awesome. It was also super helpful for others to see the massive Snapping Turtle that swam under me!
The decorating portion is a lot of fun as it’s easier to mingle with the participants and check out each other’s glow ideas. After that, we move onto the main event!
Part 2 – The Paddle
At 7pm sharp we launch onto the river. Typically we try to gather all in one spot so that someone can take a picture from the shore. We’ll also create a roll call system so that we can attempt to keep track of everyone once it gets dark and then we head out.
Our route takes us west on the river towards Hidden Valley Campground. If you’re looking at the river map we try to take the right leg as it typically has less obstacles. It is important however to pay attention to when someone calls out that there is a tree in the water or a low-hanging branch. The first half of the paddle is in the dusk as the sun sets and the second half of the paddle should mostly be in the dark (on the way back to the launch point). There is so much fun conversation and laughter as we paddle together.
You should expect to be paddling for around 2 hours but if you’re going to turn around earlier please let the group know so that we don’t think you’re lost. We keep a gentle pace and safety-wise it’s nice if people can stay with the group. (Also remember that this is event is fully “participate at your own risk” and you are responsible for your own safety.)
As one would expect as the sun goes down it can start to get a bit chilly depending on the day so be sure to pack a couple of layers to add on as things cool down. If you’re on a paddle board and think you may get wet, consider bringing something to put on your board to sit on to keep you out of the water. I’ve had decent success with putting my short legged beach chair on my paddle board but only do what you feel comfortable with balance wise.
Paddling in the dark is by far the best part of this event. Seeing everyone lit up and winding along the river is magical. It reminds me of the Disney Light Parade. When it’s dark it can feel a bit disorienting – you typically can’t see very far ahead or to the sides (especially when looking past your own lights). Experiencing nature and the river in the dark though is such a neat experience and being in the group of lit up vessels is truly a breathtaking sight.
Even if you’re not paddling you can still experience some of the magic by watching the paddlers cross certain points. Billy Durr of Billy Durr Photography has photographed each of the Glow Paddles in the past (and provided most of the images included in this blog) and he often sets up on bridges or high points on the river bank to shoot. If you know how to work your camera you should definitely try a few long exposure shots. Being at the Woodlawn Free Park around 9pm would likely allow you to see the lit up group returning. Check the map below for some potential view areas. (Approximate route in pink and possible viewing spots are yellow x’s)
This year’s Glow Paddle will take place on August 27 at 6pm (weather permitting). Decorating begins at the Woodlawn Free Park at 6pm and we will launch at 7pm. Participants can expect to return to the launch spot between 9-9:30 pm. You can follow the page “Estevan Stand Up Paddle and Kayak” on Facebook to RSVP to the event, check for updates and find out about other opportunities.
This truly is a unique experience (we haven’t heard of any other events like this in Saskatchewan) and we hope you can make it out!
Lastly – we think that adulting should include more badges for doing cool things so we’ve got the Glow Paddle Sticker Badge available for purchase!
Be sure to pre-order ($2.50 each) and you can pick up your badge at the event. (There may be a limited number for sale that aren’t pre-order but we can’t guarantee it so best to pre-purchase).