After years of training, first-year student Kell Fremouw earned a spot at the 2020 Wildwater Canoeing World Championships, which will be held in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina from April 26-30.
The Wildwater Championships are an opportunity for canoe-racing enthusiasts from all over the world to gather and compete in whitewater canoe courses to battle for the opportunity to be crowned world champion. The event is hosted by the International Canoe Federation, a league of canoeists from all over the world who come together to educate people about whitewater canoeing and kayaking, as well as host canoeing events around the world for all ages.
Fremouw has been paddling since he was in high school; after switching from track and field during his first year of high school, Fremouw found that paddling was a way to stay active. He joined his high school’s paddling team and fell in love with the sport.
“Part of the reason I like it is because I can just go out for a slow paddle and see all of the beauty of wilderness. [There is] a lot to see on the Maine waterways and I love being able to see it,” Fremouw said. “It is a lot like being on a rollercoaster, and it is difficult, challenging and exhilarating.”
Throughout high school, Fremouw became a competitive paddler and qualified for the World Championships in the junior category.
“I had fun…but this year I switched to a new boat,” Fremouw said. “Instead of being in a kayak, I’m competing in a [single-person] canoe. It handles differently … There are skills for handling a canoe, and the competition is harder. I’m really looking to do the best I can, and see where I can place. It’s [a] learning opportunity.”
Fremouw said that he has enjoyed the challenges that have come with competitive paddling, although the community of paddlers he often competes against form a tight-knit support group for others in the community.
“I feel a lot of support from the regulars, that is, the people I see a lot at races and at community events,” Fremouw noted. “I’ve made a lot of friends during the hours it takes to set up. I have a lot of friends of different age groups.”
Fremouw paddles regularly with the Orono Paddlers, a local organization that is open to all members of the community. Currently, the Orono Paddlers are working to fundraise in order to build a boat shelter in Brownie Park in downtown Old Town. The boat shelter would be able to hold boats that would assist the Orono Paddlers when running their summer camps for children ages 8-12. The summer programs offer the opportunity for children to learn safe water etiquette while providing opportunities for the children to gain useful wilderness skills. The boat shelter will also house 10-person war canoes, which are used when the Orono Paddlers host community open-paddle events. These open-paddle events invite community members to try their hand at paddling, and friendly competition races in the war-canoes attract community members of all skill levels.
However, Fremouw noted that the Paddlers have had a hard time with membership recently, and hopes that by raising the funds to build this boat shelter more people will have access to paddling opportunities.
“The boat shelter will be useful. It will help promote safety, as [we] have to carry the boats across the main road to the water. This was dangerous with younger children around. It also allows us to store the war canoes, which will provide opportunities for the community to participate in the Thursday night war-canoe races,” Fremouw said.
Fremouw noted that he would not be in the position that he is now if not for his high-school paddling coach, Jeff Owen.
“I am so grateful for [the support] from Jeff Owen, the support from the community and I’m happy that [we will] be able to continue this opportunity for other community members.”