Local W̱SÁNEĆ paddlers to represent Canada in the UK this summer

Six members of W̱SÁNEĆ’S Geronimo Canoe Club will be heading to the UK this August to represent Canada in the World Sprint championships.

Shown above: a few of the members of the Geronimo Canoe Club

Of the members of the club, Len Morris Jr., his son Jasper Morris, daughter Sakora Morris, as well as Rose Seward, Jennea Seward, and Joseph Seward (the 3rd), will all be travelling to Windsor, UK this summer to compete on the international stage at the VAA IVF World Sprints 

The VAA IVF World Sprints is an acclaimed paddling competition that draws competitors from around the world to compete in distance and sprint races. 

Competitors include some of the fastest and strongest paddlers in the world from places like Polynesia, Australia, and Hawaii.

Paddlers compete in Outrigger and other canoe races. These canoes can range in size from one-person canoes to war canoes built for 11 paddlers. 

In this extremely competitive field, W̱SÁNEĆ community members have been ranked as some of the best paddlers in the world for years.  Notably, Jasper Morris at the age of 16 competed in the August 2019 World Distance Championships in Australia and ranked 6th fastest paddler in the world in his category.

To compete in Europe this year, the men’s team first had to beat other paddlers from across Canada in the IVF Sprint Trials held in Calgary this past May. Although Len Jr. caught the flu a week before, he still managed to paddle faster than most of the people he was competing against. Jasper Morris had the fastest time in his circuit.

In an interview and photo shoot at the Tsartlip Boat Launch earlier this month, Len Jr was asked about his recent victory and how it felt to represent Canada on the world stage: 

“This is my first time qualifying for sprints, but I’ve represented Canada in the distance races in Tahiti in 2017 and Australia in 2019. This time, going to the UK, feels good. I get to race with my son.” 

Shown above: Len Morris Jr with the younger generation of the Geronimo Canoe Club

As the boy’s team poses for photos, a proud Len Sr. looks on. The Geronimo Canoe Club was founded by Ivan and Madeline (Henry) Morris in 1974, and currently, four generations are part of the club. 

Len Jr. continues:  “It [paddling] is a way of life for us. It keeps us fit and healthy and having fun. It’s awesome to see the younger generation coming up; three of my boys and my daughter are paddling.”

When asked about his recent qualifying time, where he ranked #1, Jasper Morris is humble. He laughs, “I don’t keep track. The best part about paddling for me is family.”

He encourages anyone interested in paddling to give it a try. Jasper shares “Just come and try it one out once. See how it is. It’s always fun.”

Shown above: Sakora Morris, who will also be representing Canada in the women’s sprints.

It isn’t just the boys who are competing on the global stage. Sakora Morris is one of three female W̱SÁNEĆ youth aged 16 and 17 who will be competing in the UK as well. 

Competing at the International level requires an incredible amount of discipline and strength. When asked about her training regime, Sakora shares that she paddles almost every day, for an hour or two. She heads out from Tsartlip Boat ramp in an arc around the bay, only skipping days when it’s too dangerous to go out or she’s injured.

When asked what she likes best about paddling, she shares “I think it’s therapy to me. Salt water therapy.” 

Jasper and Sakora’s Mother, Ashley Morris looks out across the bay where her husband, children and other members of the Geronimo Canoe Club sit in a cedar-stripped canoe. She shares. “They’re very family-oriented. They respect the culture and tradition, and they’re very humble. At the same time, they’re very proud of where they came from and their family.”

Shown above: a few of the members of the Geronimo Canoe Club