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Yukon Ho for paddlers

Two former graduates of Thompson Rivers University have signed up for what is one of the world’s toughest endurance races.

Sharman Learie and Matt Kellow will be taking part in the 715-kilometre Yukon River Quest paddle event from Whitehorse to Dawson City later this year. They will be racing in a tandem kayak, paddling both day and night down the winding Yukon River.

Both men were students in the adventure guide program at TRU in the mid-90’s and paddled from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy together shortly after graduation. They each spent a number of years as guides on the water and now Sharman teaches the white water programs at TRU, while Kellow works in the campus outdoor recreation program at Vancouver Island University.

“Both of us have extensive, I would say, outdoor backgrounds,” says Learie, while noting that neither one has paddled the Yukon River before and they’ve never competed together in an adventure race.

“I think it only has one Class2 rapid and it shouldn’t be a problem given our skill level. I think the big thing is the distance in such a short amount of time.”

Now that both men have settled down and recently turned 40, they were looking for a personal challenge that could also help lead future students down the same path they chose.

“Both of us had very positive experiences here, and being educators, we get to see a lot of young people come through outdoor programs. You see quite a profound change in how the kids arrive and how they leave.”

That’s why they’ve also decided to raise money along the way for a new bursary that will benefit an Adventure Studies student entering their second year. The goal is to raise $10,000.

“With living costs continuing to go up, this is our small way of helping students with educational and professional goals,” adds Kellow.

The award will be for those students demonstrating financial need and preference will be given to someone with a passion for paddle sports.

Anyone who wants to pledge money towards the bursary can click here and select “Specific Scholarship or Award” and then in “Award Name", enter “Kellow & Learie Adventure Bursary”.

Continue to follow the prompts to finish making your donation.

“And I have to say, while I’ve been training, I’m starting to get a bit intimidated. It’s 711 kilometres in about 50 hours so you push through pretty hard,” says Learie.

“While both of us have paddled long distances, it’s with reasonable rest periods in between and more taking our time. I think there will certainly be a challenge of just going that far in that short a time period with little rest.”

The race runs from June 25-29.

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