Athletes of Kingston: Samuel Lavoie

By Ian MacAlpine

Coastal rowing is one of Canada’s fastest growing competitive and recreational water sports and the Limestone City has one of its biggest promoters and current Canadian champion in its midst.

Samuel Lavoie, 39, a personal trainer at Good Life Fitness in downtown Kingston and a member of the Kingston Rowing Club, has been using a coastal rowing boat since 2010.

Coastal boat shells are wider than a traditional racing shell. The wider shells allow the boats to be rowed in more windy and wavy conditions and are more user-friendly than the traditional flat water shells. With its durability it is also a boat that is easy to learn and control. Coastal boats come as a single, double or quad vessel.

Photo Credit: Ian MacAlpine

Although the Cataraqui River in Kingston is a great venue for traditional rowers, many of which have gone on to represent Kingston and Canada at the Olympics, Lavoie said the mostly calm water on the Cataraqui is a bit boring for a coastal rower like himself.

“Coastal rowing brings the fun because when its windy you can go in the water and it’s fun. When the water is flat rowing is hard,” Lavoie said in an interview recently at the Kingston Rowing Club next to the Woolen Mill.

Once Lavoie gets off of the Cataraqui River and into Lake Ontario past Kingston’s downtown that’s where the fun begins for him.

“Late in the afternoon you pass that bridge (LaSalle Causeway) there and it’s paradise for coastal rowing,” he said. “We have the best places for coastal rowing.”

Lavoie likes to row along Kingston’s shores west of the Causeway and to Wolfe Island and back in his coastal rowing shell.

“I love rowing just to enjoy the water.”

Canadian rower Samuel Lavoie demonstrates a coastal shell in an undated file photo. Submitted Photo/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

Lavoie, a native of northern Quebec, who has been living in Kingston with his wife for the last year, likes the fact that coastal rowing can be done in most weather conditions. It’s even more fun when it’s windy out and the water is wavy.

Traditional rowing, Lavoie said, is a demanding sport and not for everybody.

“You have to push hard and it’s very challenging. Coastal rowing is open for everybody, people that know how to row they can transfer to coastal rowing.”

Lavoie said if the water is rough traditional rowers go inside to work on the rowing machine but coastal rowers love those tough conditions.

“When you’re out on the water, there’s nature around you, you’re having fun,” he said. “I just want people to discover this sport that is amazing.”

Lavoie is the current Canadian champion in the single coastal rowing event having won the B-Final in the World Championships last fall on Vancouver Island. Being the highest-finishing Canadian competitor at the worlds gave him the national title. Canada doesn’t yet have a national championship in the sport.

Lavoie hopes to compete in the 2019 World Championships in Hong Kong in November.

Photo Credit: Ian MacAlpine

Races at the world championships are traditionally four or six kilometers in length and feature men’s and women’s singles, mixed doubles or quad competitions.

In mid-August Lavoie competed in another event, beach sprint, in St. Catharines. The event featured a 50 metre sprint on the beach followed by a 250 metre row in a in open water on a coastal rowing boat followed by a another 50 metre sprint on the beach to finish the race.

Lavoie finished fourth in the solo competition and second in the mixed-doubles sprint race.

Lavoie hopes people can contact him through the Kingston Rowing Club and try out one of their two coastal boats.

“I’ve always been into coastal rowing, I just love the sport of rowing in general,” he said. “I’m 39-years-old but I’ve never felt as young as I feel right now. I feel very lucky to be able to practice what I love.”

To give coastal boating a try email