Outrigger began in Penticton in 1998 when Brent Bagnall, Don Mulhall and a small group of keeners got access to the infamous “Burrard” and formed Penticton Racing Canoe Club. The club was small but mighty, and with a lot of effort from the volunteer club members, hosted two significant races – Duel in the Desert each May at Skaha, bringing hundreds of paddlers to Penticton; and Length of the Lake, an epic ultradistance 100 km race from Vernon to The Peach at Okanagan Lake in Penticton.
Dragon boating started just a few months later, when Cathie Lauer and Sue Butchart, two local breast cancer survivors, went looking for a coach and someone to help them source the resources to start a team. They found Don Mulhall, who had recently relocated from Vancouver and had experience coaching and paddling both dragon boat and outrigger. Survivorship, the South Okanagan Breast Cancer Survivor team was the first ever dragon boat team in Penticton.
Originally operating under GO Rowing Paddling Association of Canada, with Don Mulhall as manager and head coach, dragon boat quickly grew to include a variety of teams paddling out of the Skaha Lake Boathouse. The Penticton Dragon Boat Festival started in 2000 with just a handful of teams on Okanagan Lake, but soon grew to be a two-day festival on Skaha Lake, and one of the largest events in Canada.
In 2023, Penticton Racing Canoe Club made the decision to dissolve the society and bring both paddling disciplines under one new banner. Penticton Paddle Sports Association was registered as a non-profit society in British Columbia on March 25, 2023.
Now locals from around the South Okanagan can have access to both dragon boat and outrigger programs. In addition to women’s and mixed teams; our boathouse is keenly community-minded, with teams of seniors, juniors, teams like the Flying Dragons – Canada’s first team for individuals with an intellectual disability. In 2013 the women vying for a spot on the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team took to the water with Coach Don Mulhall as part of their team training camp.
Don acts as Executive Director and Head Coach, and has decades of paddling and racing experience in dragon boat, outrigger and surfski. He is the recipient of two awards from the Canadian Outrigger Racing Association for community building and pioneering efforts for the sport.
Penticton Paddle Sports are excited to continue the tradition of excellence in paddle sports at a local level and sharing our years of experience with race management and on-water race operations with other events around the BC Interior.