While many braved the frigid waters across the Okanagan in Polar Bear Dips to ring in the new year, paddleboarder Lina Augaitis-Dye celebrated a bit earlier with a third-place finish in Paris in early December among 1,000 racers in the APP World Tour.
After returning to racing this year, the Coldstream mother of two — who is on maternity leave from a teaching position — finished second in London in a distance race and third in Osaka, Japan, in sprints before capping it off with a bronze prize in Paris.
“Paris is pretty special,” Augaitis-Dye said, noting these waters aren’t to be used by paddleboarders.
The event, a part of Association of Paddlesurf Professionals World Tour, took place during a boat show in Paris — which was conveniently indoors — while one thousand paddleboarders braved the freezing waters.
“It was December,” she said. “It’s really cold.”
“The river race was really kind of spectacular,” Augaitis-Dye said. “The French, they’re a little bit crazy to make it all happen.”
The race began in the dark and navigating the waters in the dark among a massive crowd was no easy feat, she said.
“I was supposed to start in the front,” Augaitis-Dye said, as the 50 or so professional paddleboarders, herself included, were to be in the first heat. But the start, she said, was “chaotic.”
Augaitis-Dye started in the wrong spot and instructions were being tossed around by organizers and staff and by the time the race kicked off, she was already behind as she and her paddleboard got trapped behind a boat.
“Then another boat turned its engine on,” she said, recalling the splashing waters. “It was a really wild start.”
Instead of paddling with the pros, the 2014 World Series Champion wound up with the amateurs.
“I paddled really hard and throughout the 14-kilometre race — maybe a little over half way — I managed to pass all the girls and grab the top group of girls,” she explained.
Those girls, she said, were the ones she was originally supposed to have started with.
Together, the women used drafting techniques — similar to cycling — to reduce drag, but Augaitis-Dye, who had fallen in earlier and was soaking wet, decided it best to paddle past and breakaway.
“We had a sprint off,” she said. “And in the end, I ended up third, but I was very happy with those results.”
She finished in one hour and 24 minutes.
Many of the women she raced alongside in the front of the pack train full time — compared to Augaitis-Dye, who has to balance home life, work and two young children under the age of four.
The trick to striking that balance, she said, is creativity.
Augaitis-Dye brought along her youngest to all the races because she flew for free; she would often push her children in a chariot while running or skiing; and lifting weights took place during nap time in the at-home gym.
Although Augaitis-Dye doesn’t consider herself a professional athlete, the proof is in the pudding — or in this case, the hardware.
“(Paddleboarding) is an amazing community,” she said, offering words of wisdom to anyone considering the sport. “I’ve competed in a lot of different sports and this community has really stood out to me.”
The sport has also allowed the Ottawa-raised paddleboarder the opportunity to compete in places all over the world. She’s competed in Fiji, California, Hawaii, Japan, Europe and beyond, but waters at home like Tofino and Kalamalka Lake and hold a special place in her heart.
Although Augaitis-Dye is waiting to see the 2020 schedule of events, she will resume her teaching role at Kalamalka Secondary this January and said she will see what opportunities life provides her with.
But Paris “was a nice way to finish off the series,” she said.