It’s a certain kind of nostalgia for summer that can bring on creative uses for the lingering snow. When Fortunato Restagno dug his kayak out of the snow this winter, little did the St. Agatha resident know he’d be joining a slew of people around the world enjoying the wacky winter sport of snowkayaking.“I was just shoveling some snow off of our back deck, because there was quite a bit. It was probably around 10 o’clock at night and I just looked under the deck and we have a canoe and kayak under the deck. I dragged the kayak to a hill in our backyard, just curious if it would work or not,” he said this week.
What to Restagno seemed like a fun idea in combination with a snowy hill is actually a relatively new winter sport practiced around the world, he would later find out. Officially around since 2002 in Austria, the sport had its first world championships in 2007, also in Austria. Peter Draxl of Austria was the first champion. The sport has since gained traction in other countries like Estonia, where kayaking is a popular pastime.
Today, kayakers equipped with paddles, helmets and a craft can be seen taking to the steepest slopes in the world, according to The Adrenalist online sports publication.
“After about 10 times I got a nice track going. It was a real pain dragging it up the hill, it’s not like a light sled. I came in, told my wife and kids what I did and they thought I was nuts,” Restagno said.
Over the weekend the family dragged the canoe to a larger hill on a snowmobile track, using the paddle to push off the snow and steer to stay on the track. It was a day to combine the family’s love of snow with a longing for warmer weather.
“We do like the winter and we like cross country skiing, but because the snow has come so early and it hasn’t left yet, it’d be nice to actually get out on a river and do some kayaking. We don’t have massive hills out here, but enough to get going.”
Though Restagno’s kayak didn’t travel nearly as fast as it would in the water, it was still a fun time for his family, only later finding out about the sport’s popularity.
“I found out afterwards that they actually have a competition out west where they actually kayak down a huge hill. They’ve got helmets and gear – it actually looks really insane. I’m sure I wasn’t the first person [to try this] but I didn’t know about it at all,” he said. “I just saw the kayak and thought I’d try it out.”