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 medal performance in Paris.
“Paris is pretty special,” Augaitis-Dye said, noting the Seine River race course is not normally accessible to 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 1,000 paddleboarders braved the freezing waters.
“It was December,” she said. “It was really cold.”
“The river race was really kind of spectacular. 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 as instructions were being tossed around by organizers and staff when the race kicked off, she was already behind as 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 amateur group.
“I paddled really hard and throughout the 14-kilometre race — maybe a little over half way — I managed to pass all the girls and (catch up to) the top group of girls,” she explained.
Together, the women used drafting techniques — similar to cycling — to reduce drag, but Augaitis-Dye, who had fallen in the river earlier and was soaking wet, decided it best to paddle fast and try to break away from the lead group.
“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 te race 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 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 see what opportunities life provides her going forward.
But Paris “was a nice way to finish off the series,” she added.