Paddle Away: Valley waters are ripe for adventure with the Pure Water Paddlers

Emilee Wentland, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Paddling season is finally here! After months of snowfall and freezing temperatures, it’s warm enough to hop into the water and paddle around using a kayak, stand-up paddles, or a canoe. Because spring has sprung, members of the Pure Water Paddlers can start paddling away in the Chippewa Valley.

Being located in an area with so many rivers has made the club a success, Rob Zich, president of Pure Water Paddlers, said.

“You carry this thing around, you don’t need electricity, it’s just very self-contained and liberating.” – Rob Zich, Pure Water Paddlers

“It’s great to be in a place where there’s a dozen launch points within the outskirts of town,” Zich said. “... Definitely just having a river running through your city is not that common. It gives us a lot more options.”

Zich has been the club’s president for two years, and he’ll step down after this season.

He enjoys paddling – especially sea kayaking – because he enjoys being connected to the water. Sitting so low on a kayak allows him to do that.

“Something about powering the craft yourself, it’s like playing acoustic guitar versus being in a band,” Zich said. “You carry this thing around, you don’t need electricity, it’s just very self-contained and liberating.”

Club members swap information and sometimes even gear, Zich said, which has created a community of people who enjoy paddling and getting in the water. The club consists of mostly casual, less experienced paddlers, while the executive board usually comprises experienced paddlers, Zich said. Club members have access to classes, social outings, and the opportunity to share their passion with others.

Pure Water Paddlers offers about 25 social paddles on Wednesday evenings throughout the season. Locations change for each meeting, but the group rotates through spots in the Chippewa Valley. Club members of any skill level are invited to come along on the evening paddle sessions.

About a dozen people typically paddle with the group each week, but there have been groups as large as 27 on occasion.

In addition to weekly events, the club goes on annual trips to Lake Superior, which are made for a variety of skill sets. They hold a “rookie rendezvous,” where they provide information about self- and assisted-rescues.

Those who want to test the waters can attend the social paddles once or twice before officially becoming a member, Zich said.

Paddling safety and education are Pure Water Paddlers’ focus. Going in groups helps people who are new to paddling get the hang of it while being safe. To participate in the weekly paddle sessions, the group requires participants to wear a properly fitted personal flotation device. Additionally, the club hosts classes about off-season paddling; that way, Zich said, they can make members aware of the dangers of freezing water temperatures.

Zich’s favorite places to go paddling are the section of The Eau Claire River that goes from River Prairie to the Pablo Center at the Confluence and Half Moon Lake.