Cascade Canoe & Kayak youth racing team making waves on Lake Washington

The first lesson in canoe and kayaking: It’s all about speed.

“Everything is about going faster,” said Dan Henderson, president of Cascade Canoe & Kayak in Renton and head coach for the youth racing teams. “Stability is sacrificed for speed. You can’t do both.”

So out on the pristine morning water on Lake Washington, Cascade’s Youth Racing team paddles by with those rules in mind.

Henderson said the hardest part about his five-week beginner class is teaching students how to stay up in the boats.

“The race boats are pretty tippy,” he said. “Any sort of disturbance in the water can knock them over.”

That’s one of the big reasons Henderson likes to get his rowers out on the lake in the morning when possible, before boat traffic becomes an issue. “A lot of boats just blast right by us. It’s not appreciated very much,” he said.

Out on the water, Henderson certainly knows what he’s doing. He was the 2003 U.S. national team leader and co-authored the International Canoe Federation coaching manual. He won Pan American Championship bronze medals in 1983 and 1987.

After students complete the beginner class, they can move on to the race team – where they choose one of two strokes, either kayak or canoe.

The paddler for canoes stays in a kneeling position and paddles just on one side. Kayakers sit in the boat and use a paddle with two blades, paddling on each side.

The team practices a minimum of four times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) with weight sessions sprinkled in.

Cascade currently has eight members of the team and 10 beginners in the class rotation that started June 28.

The racing-team fee is $95 each month. The beginner class is $195 and is anyone for ages 10 to 15.

Cascade attends and competes about a dozen races every year. The events are a mixture of sprint and distance races, but all have both canoeing and kayaking.

Henderson said the two are always together and are part of the same sport, similar to different strokes in swimming.

One of the best parts about coaching for Henderson is seeing athletes who aspire to greater competition.

At least two of Cascade’s students are already at the highest level. Twenty-year-old Yezgeniy Mikhaylov of Bellevue is working toward a spot on the London Olympic team. Mercer Island’s Michael Weyna is competing with the National Development Camp at Lake Placid.

Henderson wants the team to continue to grow, both in numbers and profile. He would also like to see more girls on the team, there is only one girl currently on the team.

“I would like to see more and more kids in Renton see this as a choice of a sport to do,” Henderson said. “Everybody’s active all the time; there’s no standing on the sidelines. So many sports there are two or three that dominate the action. That’s not how it is in canoe and kayak.”

Cascade Canoe and Kayak offers a wide range of programs and teams, including an Adult Racing Team, a Kayak Masters’ Camp, and many different skill level classes in both kayak and canoe.

More info

Cascade Canoe & Kayak operates in Renton out of the Cedar River Boathouse at 1060 Nishiwaki Lane. The boathouse is between the Cedar River and Boeing, on Lake Washington.

Find more information at

To contact, call 425-430-0111 or e-mail

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