The Name: Broken Paddle

I am often asked why I called my coffee house ‘The Broken Paddle’. It all stemmed from a decision to try outrigger paddling, way back in 2002. It was a catalyst that changed my life; I think we all have a few of those adventures that put us where we need to be. I was on my way back to Gabriola Island after getting my formal chef’s training, to continue as a head cook at the personal development resort that I had been at for five years before going back to school at Camosun. I thought Victoria had nothing to offer me. I got invited out to paddle with Ocean River Sports with a non-competitive team. I was hooked–I joined the club and turned down the position ‘back home’ that week. I was soon offered a job cooking in health care, which lead me to teaching evening cooking classes for the Canadian Diabetes Association and working on call for VIHA.

Within a few years, I was on my way to my first long race, the Island Iron out of Cadboro Bay. I vowed that I would quit smoking (for the second time; I had quit a pack a day habit while pregnant but had started again when my daughter was 4) and thus save the money for a fabulous, efficient light-weight carbon-fibre paddle. I finally had to buy the paddle in order to force myself to quit, and completed that first 17 km race. Later that summer we did the Howe Sound Outrigger race, 27 km, and smoking was firmly behind me. I finally started getting in shape, getting happy, and found I loved the meditation of long distance paddling, along with the excitement of the sprint races. I joined the women’s competitive pool at Ocean River Paddling Club, and eventually worked up to a race season that included 12 races.

Paddling an outrigger

Shannon and her team entering Huananau Bay at the end of the 28km Queen Liluokalani Outrigger Race on the Big Island, 2011. (photography by Ropati/Pacific Paddler

Frustrated with the funding cuts exacted by the Campbell Government, I found myself looking longingly at the former garage space in Metchosin BC, where my partner and I had finally settled. I leased the office area in the spring of 2005 and started planning. I wanted the name to be about paddling; ‘The Broken Paddle’ came to me one day and I knew it was right. I could no longer paddle downtown very often so I purchased a single outrigger, an OC-1, which I carried around on the top of my little car to launch at the beaches of Metchosin whenever I got the chance.

Five and a half years after opening I decided that I would start running the business in such a way that I could paddle again; so that the shop would accommodate my life, not the other way around. I’m sure anyone who has owned a small business knows what I mean.
In January 2011 I committed to do the Queen Liluokalani Outrigger Race out of Kona, held on the big island of Hawaii every labour day weekend. I was back on the water three days a week with Ocean River Paddling Club, and it forced me to re-organize thoroughly. Again, outrigger had forced me to make the changes I needed to make. These days I paddle with Fairway Gorge Paddling Club in their competitive group and am back on the water three days a week. My OC1 is at my friend Chris’s house in Metchosin, just a hundred feet from the water.

A few weeks before opening my coffee house, a First-Nations woman helping me at a wholesaler saw the name of the shop on my credit card. She asked me if I knew the story of the Broken Paddle. Apparently they say that sometimes you break your paddle so that you can’t steer, because you are meant to take a journey you hadn’t planned. She was right.