Moving, from a country to another, from a continent to another, from an hemisphere to another. It can’t be easy but it happens all the time. How do migrants integrate their new communities an find a way to feel at home despite all the changes they are experiencing? For Tamlyn Böhm, sports was the key. When she followed her parents from South Africa to Canada, she was able to find a paddling community to welcome her like she was home.
“My parent both paddle. My dad started while in high school and pretty much paddled his whole life. He got my mom into paddling. Pretty much since I was 5 years old, they threw me in the back of the boat. I remember sitting in the back and dad would say: “Hold your paddle up!” It was pretty great!”
Over the years, Tamlyn got better and more competitive, racing K1 and K2. When her parents moved to Canada in 2004, it was natural for them to look for what they knew.
“My parents arrived in the middle of winter. They went down to Oakville, ON and there was nothing happening. They took the Go Train and saw the Mississauga Club out the window and there were boats lying down in the compound. They went back on Saturday morning and it was packed. My parents pretty much signed up right there and then. When I came across six months later, I got a job at the canoe club so I ended up coaching for my first summer here.”
For a few years, Tamlyn would coach during the summers, teach at a Montessori school during the rest of the year and train as much as possible during her free time in the hopes to make the national team. Then, at an attempt to get more competitive, she started training and competing full time while studying part time Architeture Technology.
“Once I was done that, I took a year to go full on competitive but it just didn’t happen. Two years ago, I decided I wasn’t getting any faster so it was time to get a real job. I spent six months at home until this came up.”
Across the country, in Kelowna BC, the Kelowna Outrigger Racing Canoe Club was growing and needed an employee to start managing the facility that was landed to them by the city. Tamlyn jumped on the opportunity to make her passion her bread maker and, again, used this same passion to integrate an new community. The club was growing and at the same pace, she was making new friends.
“Our aim is to get everybody in the community out on the water safe and know what they are doing. Not just give them a boat and send them but ensure that they want to keep paddling and want to bring your friends along. But really, I just want more people to paddle because that means more people to paddle with. I guess running this is a little bit selfish!”
Selfish or not, the Canoe club is doing well. Participation is growing. They have more equipment for members to use. Kayaks, surf skis, stand-up paddleboards, outrigger canoes, everything to make the best of the Okanagan Lake. Every Sunday morning, they go out for a group paddle and enjoy the company as much as the sport.
“It’s fun, people are so excited to come out, we get a few boats on the water and paddle together. It think a part of it is the community. It’s accessible, easy to get into a boat. You don’t have to really be good to get into a six man canoe. It’s not competitive, there, you just go for a float and everybody loves it.”
For Tamlyn, the social aspect is key. Having been on the competition scene for so long, she has had her fair share of intense solo training. Now she enjoys the contemplative nature of the water, the friends she has made and although she still competes, it’s only for the fun of pushing herself and spending time with good people.
“Because I used to train 3 hours a day every day, I’m at the point where if I don’t feel like it, it’s not happening but at the same time, having more people around helps me, motivates me. I love surrounding myself with people that can push me. Then it’s more satisfying when you beat them. The more you get to know people, the more fun it is.”
With the club growth and her full time involvement in it, Tamlyn is having a blast. She certainly would have never imagined when in the back of her dad’s canoe that paddling would take her this far, that it would take care of her this much.
“Mississauga ended up being a really big club with great coaches and the facilities were really great. That made a big difference. The people at the club were so nice and so inviting, they invited us to go skiing, rock climbing, stuff I would never have done on my own. Sometimes I wonder how people who don’t do sports survive in countries when they move.”
From South Africa to Canada, from Mississauga to Kelowna, the water has been her constant, grounding her to life, helping her creating roots, and we all know how important roots are to grow.