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Penticton’s Don Mulhall gets national recognition for contributions to paddle sports

From Duel in the Desert to Penticton’s Dragon Boat Festival, Mulhall plays large role
Don Mulhall holding the Hugh Town Memorial Award (left), with Drew Mitchell from the False Creek Racing Canoe Club. Drew was the 2020 recipient of the award. (Submitted)

For years of effort and passion poured into the sports of outrigger canoes and dragon boats, one of Penticton’s own has received national recognition.

Don Mulhall was awarded the Hugh Town Memorial Builder Award by the Canadian Outrigger Racing Association (CORA) for over 25 years of volunteering with paddle sports, as well as recently making it into the Canadian Outrigger Hall of Fame.

Mulhall feels humbled to have his passion highlighted and considered among other great contributors to paddle sports.

“I think I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years now because I love the sport and because it means so much to me,” said Mulhall on Monday. “So it’s just nice that when you kind of raise your head up from all that, you see that people recognize that you’ve contributed.”

Mulhall was one of the original founding members of the Penticton Racing Canoe Club in 1999 along with Brent Bagnall, after Bagnall brought what CORA records state was the first outrigger canoe to the Okanagan in 1989. Mulhall relocated to the valley in the early 90s.

“You know, they say necessity is the mother of invention, and when I moved to the Okanagan there wasn’t a lot of paddling,” said Mulhall. “So in order to paddle because I loved the sport so much, I kind of had to become the organizer and start to get people together to get the sport moving forward.”

READ MORE: Okanagan dragon boat racers return to Penticton for first race of 2022

One of the first events listed as part of Mulhall’s contributions to the sport was the Duel in the Desert. Starting from the first year in 1999 until 2019, Mulhall served as the race director for the event, which is the third longest continuously running Iron outrigger canoe race in Canada.

“It’s two days of races, the bigger six-person boats race on the Saturday and on Sunday it’s the small one and two-person boats,” said Mulhall. “They’re what’s known as Iron length and those races last anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half.”

On top of the Duel in the Desert, Mulhall has been closely involved in the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, including serving as race director for not just Penticton’s festival, but dragon boat events across B.C. including in Nanaimo, Kelowna and Vernon.

Behind-the-scenes Mulhall has volunteered countless hours into the Penticton Racing Canoe Club, is on the board of CORA, and as race director for local events, he was also recognized for his work as a spokesperson and advocate for paddling and dragon boating. He is a coach for multiple local teams including the 2013 CORA National Iron Championship race in Vernon.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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