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'He's a rock star of kayaking': 85-year-old paddler inspires by surfing waves

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NANAIMO, B.C. -

When Ross Turner first ventured towards the Tofino surf in his kayak, his instructor was feeling cautious.

“Oh boy!” Yves Aquin recalls thinking. “This is going to be a tough one.”

Ross was 77 years old then, relatively new to kayaking, and said he wanted to learn how to “play in rough waters.”

“So we always keep an eye on him,” Yves says.

But then a wave suddenly flipped the senior upside down.

“My heart!” Yves recalls with a gasp. “That’s going to be trouble.”

Yves raced to help, but before he could reach him, Ross rolled back up in the big surf.

“And I’m like, ‘Whoa!” Yves says the senior seemed to effortlessly do the challenging manoeuvre over and over again. “[I thought], ‘What’s going on here?’”

To answer that question we need to go back to when Ross was a boy, who despite showing me an early photo from when he lost two front teeth doing one of countless dangerous things, never lost a taste for adventure.

“I just go for this stuff,” Ross laughs. “I don’t know why. It’s just in me.”

Which is why the now 85-year-old does everything he can to keep doing stuff, including daily exercise routines, downloading apps to learn a new language, and staying curious about new things.

When he started learning to paddle, he noticed much younger people rolling their kayaks underwater.

“I’d like to do that!” he recalls with a laugh.

Despite being in his mid 70s then, Ross mastered the manoeuvre.

“It feels good when you come up,” he laughs.

Now Ross rolls regularly.

“He’s known as the rock star of kayaking,” says Tracy Dance-Olson, adding Ross is an inspiration to the members of their paddling club, many of whom are decades younger.

“It’s all about living,” Tracy smiles. “And [Ross] lives it to the fullest.”

Which brings us to Ross’s recent 85th birthday request.

“[He said] 'I want to go kayak surfing with you guys,'” Patti Stevens recalls with a smile.

Patti and her husband Yves are the owners of Go Kayak who first taught Ross how to ride waves before forming an enduring friendship with him.

They took Ross to Tofino for his big birthday and marvelled at how the 85-year-old surfed in his kayak for three full days in a row.

“You can keep playing at any age,” Patti smiles.

Although Ross called the surfing “exhilarating,” he says the best part was spending it with friends. He says the best moments of the past 85 years have been loving the family he created with his beloved late wife of 53 years.

“We’re only here for a short while,” Ross smiles. “It’s terrible to waste the time.”

So savour the time with those you love, Ross shows us, and rise to the challenge of making the most of every moment.

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