1967 — Canada was celebrating it’s Centennial year and the Village of Kinnaird was incorporated. To celebrate these events, Mary Anderson organized a fun swim meet to be held in the Bob Branson Memorial Pool in Kinnaird. It was such a success that it was suggested it become an annual event.
Bill Johnson was the chief life guard and instructor at the pool at that time. He began to ask young swimmers if they were interested in learning more about competitive swimming. Due to the positive response he received, he began giving lessons during the lunch breaks. He then arranged for an invitation for the swimmers to participate in the Trail Swim Meet.
At the meet in Trail, Dr. Hugh Campbell and Ben Andolusi suggested that a club be organized in Kinnaird and join the B.C. Summer Swim Association. They later came to a meeting of interested swimmers and parents at the Kinnaird Hall and the Kinnaird Aquanauts Swim Club was formed. Andre LaMarche was the first president and there were 30 registered swimmers. The first priority of the club was to raise funds for equipment such as lane ropes, stop watches, starter pistols, starting blocks, etc….
Some of the early families involved in the club were: LaMarche, Gillmans, Rafters, Gordons, Stewarts, Geottings, Arishenkoff, McGauleys, Jacksons, Pauls, Mills, Wickets, Yules and Pryces.
1968 saw the club participating in several local swim meets in Trail, Warfield, Nelson and Kimberley.
In 1969 Dennis Harrigan became the first full time paid swim coach. The first club swim meet was held in Kinnaird on August 17th. Dennis coached the club for three years and melded the swimmers into a solid spirited club. The rallying song of the club during these years was “H–A–DOUBLE–R–I–G–A–N spells HARRIGAN”, sung by both parents and swimmers. The club was solid by this time and over the years produced many of it’s own coaches including: Bob Rafter, Dan Obedkoff, Ray Yule, Tom Carew, Wendy Pilla and Neil Jones.
The Kootenay Region at the time consisted of Nelson, Trail, Warfield, Golden and Kimberley. For several years Kalispel, Montana participated in our region as there were no other summer swim clubs in their area. Trips to Kalispel were always a high light, especially for the parents (according to the swimmers). Golden was another meet thoroughly enjoyed by swimmers and parents alike. Golden later withdrew from the Kootenay Region and joined the Okanagan Region. Colville, Washington was later accepted as a member of the Kootenay Region.
Over the years the club has developed many fine swimmers. Each year the club sent many swimmers to the Provincial Swim Meet and they have always returned with their share of medals. In 1971, Joanne Yule brought back the club’s first Provincial Aggregate Trophy for girls age 10 and 11.
During those years the Provincial Meet was always held in Vancouver and one of the highlights would be a visit to the PNE. The coach and the older swimmers would take all the swimmers to the PNE on the Saturday evening at the end of the meet. They always brought the group back intact.
In January 1974 the Villages of Kinnaird and Castlegar amalgamated to form the City of Castlegar and the Kinnaird Aquanauts became the Castlegar Aquanauts. In 1983, swimmers from the Robson area, created their own club, Robson River Otters.
In 1991, the club moved from the Bob Branson Memorial Pool, at the corner of 6th Avenue and 24th Street, to the newly constructed Castlegar and District Aquatic Centre. The Aquatic Centre was supported financially by many community groups and individuals including the Aquanaut Swim Club and many of it’s members. In 1996, the Castlegar Aquatic Centre was the host site for the swimming events in the BC Summer Games hosted by the cities of Trail and Castlegar.
From a beginning with 30 swimmers, the club has grown to a high of 142 swimmers.
Head Coaching History Spanning the past 50 years:
1967-1968: Bill Johnson
1969-1973: Dennis Harrigan
1974: Bob Rafter
1975: Diane Blakley
1976-1977: Bob Rafter
1978-1980: Dan Obedkoff
1981-1982: Neil Firby
1983-1984: Vince Mikuska
1985: Mike Balahura
1986-1987: Ray Yule
1988-1989: John Fairbairn
1990-1992: Tom Carew
1993-1994: Wendy Pilla
1995: Neil Jones
1996-1997: Cory Maxwell
1998: Marty Zaleski
1999-2000: Chris Cook
2001: Terri Hodgins
2002: Cody Flegal
2003-2005: Theresa Keenan
2006: Alex Hartman
2007-2008: Mitchell Bourne
2009-2010: Tim Rusted & Jessica Peddle
2011-2012: Mitchell Bourne
2013-2015: Nick Welychko
2016-2017: Doug Van Ek