The Ventura Olympic Canoe Club was founded by Bill Bragg in the early 1970s, growing out of the Rusty Pelican Oaring Association and into a group of its own. Coach Bragg had already been on the National team as a kayaker and involved with sprint canoe and kayak for over a decade. He took to coaching others naturally; it’s in his DNA. Many of his peers in the sport have credited him for helping them to make World Championship and Olympic teams – and sometimes being the person who eliminated Bragg from the team in the process. (“It’s sort of tough to know your coach and friend was knocked off the Olympic team by your own success.” – Merv Larson, Olympian)
Coach Bragg was a teacher at Balboa Junior High School (now Balboa Middle School), teaching PE and math there for many years. This gave Coach a great venue from which to recruit athletes for his club. Towing a 40-foot boat trailer (built as a welding project for a class at Ventura College), he’d drive his van and this trailer loaded with all kinds of canoes and kayaks to the Ventura Harbor each morning. There, dozens of kids ages 12 to 18 and a few adults would gather to paddle doing the workouts Coach prescribed.
The club also had satellite groups in Westlake and Malibu Lake, both of which were closer to home for Bragg as he lived in Newbury Park. Morning workouts in Ventura, then Tuesday and Thursday workouts at Westlake became the VOCC schedule. Races would be held at Westlake, sometimes at the Ventura Marina, and in the winter, at any harbor up and down the coast of California. In time, the club would grow to over 50 members of all ages.
The club has sponsored two national trophies as well — The Black Anvil Award for the club with the most Juvenile points in the National Championships, and the Coach Bill Bragg Award for the club with the most points in the C-4 events.
National Championship Titles –
Winner of the Yonker’s Canoe Club Trophy for most points earned by a club at the National Championships
- As the “Rusty Pelican Oaring Association” – 1972, and 1973
- As the “Ventura Rusty Pelican” – 1975
- As the “Ventura Olympic Canoe Club” – 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987
- As the “Black Anvil Boat Club”* – 1980
*The club changed its name to the Black Anvil Boat Club at the request of a sponsor. (Rusty Pelican was also a sponsor’s name for a restaurant in Newport Beach.) This also allowed us to tell people that the Ventura Olympic Canoe Club would not be coming to the Nationals that year which gave many of our competitive clubs a false sense of security. We paid late fees and entered the Nationals at the last minute.