CKBC Salutes the Life of Brian Creer

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Life of Brian

Frederick Brian Creer was born June 30, 1915 in Calgary at the Old Curiosity Nursing Home. He started paddling at the age of 15. His first river was Marble Creek on north Vancouver Island.

“I bought a beautiful cedar strip canoe from a couple. It was about 25 years old. They were just about in tears when they sold it to me. Well, in six months that boat must’ve aged another 25 years … I used old 4 lb jam tins stuffed into either end for flotation."

After the Depression, Creer earned a living as a logger and cat operator during the spring and fall. Summers were spent solo canoeing, and the winters as a ski instructor. To supplement living expenses during the winter, he packed supplies up Hollyburn Mountain (next to Vancouver).

A naturally skilled athlete, Creer soon became a top ski racer and ski jumper. He was second in the 1939 Canadian Nationals in cross-country skiing in Revelstoke.

When Creer volunteered during WWII, he ran into his childhood gymnastics instructor and mentor Jerry Mathison, originator of BC’s provincial recreation program. After the war, Mathison steered Creer into a job as Recreation Director in Prince George, and then encouraged him to go back to school and become a teacher. 

Creer started teaching physical education in 1947 at Van Tech. He’d found his niche. For the next 32 years, he taught elementary and high school kids the finer points of downhill and cross country skiing, ski jumping, gymnastics, springboard diving, and soccer. He taught them to how to pole vault, wrestle, square dance and waltz. He also worked with special needs youth.

Creer introduced his own kids to kayaking, and later incorporated scuba diving, rock climbing, canoeing and river kayaking into a one-year physical education course that was one of the first to recognize the value of outdoor education as a learning tool.

Creer left the school system in 1979, but he never really retired. One of the founders of the Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC, and the Recreational Canoeing Association of BC, Creer travelled the province in his RV. Towing a trailer full of boats, he spread the “gospel” of whitewater. He continued to paddle, teach, and examine instructor candidates for both organizations well into the 1990s.

At 75, Brian was still teaching, still paddling technical water, and still pursuing new challenges. He could exhaust people half his age.

Only a few months ago, he was working out at the gym twice a week, driving around the Lower Mainland, reading to friends who were visually impaired and visiting those who could no longer get out.

Just before he was hospitalized with double pneumonia, Brian was working on his Facebook page and designing a website for kayak instructors. He would have been 96 in June.

Brian taught whole generations to enjoy themselves through sport. He passed on his love of nature, and the skills and thrills of whitewater boating, to thousands of people.

His teaching efforts and personal commitment to the sports of canoeing and kayaking have been recognized with numerous awards over the years. In 1986, the City of Vancouver gave him the Civic Merit award, which recognizes individuals for outstanding achievement in sports, science and culture within the city and the province. Both the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C. and Recreational Canoeing Association of BC established annual awards in his name to recognize excellence in teaching.

Brian Creer will be sorely missed. He was, and will always be, the father (and grandfather) of whitewater paddling in BC … and one helluva teacher.

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