A section Ottawa’s Rideau Canal skateway opened on Sunday, marking the earliest start to the season in 15 years.

Thousands laced up to take advantage of the roughly 2.5-kilometre stretch of ice that has been cleared as safe to skate on.

Inexperienced skater Nigel Deane was one of them.

“It’s very difficult but lovely,” the Texan told CTV Ottawa.

“I feel much more Canadian than I have thought I was,” he added.

The ice must be 30 centimetres thick before it is considered safe by the National Capital Commission, which operates the skateway.

When fully open, it is considered the largest rink in the world at 233,400 square metres. That’s equivalent to about 140 National Hockey League rinks.