On Saturday, me, Kat, Oli, Tina, and Oli’s brother Jon went canoeing. We rented canoes somewhere up the Pitt River where I’ve never been before and paddled up a little tributary.
Canoeing is something I grew up doing, and it’s something very personal for me. For someone who isn’t sentimental or nostalgic about anything, I’m deeply sentimental about canoes. They remind me of where I grew up, my father, and a lot of great times messing around on lakes. To give you an idea, here is a summary of days in my life:
The hulking fibreglass barges that you can rent really bear little resemblance to canoes as I remember them. As far as I’m concerned, canoes are made from cedar and canvas (even though kevlar or other exotic materials are tougher and lighter), have no keel, a very rounded bottom (left-to-right), some rocker (curve front-to-back), and tumblehome (sides curve in at the top).
All of those shape choices make for a canoe that will happily throw you into the water if not shown the respect it deserves, and needs a little skill to get it to go in a straight line. But, they are truly beautiful, and maneuver like a dream.
I have only really found one video that properly shows how beautiful and effortless solo paddling can be in a nice canoe. To give you an idea of the skill here, the bow jam (the stroke that guy does around 0:45) has two possible outcomes: (1) the canoe turns sharply away from the paddle side; or (2) you find yourself suddenly in the water, with the canoe drifting slowly away. These outcomes are equally likely on your first few attempts.
I hadn’t really realized the extent to which this style of paddling is descended from one guy: Omer Stringer. He taught my father (and hundreds of others) how to paddle, and my father taught me (and hundreds of other school kids and boy scouts). This style is apparently now known as “classic Canadian soloing” or “Omering“. It’s what the guy in the video above is doing, and it’s what I’m doing if you’ve ever seen me in a canoe.
At my parents’ place, there is a framed picture that my dad took of Omer doing a headstand in a canoe. He would have been into his 70s when the picture was taken. He was probably past doing the running-jump off the dock into a canoe by then.
Anyway, there wasn’t really any point to that. It’s just the only nostalgia I’ve got.