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The Canadian

By Claudia Kerckhoff Van Wijk
Director, Madawaska Kanu Centre

The "Canadian" on this page is not referring to the people living in Canada, but instead for our traditional craft - the Canoe as we call it. Did you know that in most areas across the globe, especially Europe and Down Under, the Canadian is the name given to the craft paddled in a kneeling position and with a single blade? In these parts of the world, using the word Canoe or Kanu, it will be assumed that you are referring to our other amazing invention and native American craft… the kayak.

I take this as a compliment. As a Canadian and one with a passion for paddling - I cannot think of a better 'Canadian identity'. What a unique identity for our vast land that was traversed by canoe by our native Canadians, fur traders, and early settlers. That the traditional open canoe is synonymous with being Canadian would make our late prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau very happy. Paddling was also his passion. Through his priministerial travels, he became aware that Canada was loosing out to the USA in the claim to the Canoe. With the help of now legendary Canadian canoeists, Bill Mason and Kirk Wipper, the Canadian Recreational Canoe Association (recently renamed Paddle Canada) was created for building the sport across our large country. Very successful from the onset, CRCA fell into financial difficulties in the '90's. Assets, including the Ron Johnson Centre in Merrickville, Ontario were liquidated, a new governance structure created, along with a vibrant board that all share the 'Canadian' passion for paddling.

Thus, in 2010 when Paddle Canada launched a new national Instruction and Skills Program for Canoeing, it was welcomed by instructors, camps and outfitters across our nation. This new program provides national certification in all aspects of our 'Canadian' tradition….Lakewater, Tripping, Moving Water, Ocean, Big Boat and Canoe Ballet. Skill level certificates are at the Introduction, Intermediate and Advanced. For more information on Paddle Canada's program, please view their website: 

About the Author: Claudia Kerckhoff-Van Wijk is a ten-time Canadian whitewater kayak champion, and world bronze medallist. Claudia traded her zest for competing with her passion for inspiring those that want to venture into the exciting sport of whitewater paddling... that of running the family whitewater businesses; Madawaska Kanu Centre and OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River alongside her husband Dirk Van Wijk and daughters Katrina & Stefani. 2011 marks a unique year for MKC - 40 years of whitewater instruction, making it the first commercial whitewater school in the world. Still loving to get out on the water, Claudia brings hands-on knowledge to our readers. For more information please visit www.owl-mkc.   


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