A new volume in the Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science series from the International Olympic Committee, this volume Canoeing provides an accessible and comprehensive summary of the topic.
* Provides a concise, authoritative overview of the science, medicine and psycho-social aspects of canoeing
* Offers guidance on medical aspects unique to the training and coaching of canoe athletes
* The only book on this subject endorsed by the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Canoe Federation (ICF)
* Written and edited by global thought leaders in sports medicine
Ian Mortimer1 and Don McKenzie2
1Canoe Kayak Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada
2Division of Sport and Exercise Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Bodies of water, great and small, are a formative feature of the human experience on our blue planet. At every corner of the earth, people have been drawn to live near these sources of life. This connection between humankind and the seas, oceans, and rivers that we call home is reflected in a seemingly universal reaction to not just live by and immerse ourselves in water, but also find a way to float on its surface.
Simple watercraft, the technological step beyond swimming, are a fixture in the history of the human experience. Dugout canoes, reed rafts, framed boats covered with bark or animal skins, and simple wood-plank boats exist in as many varied forms as the unique bodies of water they float on and the myriad tasks they have been built to accomplish. Be it carrying a passenger to a far shore, collecting fish on a flowing stream, navigating the swell of the ocean, or traveling great distances on a flowing river, simple craft of simple means have existed for millennia in cultures around the world. These simplest of boats all share a core concept: a buoyant craft, a paddler or group of paddlers, and their paddles, allowing people to travel where feet, wheels, or hooves will not carry them. There is a fundamental joy in conquering our natural inability to move across the waters' surface, a joy that never gets old. Paddlers of these craft the world over connect in this wonder, and most cannot help but smile at the sight of any type of paddled craft drifting into shore at sunset, shooting down a rapid in flood, or charging through an ocean swell.
The draw of the simplicity and universality of the paddle, paddler, and boat is an important part of the story of canoeing as a sport. However, the more specific story of competitive canoeing and kayaking traces its history through the canoe's part in the foundational myth of modern North America. Understanding the story of canoeing necessitates an understanding of the canoe itself as part of the protracted, and fraught, process of cultural contact between North American indigenous people and the European settler society. The names canoe and kayak themselves reflect this Euro-centric mindset of "discovery" of these indigenous craft and their peoples, with the words we have today emerging through the process of European languages wrestling the indigenous names into European vernacular. Christopher Columbus is credited with first encountering the Haitian word canaoua as a name for the dugout-type canoes of the island of Hispaniola, and bringing the term into Spanish as canoa, which came to the English as canoe, while the Greenlandic Inuit word for "small boats of skins," qayaq, returned to Europe with the Danes as kajak, which became kayak.
From the earliest stages of cultural contact, the unique adaptation of indigenous paddle-driven craft to perform in the waters of North America was quickly obvious to those who were arriving from across the ocean. This was especially apparent on the inland waterways of the continent, where the major rivers, now known as the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, Hudson, Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri, and their hundreds of smaller tributaries served as highways of canoe travel. It became clear to the European colonizers, explorers, and traders that adopting the light, repairable, and maneuverable canoes they learned to build and paddle from the Mi'kmaq, Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and others was the only efficient way to travel the expanses of the North American landmass.
The canoe became a critical feature in the life of any European looking to travel beyond the salty waters of their continent's shore, and indeed was a foundation in the process of exploration, expansion, and eventual domination of the North American landmass by European settlers. Canoes took Lewis and Clarke across the American continent and carried David Thompson on his lifelong mission to map what is now the Canadian West. Meanwhile, for over 200?years the fur trade of beaver pelts, which was the backbone of the economy of British North America, operated using a variety of sizes of canoes and a vast network of routes. The Hudson's Bay Company, deeded by the British Crown to carry out this trade, and its eventual rival the North-West Company, used canoes to carry information, supplies, and furs across thousands of kilometers of rivers and lakes from present-day Montreal to the Rocky Mountains. For two centuries ending in the mid-1800s, being a professional paddler, or voyageur, was a viable career in New France and British North America for European, Aboriginal, and Métis men and women alike (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1 A canot du maître, the large canoes used in the North American fur trade to travel major river routes.
With this history and the mythology around it, the canoe holds heavy significance as a cultural marker for North America. The silhouette of the classic canoe, with its upturned stern and bow, is an iconic image associated with wilderness, exploration, and indigenous people. It is important to think critically about this significance and the cultural place that the canoe holds not just for North America generally, but for Aboriginal peoples specifically. The mythology of the canoe can be a point of friction in the relationship between settler society and indigenous North American culture. There is no doubt that a debt of gratitude must be given for the gift of these ingenious North American boats to the world, and respect for the beauty reflected in their varied designs, refined for the landscape they were developed in through the ages.
By the late 1800s, the fur trade in North America was well past its prime. Rail lines stretched across the continent, and the highways of water were supplanted once and for all by these ribbons of steel. Along with Europe, North America was changing. The industrial revolution had fundamentally altered the economies on both sides of the Atlantic, and a new lifestyle awaited those who emerged through these changes as the middle class developed. With population shifts to cities, a wider distribution of wealth, more young people seeking education, and fewer hours needed for manual labor, the widespread concept of leisure time and recreation took off. Most major traditional sports we recognize today were born during this era. For the team sport and rule-minded athlete, baseball and football developed in North America while soccer (football) was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe. For those craving speed and modernity, there was the new sport of cycling. There was rowing, a mainstay at collegiate levels, and certainly the more technologically advanced of the water sports. Yet for those who sought to connect with water, but in a simpler craft, there was the sport of canoeing.
In America, where the mythology of the rugged paddlers of the era of exploration and the fur trade was strong, canoeing offered a connection to a nostalgic past. The living experience in cities like New York, Montreal, Ottawa, and Washington less and less resembled this conception of a wild and heroic past linked to generations gone by. Weekend trips to a lake or river to go canoeing became a popular chance to bridge the gap with the imagined past, feel authentically rugged, and enjoy the natural landscape increasingly distant from city life. Some sought out quiet lakes for sunset cruises, while others searched for the whirling rapids of the springtime melt. New canoes based on those of the fur trade and traditional Aboriginal designs, but updated for speed, whitewater, or comfort, were created using new materials and techniques, yet the core simplicity of boat, paddle, and paddler remained. For Europeans, canoeing was an activity that got them out of the city to float on country rivers, and the ponds of city parks. But it was also a chance to experience a piece of an "authentic" North American-style adventure, to feel a connection to the stories of the wilds of the continent across the ocean, and to re-create that imagined, idealized simple life of the Aboriginal peoples that they would read about in adventure novels. The style of boats being produced for purely recreational purposes in North America were brought to European waters, and they proved popular with the newly conceived figure of the weekend warrior who would flee the city on precious days off for some country air and a vigorous paddle.
Figure 1.2 The packed docks and deck of the Rideau Canoe Club on Regatta Day 1906 illustrate the popularity of canoe clubs as social as well as sporting hubs at the turn of the twentieth century.
Figure 1.3 Although dominated by men, the earliest stages of organized, competitive canoe racing included women. War canoe racing in Canada, circa 1909.
On both sides of the ocean canoe clubs sprang up, founded by canoeing enthusiasts. These clubs were more than just boathouses in which to store canoes. By offering members access to boats, they provided the opportunity for a wider public to experience the sport, and out of this camaraderie the clubs became social hubs for their members during the summer months (Figures 1.2 and 1.3). These early clubs would be instrumental in the genesis of canoe racing we know today. In England, the first formal club was...