October 1998: The Future of Women in Canoe

Article published in the original Paddles Up of October 1998,
by Sheila Kuyper, Burloak Canoe Club


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”
       – Unknown 


This is an exciting time for all canoists. Not only are thechnological advances resulting in new hull designs and other speed enhancing improvements for the sport, but the discipline of sprint canoeing is making huge leaps in achieving equitable C-boats competition opportunities for women and girls.


Canada leads the way on the international scene with our national championships format that provides women and girls the opportunity to compete at a hight level in C-boats. This is not surprising given Canada’s reputation as a canoe and kayak pioneer.



In 1936, Canada gave the C (Canadian) boat to the Olympics. To this day, it is the only sport discipline in the Olympic Games named after a country. In 1996, Canada lead the charge to establish more equitable competition opportunities for the Women’s Kayak discipline at international events and World Championships. Similar to the 1936 trail-blazing efforts of Canadian C-boat paddler Francis Amyot, many young Canadian women are working to achieve parity in women’s canoe today.


Over the last four years, Canada has made huge strides in the development and ability of women and girls paddling canoes. There were many notable performances during the 1998 Tilsonberry Farms Canadian Sprint Canoe Championships. Clubs such as Banook, Burloak, Cap de la Madeleine, Lac Beauport, Mississauga, Ontaritzi and Rideau demonstrated the depth of their women’s canoe program as they qualified more than a single crew in the same final.


“Canada leads the way on the international scene with our national championships format that provides women and girls the opportunity to compete at a hight level in C-boats. This is not surprising given Canada’s reputation as a canoe and kayak pioneer.” (Photo: Carleton Place)


The Juvenile Women’s C-2 200m was especially exciting as less than one second separated first through fifth places. Congratulations to gold medallist Lindsay Clayton and Christine Gordon of Carleton Place. Another exceptional performance came from MicMac’s Leanne McPhee, winner of four gold medals in C-1 events and another teo with partner Sarah Hall in C-2.


To all of you women paddling canoe, I strongly encourage you to train for the next competitive seasons. As the level of competition continues to rise, paddlers will find that year-round training will become a necessity to remaining competitive. I personally recommend that all women and girls wanting to make a final next year in Ottawa, or enter the international scene, invest in a Spring Training Camp. Many provinces and clubs already have these opportunities in place. If you are looking for a camp, contact Graham Barton, Head Coach of the Ontario Canoe Camp. He has graciously opened the doors to the women across Canada who wish to participate. Please contact him ASAP at the following email address: sportsrc@compmore.net.


For many, the challenge of making a final or reaching the podium at CCA is enough, but others may like the opportunity to demonstrate their skill on the international scene. Having recently return from Szeged, Hungary (site of the 1998 Sprint World Championships), I beliebe that the world scene may now be a possibility. The idea of women paddling canoes is firmly planted in the minds of many international coaches and race organizers.



As our National Canoe Team Coach Tamas Buday Sr. remarked to me, many are wondering why they did not think of this first. I do not want to mislead anyone into thinking that the road is clear, but we definitely have allies and a place to start.


At home in Hugary, Tamas promoted the concept of Hungarian women paddling and competing in C-boats as early as next year. This would be a momentous step forward due to the popularity of canoeing and kayaking in Hungary. At the 1998 World Championships, 40,000 plus people sat, stood and cheered on paddlers of all nations in inclement weather during the finals!



So, where do we go from here? I will be following up on a number of contacts made in Hungary to firm up plans for a Midget/Juvenile European Tour. I would like to take eight girls to Hungary in early July to train, promote and develop women’s canoe at two or thee clubs. Countries such as Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Slovenia and Yugoslavia have also expressed an internest in this idea.


At present, my plans are to spent the summer touring Europe promoting women’s canoe, ending in Milan for the 1999 Sprint World Championships. As well, I will be writing an article for the ICF newsletter to continue promoting the concept of women and girls paddling C-Boats. Another exciting development is race organizer The De Koninks’s expression of interest in running an exhibition women’s canoe race the Mechelen Regatta in May 1999. This a big opportunity! I am also working on the inclusion of an exhibition race at the 1999 USA/Canada dual regattas. Another project on the go is a promotional video for women in canoe. (If you have any footage you could contribute, it would be greatly appreciated. Footage that is used for technique analysis is best.)


The website, “A future for Women in Canoe” is now linked to the CCA website. Finally, efforts are being made to secure funding for the upcoming promotional and competitive opportunities (but, given the limited dollars available for amateur sport in Canada, I strongly encourage all interested paddlers to start saving!).


Congratulations to all clubs and participants who have invested the time energy and patience developing women’s canoe to the point where today we have an opportunity to create a world scene.


Remember… “Destinity is not a matter of Change, it’s a matter of choice”
– (W. Jennings Bryan).