Paddling literally saved my life

By LA Schmidt


I started Paddling when I was 13yrs of age because some friends were doing it, and I was hooked.  I paddled war canoe and crew boats through most of my paddling life.  Paddling literally saved my life, from making choices to be healthy and “hang out with some healthy, fit people”.

Throwback Thursday! #whowasthatgirl

A post shared by L.A. Schmidt (@lacanoe) on

It took me two years to get my balance and work my way into the Midget Ladies K4 – I really wanted to be in that boat and compete at the Nationals in Ottawa.  I worked very hard and made it.  What an amazing feeling it was to make it and that summer, BTW we won a gold medal !!!  This was also exciting times in the early/mid 80s as we were also “allowed” to race C4 on Center Island in Toronto against the boys.  Great experience and so my drive for women’s  canoe began.  My special memory in C-4 was winning a bronze medal at Nationals with my sister in law Louise, her daughter Maddy and my daughter Hannah and that’s’ a lot of Schmidt in one boat!

In the mid to late 80s I began coaching, I was head coach at Rideau for 4 years and also worked with the Ontario Team Head Coach Graham Barton in the summer/winter training groups.  I was lucky enough to be selected to go to the Junior Worlds in Vienna in the early 90s, great experience and it made me realize that  I wanted to stay at the club level and develop paddlers of all levels and abilities.

One of the best stories I can recall is making a commitment to paddle in the senior women’s War Canoe with RCC only 18 days after our first child Hannah was born, at the Montreal Nationals in 1994!!  Wouldn’t recommend that to anyone!

During the mid to late 90s I remained on committees with CKC continuing to promote women’s canoe and driving to RCC to continue to paddle with RCC Masters and competing on the World stage in Dragonboats.  By 1997 our son Jared was born and we were finding the drive with 2 car seats a bit much for our sanity!!

Soooo…. The logical thing to do is start your own Canoe Club, yup you read that right, the Ottawa River Canoe Club was born in 2001, our goal was to build a west end paddle sport club.  Our plan was a 5 year plan modelled after the Pointe Claire model, thanks Madeleine Hall for your resources!!  After setting up or squatting on the City land, we moved it and haven’t looked back.  Remember that 5 year plan…..17 years later here we are with an amazing club on the Ottawa River with many paddle sport opportunities under one roof, SUP, dragon boat, outriggers, sprint, marathon racing , kiddie canoe, summer camps, recreational canoes and kayak programming, para paddling and my most amazing Paddle All Program!

Over the years we have developed amazing paddlers and people, we have met amazing people and paddlers, volunteers, officials, and  community people.  Our goal in starting the ORCC was to open up the community to paddling and water safety, we did that and more.  I am so proud of all our accomplishments, there were many, none more special than watching and crying every time our athletes won their first medal at Divisionals/Provincials/Nationals/Worlds.

I currently chair the Domestic Development Committee at CKC, and work with an amazing committee of volunteers, I am past commodore of ORCC, I sit on the CKO board and continue to actively paddle/train , officiating and finally,  I cherish my Monday and Wednesday evenings on the water coaching our Special Olympians !

I have been blessed in working with amazing volunteers over the years, I have learned so much  from our coaches, volunteers, athletes, officials, and staff of CKC/ORCC/CKO.  My children have managed to enjoy the sport and funny found their passion in ski racing!  Go Figure!

I would like to say thank you for all the great times in this amazing paddling community/family!  I love all that we have done and cannot believe what we all can achieve by working together and tirelessly for great things  like, women’s canoe, para paddling, and Special Olympic paddling – these are initiatives that have been very near and dear to my heart.  Super thankful that so many other people agreed and Canada led the way.

Finally, this edition of Paddles Up….. Welcome back, we missed you!!