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Canoe ballet and solo canoeing are one of Becky Mason's favourite paddling subjects. Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and the Canoe Museum is a favourite too . Becky is a filmmaker and the instructional paddling dvd is highlighted on Becky Mason site. There are many people who write about canoeing Kevin Callan and others. Becky Mason is a superb canoe instructor and has made two films on paddling instruction. Becky Mason has a love of the wooden canoe. Her canvas wooden canoe is featured in her Classic solo Canoeing instructional videos. The dvds are lovely to watch and learn from because it teaches you how to enjoy the Canadian wilderness. You see the Canadian canoe in action spinning effortlessly on quiet water lakes which in Canada is called flatwater. Throughout Becky Mason's website she has tips and facts about canoes and paddles. Becky specializes in her Classic Solo Canoeing courses it's excellent instruction for paddling the Canadian canoe. To paddle a canoe well you'll want to take a paddling lesson or you may want to pick up a copy of Becky Mason's instructional canoe video. The on-line gift store offers canoeing dvds. Take the time to view Becky Mason on-line video trailer you will like it the superb instruction and underwater photography!
Becky Mason - Thoughts on Canoes

Image © Priscilla Haskin

My Classic Canoeing solo and tandem courses are for all paddling levels ranging from the absolute beginner to the expert paddler. Choosing a larger canoe and a narrow paddle blade while learning I find my students quickly learn the importance of an efficient stroke. Of course you want to stay in a calm bay while learning. If you stick with it you will gain not just the skill but the confidence to paddle all kinds of boats in most conditions and enjoy the experience of learning to put your canoe exactly where you want.

Canoe design

I like to use a versatile all-purpose canoe like a 16-foot Prospector. I say versatile because these canoes can be used for tandem or solo, for an afternoon or a long trip, with only a little trimming (shifting ballast to level the ends of the canoe) involved. I like canoes to be deep enough to hold a lot of gear when I travel and to have some rocker for manoeuvrability so that when heeled over while soloing the ends rise out of the water. If I'm given a choice of a cedar-canvas canoe over a synthetic one the traditional cedar-canvas wins hands down for its beauty and feeling. It's like paddling a piece of our history.

So who makes a nice Prospector in my opinion? If you start looking around on various canoe sites you will see there are a great many Prospectors on the market. Some are  wood-canvas but most are made with synthetic fibres. I favour the 16' Prospector model that the world famous Chestnut Canoe Co. of Fredericton New Brunswick produced but Chestnut, alas, has been out of business since the late 70's! However many small companies are making wood-canvas canoes based on the Chestnut designs. One of the original 16' Prospector forms from Chestnut is being used by Hugh Stewart, a neighbour of mine, to build fine working canoes. He is a great guy and very helpful and a fine canoeist too. His company is called Headwaters Canoes in Masham, Quebec, www.headwaterscanoes.ca He also makes other Chestnut models from the original molds. They are reasonably priced and built for wilderness travel. Headwaters do have lovely classic lines and use good traditional beautiful wood. They are exquisite and steeped in historical Canadian  canoe lineage. He usually puts on a weighty canvas and thicker gunnels so the canoes can run whitewater and are more durable. Another manufacturer, Cedarwood Canoes in New Brunswick, which is now called Great Spirit Canoes www.greatspiritcanoes.com also makes wood-canvas canoes off original Chestnut molds. And Fletcher Canoes in Atikokan, Ontario www.fletchercanoes.com makes an nice wood-canvas canoe that is similar to the 17 Prospector.  However, modern materials like Royalex (sadly Royalex been discontinued) do have their merits too, especially on the shallow rocky rivers my husband Reid and I sometimes bump our way down. There are also some composite canoes that weigh next to nothing, which is a real bonus when slogging over a long portage or loading one onto a car. But wood-canvas builders can make them lighter if you request them too.

Image Reid McLachlan

If you are interested in synthetic canoes the materials are seemingly endless: Kevlar, Fiberglass, Royalex, Twintex, Carbon and Polyethelene that are molded into shapes similar to my original wood-canvas Prospector. Many companies make Prospector style canoes including Trailhead-paddleshack, Esquif, Nova Craft, Voyager, Evergreen, Scott, Western Canoeing and Wenonah. Be forewarned that there are many many so called "prospectors" out there on the market, all of them different and many not even that close to the original shape so be sure to have a close look and to paddle them if you are interested in purchasing one. Of course there are many others styles and makes of canoes out there and I encourage people to try them all, you will find eventually find one (or many!) that is right for your needs.

Solo VS Tandem

I was a tandem whitewater and flatwater guide and instructor for 6 six years before I started teaching my Classic Solo canoe course in 1987. I quickly discovered that it was easier for my students to learn solid solo technique and then apply the knowledge to tandem paddling. In my experience this is the best way to learn because there is only one of you in the canoe and you can see the cause and effect of your stroke right away.

In tandem canoeing the other paddler is either counteracting or aiding your manoeuvre and it's hard for the student to distinguish what their stroke is doing to the canoe. With solo canoeing, the canoe goes exactly where you tell it to go and if you don't know what you are doing you figure it out pretty quickly through logical thinking and my teaching pointers. In my
Classic Canoeing courses, you can learn solo or tandem canoeing. Of course we'll have fun and you'll end up with lovely tandem and solo skills.


I have a how-to
paddling movie called Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing and the introductory movie called Classic Solo Canoeing is also included with the disc so it is an excellent teaching aid to help you to learn and perfect your solo canoeing technique at any level. You can download them individually or buy the two of them included on a dvd or Blu-ray disc in my giftstore.