THE EVOLUTION OF PADDLE ON
It all started in the summer of 1981. A 6 year old boy(me), was destined for my first year at summer camp wondering not only why my mom abandoned me with a bunch of strangers but also, where we were going. Shortly into the trip, a camp counselor stood up and shed some light on the subject and went through a list of what we were going to do for the next two weeks. He talked about archery, sports, swimming, arts and crafts, sailing, canoeing, woodworking and windsurfing. He explained that to sign up and plan your days activities, you needed to wake up when the breakfest bell rang, walk to the sign-up board and hang your name tag under the time slot and activity you wished to partake in–sounded simple. With a few bus loads of kids in tow, I figured it’d be a race to sign up for sports, so I planned my route as I exited the bus and was shown around. There was no chance I was getting stuck in arts and crafts!
The first morning when the bell was rang, I didn’t hesitate jumping from the upper level of the bunk bed and speeding out the door. My cabin was the closest one to the board so I made it to the board first with little effort. I quickly stuck 4 tags on sports and the last one on archery as other kids, not realizing the effect their tardiness may play in how their whole day would play out, slowly meandered over. What I failed to catch during our bus briefing, was that we had to sign up for 5 different activities. It didn’t take long for a counselor to catch my innocent error and explain it. Thankfully I still managed to avoid arts and crafts. My first day of camp was sports, archery, sailing, swimming and canoeing.
As I walked down to the lake for my canoe lessons, I had no idea that my life was going to change forever. I hadn’t spent much time in boats, other than a couple of motorboats at cottages but nothing that wasn’t powered by a motor. After learning about boat safety and the rules around the dock, we finally got out on the water. I loved being able to maneuver a boat on my own. I loved it so much that my race to the board every morning was now motivated by canoeing as well as sports.
Year after year for 8 years I attended Camp Kee Mon Oya, which still exists to this day. I spent as much time on the water in a canoe, sailboat or swimming as I could. I joined overnight canoe trips, paddles across the lake, evening paddles to a small island where we’d light a fire and roast marshmallows. Any time I could get on the water, I jumped at the chance.
Too old for camp and ready for high school, I was fortunate enough to have the option to go to a school on a lake where outdoor activities were not only a part of life, they were a part of the curriculum. Outdoor education included everything from sailing, orienteering, canoeing, rock-climbing and swimming. I didn’t realize how unusual this opportunity was and how lucky I was to have this experience until long after my time at Rosseau Lake College(RLC). At RLC, we arrived in September, met the rest of the students and teachers and within 2 days we were separated into groups that would head out on canoeing trips into various parts of Ontario. A couple groups would head into Algonquin, another to the French River, another couple to Temagami and over the years various other amazing locations. It was truly a remarkable way to create bonds with not only your fellow students and teachers but also with nature. Anyone who’s gone on an out trip will tell you you’ve created a life long memory and have connected with nature in ways you never imagined.
Needless to say, I spent a lot of my spare time, when the lake wasn’t frozen, in a canoe. There may have been motivation to get away from the school and teachers with a case of beer, bottle of rye and pack of smokes with my friends but none the less, we all loved being on the water, sang songs and laughed as we made our way across the water to and fro.
It wasn’t until Grade 10 that a canoe club formed, when I learned the intricacies of soloing a canoe. I became educated and amazed at the importance of the canoe in Canadian history. To this day, one of my favourite strokes is the silent stroke (also known as the native stroke) where your paddle never leaves the water, avoiding any dripping or moving water sounds that a normal stroke creates. This allowed Native Canadians to hunt in silence and when Europeans came and threatened their livelihood it took on a different importance, as they would sneak by European soldiers who were hunting them. It’s hard to even imagine but really makes you marvel at the amazing waterways we’re able to paddle, knowing but not knowing what happened on them hundreds and thousands of years ago.
After graduating high school, I had less opportunity to get on the water but once a summer, I organized a canoe trip with friends. It’s not something that everyone enjoys or is willing to try but those who have come, have never regretted it. If you’ve never done it, try it. It’s something you’ll never forget and maybe you’ll find it to be a passion that just needed to be brought to the surface as I did.
Fast forward to a few years ago: I found my way back to the water and canoe ownership when I moved to Port Credit. It didn’t take long for me to rediscover the passion. For me, there’s no better way to relax than to toss my canoe on my shoulders and throw it into the river, after a long day at work.
On a few occasions, while paddling on the Credit in town, people have asked me where they could rent one. I had no answer and after some research, I found that there really isn’t any convenient place locally to rent canoes. That is how the concept of Paddle On began to form. I would fill this void.
I began searching for used canoes to get an idea of what they would cost and by chance came across a canoe trailer. I worked the seller down to $200 as it really needed a ton of work. It would be a fun little project and a great way to start a little canoe/kayak rental business in my spare time. Paddle On was initially going to be a local rental company, little did I know, this was just the start.
As the brain of a Gemini never stops, I searched around looking to create a website and began brainstorming about a canoe sharing website. They existed for bikes and cars and rental marketplaces were quickly gaining traction all over the world, so why not for canoes and kayaks?? After hundreds of hours of research, building a business plan and budgeting, I finally found a web development team that could create what I was looking for.
After many tests, tweaks and more tests and more tweaks and more…you get the idea, I am happy to be able to provide a service that will get more people on the water (without motors) and will give canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard owners an opportunity to get their watercraft making a little bit of money for them when they aren’t using them.
I am very grateful you have found this forum. I hope you find it useful. I hope you come back time and time again. I hope you take lots of pictures, create amazing memories and share them with us and your friends so that we get more and more people exploring our waterways as the people native to this land did for thousands of years. You’ll be amazed at the wildlife you see, the people you meet and the majestic views. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you—AND PADDLE ON