Hank, the CamperCar

Meet Hank! This is my 2003 Toyota Matrix. My ride from A to B between guiding and canoe instruction gigs, as well as paddling festivals every weekend in May/April & September/October, the goal was to find the perfect balance between versatility and functionality –

I wanted to be able to sleep comfortably, with minimal setup hassle – to reduce the temptation to power through long drives, and to have my own space in the hubbub of seasonal work and festival season.

I wanted to be able to fit passengers – I can still seat 4 (albeit it’s a little cozy!).  The backseat bench is split 60/40, and the bed is built on the 40% side, leaving two seats accessible.

I wanted to be able to go car camping, without having to pack! My kitchen is permanently setup, the tables are easily accessible, a spice rack & plastic bin store all the staples.

Here’s how I accomplished this criteria:

DISCLAIMER – I sleep very comfortably with room to spare, but… I stand up to barely over 5’2″. Don’t try this at home, big kids.


It’s a continuous project that’s never quite done. My jigsaw skills got infinitely better, and I learned that I’m a “measure once, cut twice” kind of person! Many tries, many power tool lessons from my dad, and many, many hours of day dreaming went into this final layout.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 3.39.59 PM


Three parts: kitchen box, permanent slats, and removable large panel.


IMG_4024The box is the base of the bed and the shell of the kitchen. Stays in place with a hose clamp attached to the anchor on the left above the platform, and an L-bracket in the bottom right corner.

Pretty easily removable to access the spare tire.

The middle panels of the bed platform sit on the kitchen box, and are secured by two removable pins.  This means that no single piece of wood runs the length of the car. In case of an accident, the kitchen box would easily separate from the panels, which would pop off of their anchors.

The uprights that support the panels are secured to the floor anchors for the backseat which I removed.

The edge of the middle section has a slot for the removable sleeping panel to rest in.  The other edge sits on the driver’s seat.

















Bungee with a hook keeps the bedding contained for travel.



The bed is slightly wider than my thermarest, and leaves me with enough height to sleep flat, or on my side.  It took one night to get used to sleeping this close to the roof, but otherwise I’ve been impressed with how comfortable the height is.



(In the photo below – the space on the left is tall enough that I can sit comfortably to read a book , put on shoes, etc. It’s the “mud room”)


My bin of food or clothing (depending on what I have it set up for at the time) fits under the bed, underneath curtains and bug nets are kept in place with bungee cord. Underneath the bed panel fits a large gear bin.

Food/cooler is normally accessible from the rear of the vehicle, the middle section is clothing, and the front storage is gear accessible from the side door. The footwell of the removed seat is storage for repair kit, tools, etc…


This “junk drawer” was easily made from an old for sale sign, simply hot glued together. It sits on a slider made of the same material, and utilizes the awkward-sized space above the wheel well, to keep little bits & pieces from disappearing into the vortex of stuff.


The simple addition of hanging storage keeps things readily available that I can grab in the middle of the night – a light, toque, car keys, etc.







A small plastic pipe, heated and shaped, serves as the curtain rod. They are hose clamped to the handles, and secured with wire to the ceiling at the front. The side curtains hang permanently, while a separate curtain hooks onto the front, wrapping around the front seats and completing the blackout.

DSC_0759DSC_0754DSC_0760 Curtains secured 







DSC_0410This picture shows the bug nets that allow me to sleep with the windows open. Using noseeum netting, I cut out two pieces in the shape of the door. Sewing them together, but leaving the bottom open, creates a “pocket” that slips over the entire door. This allows me to open & close the doors without having to mess with the netting. The front nets have an elastic that goes around the mirrors, to keep the bottom of the net tight to car.



As seen above, there are two tables:

  • The larger one is cut to the shape of the car exterior, and sits on the edge of the bumper. Rope hanging from the hinge slides into two slits on either side, and holds the table in place. While I wouldn’t trust it with a huge pot of boiling spaghetti, it is solid enough to explode gear and food out of the back hatch. This panel is stored with my bed panel during travel.
  • DSC_0771 –  The smaller one slides out from under the kitchen, which is a game changer as it’s always super easily accessible. I’ll put it out even just to set my coffee down while rooting around for a piece of gear.  I have glued on a small wooden stopper to keep it in place.

DSC_0778– A slit on either side serve as anchors for the removable dish drying  apron


DSC_0769  – This is the “wannigan”. The top shelf holds all my pots, pans, & bowls. Underneath (left side) I have a sealed bin for snacks (the small ones that I want to grab as I’m running to the river) . In front of that, a small container keeps my tea and coffee contained. To the right, by taking out the interior clear bin, dishwashing supplies will remain in the white bin, which  can serve as a wash basin. The clear container holds my stove, fuel, etc.

  • In front of that, the spice rack swings closed:

DSC_0766 I have attached a mesh pouch to the front and back of the spice rack, which holds all the utensils.


DSC_0772 After removing the jack (it lives up front with other emergency supplies), there is quite a lot of sneaky storage underneath the bed, beside the wannigan. This normally stores anything from canned food, to coffee filters, or hides chocolate coffee beans & beer.


IMG_4627 2IMG_5172IMG_4794 2Ideal for mac & cheese pit stops on long drives…





…and pancakes by the ocean






AH! THE MOST IMPORTANT PART! Hank’s the centre of Hanks’s signature look is really completed by the door handles…let’s call them statement pieces:


















Hope this answered the questions for those who are working on their own daydream.

With love,

Willa & Hank


“My Own Bed”: Finding home amongst the wilderness

Amongst the wilderness, we make our home
I hear the rustle of an early-rising client. I open my eyes, take a second to orient myself. It’s a familiar sight inside my little tent – my sleeping bag feels like a comforting home now. I glance at my watch – my five minutes of groggy time is up and I know I have fifteen minutes to pack up and get to the kitchen. I say goodbye to my comfy, quiet haven for the day with the distinctive zippppp of a tent door.

I’m struck by the unfamiliar sight waiting just outside my door. Slowly, I remember. I remember last night: staring at the mountains, entranced by the midnight sun dancing across the pristine alpine water, skipping from mountain to mountain. Now, the sun is already high in the northern sky, creeping down into the valley and winding its way around the river bends.

Time to move. Tent down, fire started. Hot water on. Breaky started. Wake-up call: coffee, tea, hot chocolate for all, to soften the chill in the air. Hot cereal is served, pancakes are on their way. Full bellies and smiles all-around, hot dishwater ready to warm someone’s hands. This part of the day is accompanied by mixed feelings: anticipation and excitement for the day ahead, interspersed with the bittersweetness of leaving a new home that kept us comfortable overnight (albeit occasionally it’s “good riddance” to the sand, bugs or animals).

The other day, someone asked me how I deal with the lack of routine, the lack of “home” during the summer months. They wonder: “isn’t it emotionally exhausting to never sleep in the same place?” The truth is that when I was travelling for slalom racing, I did find it exhausting. I was always looking forward to “sleeping in my own bed”. To my surprise, this rarely crosses my mind on canoe trips. My sleeping bag becomes as comforting as “my own bed”, and the tripping routine feels reassuringly familiar.

Amongst guides, it’s common knowledge that each has their particularities. From setting up their kitchen “just so” (with everything in its particular place), to a favourite meal cooked with their special technique, to “their” way of making camp coffee. We seek those routines and the comforting feeling of knowing exactly where to find the salt and pepper. Those consistencies are our comforts.

We have made our home for the night, and dinner is done. Chatter and laughter waft out of our blue-barrel-and-log dining room, as tales of the day and campfire smoke drift into the sky. Dishes and kitchen cleanup are done, then goodnights are said. I crawl into my little haven of a tent, into the familiar feeling of the sleeping bag that kept me warm last night, the night before that and the one before that. I feel tired, sore, satisfied and grateful. I feel like I could sleep forever, but the anticipation of tomorrow sends me into dreamland with a smile.

These places where we sleep, these places we reach by canoe, make me feel humble. With them inevitably comes a bittersweet understanding that we live in a land that is so much wiser than us, that is incomprehensibly bigger and more complex than we are. These places demand respect and admiration.

Finding these feelings is finding home, regardless of where I sleep.
The truth is, the wilderness is not ours in which to make our home.
Rather, amongst the wilderness, we find our home.


5 Life Lessons I Learned from Paddling

1. The perks of being a rope person
Because of my parents, I’ve kept rope stored in my car for impromptu
paddling trips since the day I got my driver’s license. It’s a source of much grief for paddlers riding in my car: “uggh..ropes?!” Apparently, straps are easier, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really been convinced. Because, well, I have used those ropes not once, but three times to tie rusty parts of my car back on…muffler, wheel well, heat shield. Improvisation skills, let me tell you!

Ropes, I come by it honestly...
Ropes, I come by it honestly…


2. Fake it till you make it
I don’t mean fake confidence all the time. Definitely not. I mean that once you decide to paddle something, go at it like you’re going to style it. This aligns with the ‘’Paddle good or paddle hard’’ mentality. It increases aggressiveness, which leads to more speed, and consequently increases the likelihood of actually styling it.

The same thing goes for oral presentations, public speaking and job interviews. No matter how underprepared you are, don’t let the audience, or the rivers, in on that secret.

Speaking at Paddle to the Sea's 50th anniversary
Speaking at Paddle to the Sea’s 50th anniversary


3. Rhetoric – it’s all in the phrasing
“I’ll be away from university for the week , there’s this thing called ALF, it’s in Tennessee, no there’s no website, no it’s not a competition…” VS. “I have the opportunity to participate in an international whitewater canoe festival…”

You can guess which is more effective. Life skills, my friends, life skills.

4. How to drive…
Alright, this might sound irrelevant. However, I learned how to paddle before I learned
to drive, and there’s a lot of crossover. Think about it – look where you want to go,
active eyes. Trying to exit an eddy on a slalom course with 40 other
paddlers, or at the likes of Beaverfest and Moosefest, is a heck of a lot like turning left or merging:
Look for the gap, eye contact, and go (with “grrr”)! It’s like a Tellico race with rules.

5. We’re all a little bit weird.
One of my dad’s favourite statements is: ‘’We’re all a bit weird, and we only get weirder as we get older’’. It’s so true, and maybe even more visible on the river, in a group where we rely on each other for safety and for fun. Open boating has helped me appreciate everyone’s individual quirkiness (my own included!) for
the strength (and the entertainment..) they bring to every group.

OC love. Photo by Johno Foster
OC love.
Photo by Johno Foster

An Ode to the Desk Job

I was one of those kids. I had a “crazy imagination” and told stories of far away places, of waterfalls and wild rivers. In hindsight, I can understand why my declarations such as ‘’my dad had pet wolves when he was little’’ received a little bit of skepticism. I was one of those kids who believed that adventure seekers and outdoor lovers were a specific, high calibre of people, and I judged everyone who wasn’t.

I was one of those kids who vowed that I would absolutely, never-ever, under no circumstances, work in an office.

I worked as a ski instructor for five years, I teach canoeing, and I spent one summer working for a school that takes place entirely outdoors. When fall comes around though, I find myself looking for a job that has reasonably flexible hours, and will leave me with enough energy to continue paddling. The poison first came in the form of a receptionist job at our local community centre. Indoors and at a desk, the horror! As it turns out, I really enjoy my time there. I get to chat with local community members, an aspect that really appeals to my personable side. I work with a team of highly-motivated people who are passionate about their job and excel at what they do. I realized that adventure and the outdoors aren’t the only passions that exist, and that having the courage and determination to follow your passion is impressive and respectable – regardless of what that passion may be.

My desk job opened my eyes to the quality people that are everywhere – as long as you take the time to recognize them. My desk job taught me that it doesn’t matter how people choose to spend their time. It matters that they don’t mind looking the other way every now and then, when you show up to your desk job with a sunburn, messy hair and a distinct perfume reeking of campfire smoke.

Two years later, and every fall I find myself back at that desk. Telling stories of far away places,  dreaming of waterfalls and wild rivers.

I oppose the Near Surface Nuclear disposal site 1 km away from the Ottawa River.

(Open Letter to Liberal MP (Pontiac) Will Amos, copied to the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change)

Mr. Will Amos,

As a former U23 National Team canoeist and Wilderness Canoe guide, I have spent hundreds of hours on the Ottawa River.  I oppose the proposal for a Near Surface Disposal Facility in close proximity to the Ottawa River. The potential environmental consequences have already been articulated in  the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) Environmental Impact Statement and by the Ottawa Riverkeeper’s related comments.  I will speak to the impacts that cannot be encapsulated by numbers and figures.

I don’t remember learning how to run, to swim or to talk. I don’t remember learning how to canoe. But I remember the feeling. The feeling of being in awe of the power of the Ottawa river. The River has taught me respect and pride for our environment and for our heritage. Respect for myself, for our wilderness, and for the authorities who recently designated it a Canadian Heritage River.

I have lived in Chelsea, Quebec, my whole life, but I have grown up on the river. Our river has shaped me into the person I am becoming. I want future generations to be able to say the same. The proposed disposal site is a solution that is estimated to see 50 years of use (2020-2070), and yet the repercussions of a contaminated river could last for centuries.

As an athlete and as a guide introducing people to our wilderness, I am proud to represent a country which I believed valued its environment as much as I do. Mr. Amos, I remind you that we are a freshwater community, province, and a freshwater nation. Our country was essentially founded by transport on our waterways. Yet there is a level of separation that has come between us and our waterways, the veins of our country. This level of separation wherein we, as a society, seem to think that allowing radioactive waste to potentially seep into the heart of our nation is acceptable. A separation between the image of being a freshwater nation, and the action we take to protect our waterways. A separation between our community and our vision for the next generation.

By allowing the creation of the nuclear waste site in such close proximity to the Ottawa River, we would be sending a message to our nation. A message to the people of future generations, to the thousands of world class whitewater enthusiasts and other recreational river users who cherish the River. A message to the politicians of our nation. A very clear message about the values and priorities of our community.

I know that the next generation can be one of understanding and collaboration. A generation in which indigenous youth, new Canadians and children of all ages will be connected by the waterway that is at the heart of our nation’s history, culture, values, and our capital.

Mr. Amos, as you speak on behalf of our community, I am asking you to speak on behalf of our river by opposing the proposed Chalk River CNL Nuclear Waste Site. Protecting our river may be a hassle right now, but the investment is invaluable in the long run.


    Willa Mason


William Amos, Pontiac MP can be contacted as follows:

William.Amos@parl.gc.ca (Ottawa Office)

william.Amos.C3@parl.gc.ca (Campbell’s Bay office)

The CNL Environmental Impact Statement can be read at the following: link: http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/3549227/Canadian-Nuclear-Laboratories-Environemental.pdf

More information:





The Ottawa River, at the foot of the Parliament buildings in downtown Ottawa
Kayaking on the Ottawa River, at the foot of the Parliament buildings in downtown Ottawa

Change of heart, Change of focus

People ask: “So are you done paddling?” It’s a fair question, but I have a tendency to impulsively respond with a quizzical, “no…?” Quizzical, because the idea of ever being “done” with paddling is something I can’t imagine. I’ll never be “done”. I’m not quitting. I’m simply shifting my focus as my goals and priorities change.

For the love of water. Getting back to the basics in Meech lake, Qc.
For the love of water. Getting back to the basics in Meech lake, Qc.

When the 2016 season ended, I felt like I never once performed to the extent of how I believed I could, and I started to believe that I never could. My heart was no longer in practice, my coach could tell and it damaged the training environment for everyone. I avoided questions and I avoided practice. When I didn’t manage to dodge a question, I had two responses: “My results weren’t where I wanted them to be, but I learned lots!” Or, despite my best efforts and all too often, I broke down. I was miserable. I was upset every day at the slightest mishap. Because I wanted to love racing. But somewhere amongst the feeling of self-worthlessness, I realized that this wasn’t what I fell in love with. I had forgotten that I don’t paddle for results, nor do I paddle to get a coach’s approval.
Maybe I didn’t have thick enough skin. Maybe I wasn’t tough enough. But when you’ve been working as hard as you thought you could, and your disappointing results are topped with discouraging comments, that is going to hurt. If I had been in a very healthy place with myself, I might have been fueled by being told that I have no skills, that I can’t overcome my weaknesses. Unfortunately, I was not in a state of mind resilient enough to take those comments in stride.
It was really, really hard for me to not take those comments personally. For a long time, I did take them personally, just as I took my poor results personally. It’s a common saying that your results are directly related to the effort you put in. To me, the thought that people would interpret my poor results as a lack of caring was heartbreaking. Letting down the people who supported me was a terrifying thought. I would walk past my canoe and feel sick to my stomach. I was embarrassed by my results because I felt like my supporters and my team deserved better.

Thankful for supportive friend & teammate for making me smile
Thankful for supportive friend & teammate for making me smile

Like I said in my “Journey of Transformation” blog post, I am still proud of some things. But the truth is, I was having so much trouble focusing on those moments. I forgot about the joy, the satisfaction, the achievements, the growth and the friendships.
I realized I needed to change something. I needed to take a step back, to return to the essence of my passion. To build myself up, to come to my senses, to learn to maturely handle everything and any feedback that might come my way. So, I went from training 11 times a week, to paddling three times a week with the development group of 12-14 year olds. It was weird. I had to swallow my pride a bit. I had fun.

Finding that flying feeling again. Photo by Johno Foster.
Finding that flying feeling again. Photo by Johno Foster.

In November, I took almost a full break from training. I made the solo road trip out to Gaspe to visit one of my favourite people in the world. Turns out, all that jazz about spending time with your own thoughts is pretty true. I went creeking, I started University, worked two part-time jobs, and I kept avoiding questions.

Finding happiness in Gaspé, Qc. with one of my favourite people!

Yesterday, I came home from a gym workout. My mom asked a typical “how was it?” and to my surprise, I answered; “it was fun!”. It was a refreshing reminder of why I love working out, having fun and getting stronger.
Now, I’m giving crossfit a try, looking for a new, engaging way to build strength. I’m gearing up for my first summer challenging myself as a full-time canoe instructor and river trip guide. I’m a little intimidated and so, SO excited to help spread the joy of being on the water.
So, when people ask if I’m “done with paddling” – nope. But right now, I need to find the sport I love again. For now, that means switching things up. In a few months, that might mean returning to slalom training, or it might not. Time will tell. Either way, it means following the feeling of community, empowerment and adventure, wherever I may find it. I need to listen to my own “philosophy”.
I need to listen, to remember that the Song of the Paddle is still there. It hasn’t changed, just my perspective has.

Feeling humbled in Gaspésie. This country is big!

Journey of Transformation

“Let’s pause for a sec.”  It’s the day before the race, and we are half way through a long distance flatwater paddle. Lois lets her boat drift in the wind, dancing on the surface of the water. I dangle my fingers in the murky water, disregarding the gross quality to feel the current swirl beneath me. We are completely secluded by the riverside trees, joined only by a family of ducks. Around the river bend, there are barges, boats and kayakers. We savor the peace and quiet, knowing full well that  our routine will soon go haywire, as the whirlwind of racing will envelop us. “I know what we’re capable of, but I just wonder how this race will go. I just really wonder what we will be able to do.” Lois ponders out loud. Well, we were soon to find out.


That, that is the thing with slalom, with sport. Despite the best preparation, there are so many unpredictable variables, some in our control and some beyond our control. The calm flatwater paddle was our last quiet moment for quite some time. The next day brought an early wake up followed by a drive to the course and the beginning of the warm up process.

Leading up to the race, I felt physically ready and excited to race.The top of my first run had some  solid parts, however I made a mistake in a crucial line approaching gate 17, resulting in a fifty second penalty. I finished the run very disappointed, but able to recognize the good parts of the run and the parts that I needed to improve upon. After a debrief with coach Brendan Curson, I got ready for my second run. While I was on the water, waiting for my start, the water level dropped drastically and the officials made the decision to delay the start for thirty minutes. This was a big challenge and learning opportunity in adaptability, as I had already planned my snacks and warm up according to the original start time. After more waiting, we were told the water was back up and it was time to go. I got to the start line nervous,  ready to go and excited to finally race. I was determined to fix my mistakes. I did, however I was caught off guard by a move that I had no trouble with in my first run. This resulted in a lengthy detour back up to get gate 8. I finished my run in 29th position, disappointed that I didn’t paddle as well as I know I could have, yet happy with my personal achievements.

The unpredictability of sport is one of its most beautiful challenges, with the potential to result in either immense disappointment or immense joy. Sometimes you exceed your greatest expectations, and sometimes you perform far below what you are capable of. As Lois said, you never know how it will turn out. I feel that I did not paddle anywhere close to my capabilities, however I can appreciate that the three minutes of racing don’t represent my paddling, nor do they represent every thing that I have learned in the past few weeks. Results do not reflect personal growth, and I’m happy to recognize some really solid parts of my race runs, and to have grown as an athlete and as a person from this experience. 13652293_10154289421190365_1560893917_n

The individual races were followed by team runs – where three paddlers in the same category navigate the race course as fast as possible, weaving tightly one after another. Lois Betteridge, Kylie Zirk and I had a blast trying to stay clean, fast, and stay out of eachother’s way. It was a hoot to pull out maple leaf temporary tattoos, fully deck ourselves out in canadian gear and cheer on our teams.

Yannick Laviolette and Ben Risk in full spirits for team runs
Yannick Laviolette and Ben Risk in full spirits for team runs


I’m heading home full of gratitude for this experience, the people who helped me get here, and the clean rivers of Canada. It is always inspiring to have the opportunity to learn from the best athletes in the world. I would like to congratulate Florence Maheu and Lois Betteridge for the semi-final races, and all of Team Canada for working hard, having fun, and for making our country proud. A tremendous thank-you goes out to Mike Holroyd, Brendan Curson, Tyler Lawlor, Andy Parry and James Cartwright,  as well as Brenda and Jeff Boyd for making this trip as incredible as it was. As always, I owe this trip to my friends, family and supporters for making it happen.

The pursuit of a goal is a journey of transformation, and I’m happy to build on everything I have learned from this step of the journey.13620041_1823733771173012_6485310293179621030_n

Krakow, Polska


What an adventure! Two weeks in Krakow have led to awesome training opportunities, cultural experiences and immersion in the international race scene. We were lucky to be staying at a hotel just a few minutes from the race course, and just a few minutes from the grocery store. The course turned out to be one of my favourites, with big water and really fun features. Being made out of smooth cement and plastic bollards, the course was easy on equipment and super friendly. 13820766_1047797548630947_171174569_n

13819326_1047797535297615_745046494_nWe enjoyed training on the course (and dodging Olympians, World Champions and up-and-comers all in our sessions!), interspersed with taking in the beautiful city and culture of Krakow.


Exploring the castle in Krakow
Exploring the castle in Krakow

Our group perogie consumption tallied up to 612, our Polish words learned totaled about 10, and our good memories are countless.

U23 National Team Trials – Kananaskis, Alberta.

On May 18th, I made the journey westward to Canmore, Alberta. I joined up with Coach Brendan Curson and Saskatchewan athlete Kylie Zirk, to get some time on the water before official training began on the 23rd. It was my first time on the Kananaskis River, and I absolutely loved it. Nestled in the mountains, it’s friendly, wavy and  an absolute pleasure to paddle.

A good week of training leading up to the race
Fun waves and good eddies!

We spent the week getting to know the river, working on building smooth and consistent technique. I was so fortunate to have a “home away from home” with Michael, Lauren and Georgia Turcot. We met through  a SEVEC ski exchange over 6 years ago, and it has been a blast keeping up with their adventures. Having a quiet, warm house to go home to every night made preparation for team trials so much more relaxing…especially because we were graced with snow, rain and hail throughout the week!

It was a week of practicing paddling in all kinds of weather...
It was a week of practicing paddling in all kinds of weather…

My teammate, training partner and best bud, Lois Betteridge, joined me on the 23rd, and luckily she seemed to bring the sunshine with her! The next couple days consisted mainly of technical sessions with Ontario coach, Anthony Colin, followed by stretching, food prep and rest.

The sun came out to compliment the beautiful scenery for the last week of training!
The sun came out to compliment the beautiful scenery for the last week of training!

Saturday was the first day of racing. Everyone was competing for a spot on either the Junior or the U23 National Team, who will compete at Jr/U23 World Championships in Poland, in July. In order to qualify, each paddler was aiming to make the performance benchmark for their category, as well as place in the top three.

Going into this race I was excited and nervous. Being my first year as a U23, i had no idea how hard it would be to qualify for the team. Unfortunately, a couple mistakes slowed me down in my first run, but I was able to step it up on my second run, reaching the performance benchmark and securing my spot on the U23 national team! This meant that I could focus on having solid performances for the rest of the weekend, without the stress of qualifications.

Racing on the killler kan. Photo by Michael Turcot.
Racing on the killler kan. Photo by Michael Turcot.

It was super fun to get back on the water with our teammates from across the country, and it was so exciting to see new faces qualifying for the Canadian team for the first time! A full list of the 2016 national team can be found here: http://canoekayak.ca/slalom-teams/

Finish line smiles with Lois Betteridge
Finish line smiles with Lois Betteridge

Before heading to the airport, we took Monday morning to do a river run with Lauren and Georgia. With a mix of a tandem canoe, a kayak and a C1, it was an absolute blast. Surfing, flipping and so much laughter, it was a great way to unwind after a weekend of racing.

All smiles before a river run on the killer Kan
All smiles before a river run on the killer Kan

Photos by Michael Turcot

Composite Creations two-piece boat

The Story – With airlines developing increasingly strict policies limiting the dimensions of oversize luggage, it has become a frustrating (and expensive) process to fly with our 3.5m long slalom boats.

The Solution – Try chopping a boat in half! Andy Philips, the brain & manpower behind Composite Creations, was the guy for the job. Composite Creations creates canoes & kayaks, custom composite parts and offers composite training workshops. He is unbelievably skilled and there’s nobody else I’d rather have on board for the challenge. By cutting the slalom boat exactly in the middle, the boat would measure 1.75 m, short enough to fit within Air Canada’s over sized baggage restrictions.

The Strategy –  Build a vertical flange around the rim on both pieces of the boat, which would bolt together to create a water-tight joint that wouldn’t flex at all.

Vertical carbon flange painted white
Vertical carbon flange painted white

The Materials – The flange is made of carbon with a foam core, which allows the bolts to be tightened without crushing the flange. It is attached to the hull with an epoxy made by MSG Resins in Germany, the same resin that Composite Creations use on their aircraft projects. Needless to say, it is light and super strong!

Flange attached with MGS Resin epoxy
Flange attached with MGS Resin epoxy

The test – At the beginning of February, Andy cut my older slalom boat (The Lady Lizard) to test out the joint system.

After a couple modifications, the test boat was a success! This video shows the strength of the cut, with no flexing at all.

The final cut – The next step was to cut my new racing boat, with the goal of completing it for easier flying to travel to a training camp in Pau, France, at the end of February. My dad, being the inventor he is, volunteered to drive my new boat down to Composite Creations (personally I think he was just excited to chop a brand new boat in half…) IMG_0053

The flange was traced, cut out, glued to the boat, and then sanded down to optimize comfort.

IMG_0076Comfort – Once completed, it was time to adapt outfitting to accommodate the flange. I stuck strips of velcro in front of and behind the flange, to which my two-piece ankle blocks are attached. They are the same height and shape as my previous ankle blocks, reaching the top of the flange to create a level support surface.

The flange is completely covered by my ankle blocks.
The flange is completely covered by my ankle blocks.

My seat is also secured using adhesive velcro, making it removable to facilitate access to the bolts.



Finally – I’m currently attending a training camp in Pau, France, so I’ve had the opportunity to take the boat apart, put it together, paddle it in the pool, on the flatwater & in whitewater!

It takes about 30 minutes to put together, with silicone in between the flange and a small bead along the outside. It’s watertight, solid and comfortable. I cover the seam with one piece of electrical tape as a precaution, to prevent the silicone from being scraped off. All in all, the system weighs about 500 grams.

The two piece boat, put together for training in Pau, France.
The two piece boat, put together for training in Pau, France.

This development is revolutionizing the way we travel with boats, opening up possibilities for endless adventures! A big thank you goes to my dad for his initiative, creativity, 5am sketches and the insane amount of time he devoted to the project. A huge, huge thank you to Andy Philips and the whole team at Composite Creations for the countless hours spent sketching, designing, experimenting and building in the shop. These guys embraced the challenge and made sure it was a success from start to finish.

Please put me back in the water