With the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic just days away, I spent this evening preparing the race canoe with stickers – name stickers, sponsor stickers and so on. When I finished I stood back and admired the Barracuda Wenonah Minnesota II – long, smooth, glittering and light – a truly magnificent canoe. Then I started thinking about the journey that had got this magnificent canoe from North America to Sydney in time for this race.
It all started a year ago, when the 2010 Classic was stopped short for me. I was paddling a 14′ plastic canoe with a mate, and over the course of the night we’d pushed our little canoe 93km through torrential rain and gale force winds, only to be stopped after 17.5hrs of paddling due to worsening weather. At that moment I had fallen completely in love with canoeing, with the night’s calamities proving to be one of the most exciting and memorable paddling adventures I’d ever undertaken!
The race left me determined to actually finish it in a canoe in 2011, but I was keen to get my hands on one of the fancy canoes I saw in all the North American catalogues. I wanted something lighter, sleeker and better designed for distance on potentially big water, and started approaching the major manufacturers with a simple question – can you ship to Australia? After a few weeks of approaches I hadn’t had a single positive response, and was debating attempting to get a cedar-strip canoe made when I received an email from a bloke called Travis. He was a canoe instructor living in the Southern Highlands and was about to start importing Wenonah canoes into Australia. My enquiry with Wenonah in the US had been passed on to him.
The rest, as they say, is history. I ordered my first canoe, the Wenonah Encounter, to allow me to train solo. The boat was customised specifically to my needs and when it arrived I was left breathless at it’s beauty and performance. The Encounter is of a standard just not seen in any canoe here in Australia, and I am ecstatic with it. On a recent photo-shoot with the press, it was the boat I chose to be in the pics.
Then of course it was time to think about what to race in this year’s Classic. After reading lots of reviews and websites in the US on canoe marathon racing, I decided to give the Wenonah Minnesota II a test run. Travis brought up a ridiculously light canoe in a graphite lay-up and we let the test commence. All I could really say at the end was “wow!”. Beautiful, stable, and in canoe terms, FAST! Immediately after the test paddle, I decided then and there – a Wenonah MNII would be perfect.
Another custom order made, a few months wait and then she arrived – the glittery canoe you see at the top of this post. Fast, sleek, gorgeous. And in two days time, about to make its debut in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, with not only me paddling in the stern, but with Travis himself stepping into the bow seat to do it with me.
So here I am 12 months after that initial thought about getting a decent race canoe here, admiring how good the boat looks with its new stickers in place, and I thought I really must thank Travis, Paddle & Portage Canoes and Wenonah for getting behind my canoe dreaming. Love the boats and love your work! Cheers – FP