Algonquin Park

Canoeing Traditions :: Kirk Wipper

Kirk Wipper - Paddling

Kirk Wipper :: Photo credit: Michael Cullen

Traditions vary among paddlers. Depending on what camp you come from, a song may have a few words that differ here and there from another camp. And as you grow older, traditions evolve and change. You may even find yourself singing John Denver or Meat Loaf tunes with your kids instead of camp songs. (Or, in our case, the theme from the Muppet Show.) Perhaps you do not sing at all. Maybe it is the stories (sometimes scary!) and conversations around the campfire at night that are a tradition in your camp. For Kirk Wipper, the founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum, there were more than a few.

Kirk may have become known to many as a collector of canoes, but he was an educator first and foremost. Sadly, Kirk has paddled on and away, taken from us just this past year. But one paddling tradition, fondly remembered by his lovely wife Ann, is an interesting one. Kirk was an eloquent man himself, but he also had a love of quotes and sayings that were meant to provoke thinking.

For Kirk, one canoe trip tradition was to relay a quote to his fellow paddlers he was to share a canoeing adventure with. The rules were simple. Kirk would quote a philosophical great and everyone would memorize the quote or jot it down. All were to reserve comment on the words until after pondering them, in the back of the mind, along the day’s paddle. Discussion on the quoted words was to take place later that evening, around the campfire (or at the day’s end). Kirk had many sayings, but there is one that stands out in Ann’s mind as her favourite. It is from Lao Tse.

” To be great is to go on,  To go on is to be far,  To be far is to return.” 

 

Kirk and Ann Wipper

Kirk and Ann Wipper :: Photo credit: Ray Webber

As you can imagine, many spirited discussions and profound conclusions were always the result of this exercise regardless of the  quote chosen. Thanks to Ann Wipper for sharing one of her favourite memories of Kirk and Kirk’s way. If you don’t have any camp traditions yourself, perhaps you would like to continue Kirk’s tradition. Or maybe it will inspire you to create your own. Traditions help build memories and help connect us to our families, friends, and our land. For if there is one thing that Kirk has taught us, it is “To know, to care, to act.”. And what better way of honouring a great man than by carrying on his tradition of getting us to explore, not only the lakes and rivers we seek with our canoes and kayaks, but the shores of our minds as well.

For more information about Kirk Wipper, visit his website (www.kirkwipper.ca) or visit the Canadian Canoe Museum (www.canoemusuem.ca).

 


Fiona of Badger Paddles

 

 

Fiona Westner-Ramsay is the proud mother of Makobe, the owner of Badger® Paddles… for those who dig the water along with her husband Mike Ramsay, and also the author of  www.autismzeitgeist.com: Practical Information about IBI/ABA for Ontario Families.

Badger Paddles Website: www.badgerpaddles.com

1 Comment

  • Sam Burton says:

    Memories are present in everyone. It is hard to live without memories whether you are young or old- but older people in comparison hold more memories. No matter how far we travel, the memories will follow. Memories have the capability of taking to thousands of miles away in a fraction of a second and needs no airline reservation or baggage. Some of the sweet memories linger in the minds forever but some may be daunting memories. It is impossible to contain both types of memories. “Memories are hunting horses whose sound dies on the wind”, goes a proverb. Memories of friends and dear ones should be always preserved like a fortune while the bad deeds and memories should be forgotten as soon as possible. “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us “said Oscar Wilde. But it is a very secret diary and no one else can read it. Kirk is missed by all, but still alive for those who really loved him. I am one of them, one of those very few. His picture is NOT only on my desk in my study, but it is there engraved in the bottom of my heart. Kirk left a legacy and made a difference in my life as he did to others including you Ann. It is his gift to the ones he Loved best in particular and to the whole world in general.

    I thought of Kirk today, but that is nothing new. I thought about him yesterday and days before that too. I think of him in silence, I often speak his name. All I have are memories and a picture in a frame. His memory is a keepsake, from which I’ll never part. God has him in His arms. I have him in my heart.

    Traditions help build memories and help connect us to our families, friends, and our land. For if there is one thing that Kirk has taught us, it is “To know, to care, to act.”. And what better way of honouring a great man than by carrying on his tradition of getting us to explore, not only the lakes and rivers we seek with our canoes and kayaks, but the shores of our minds as well.

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