Canoeing Traditions :: Kirk Wipper
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.”
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.
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