Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Who's Bill Mason?"

My friend Hadley posed this question as we were cooling off after a long 9-to-5 at the pub the other night.

Bill Mason is an icon of Canadian paddling. Born in Winnipeg in 1929, his fascination with canoeing was sparked by his parents while he was a toddler. They always thought he'd outgrow it.

He never did.

Instead, Bill was entranced by the simple design and incredible maneuverability of the canoe (in the right hands, of course). He built his first boat at the age of eleven, and throughout his life he managed to combine his painting, writing, and filmmaking talents with canoeing, and quickly rose to prominence in all four (with no less than eighteen award-winning NFB films to his credit). Along the way, he established himself as the face of Canadian paddling. The old-school canvas tent and the unruly beard certainly didn't hurt, either.

His travels took him through rivers and lakes all over the continent. His favourite canoe, a red wooden Prospector 16, is his signature and was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough by his wife in 1999. And there it remains. Bill himself died of cancer in 1989.

But his books and paintings are easy to find, particularly Path of the Paddle and Song of the Paddle, which are considered bibles of Canadian-style canoeing and eco-friendly wilderness tripping.

Yes, I am becoming more and more obsessed with paddling as spring grows nearer. Is it obvious?

To read the wikipedia entry on Bill Mason, click here.

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