History of Canoeing

The canoe is nearly one of the oldest activities that one can imagine. It is no surprise though as it presents a feeling of freedom and a chance to walk through rivers.

Histroy of Canoeing
Histroy of Canoeing


When it comes to the history of the canoe, we must first acknowledge what is a canoe. As it is a crystal-clear fact that our world is full of surrounded by water bodies, so it creates a need for a means of transportation on these bodies, canoes. The canoe is nearly one of the oldest activities that one can imagine. It is no surprise though as it presents a feeling of freedom and a chance to walk through rivers. Simple but gently built, ranging from 3 to 30 meters, set in motion with paddles, long, narrow, and lightweight canoes have been made from logs, and were used for basic transportation, fishing, and war, which would not be false if we called the fight, however. This reveals that canoeing has not all been considered a sport, a hobby.

There is no consensus on where does canoeing originated from yet they have been around for thousands of years. The oldest known canoe’s remnants are found in the Netherlands, which is nearly 8000 years old.  There are several ways of using the canoe. For example in North America, the oldest and thus first canoes were used for transportation between the islands by the indigenous people as the clues we got from the remnants of them says. In other examples, they are used for fishing, goods traffic, and sometimes even for war.

Until the 1800s the canoe performed the tasks we just set out, but with the industrialization and with the sense of nostalgia they started to be used in leisure times. As the modern man got more time to spend to himself thanks to the newly flourishing industry, he sought ways to chase fish and spend quality time in the serenity because this newly flourishing industry was already overwhelming. Also, magazines of the era contributed to this new way of utilizing canoes as they made offers of best ways and places to enjoy this leisure time activities.

There is one specific name that is John MacGregor, a Scottish lawyer, sportsman, and a traveler who influenced the development of canoeing as a hobby and sport in the mid-1800s. The advances in manufacturing and lack of right-sized birch trees led to the development of new ways of building canoes. Ten years after him in the 1870s, Robert Baden-Powell designed a series of canoes with sails, and from that day forward his and MacGregor’s followed different ways both from each other and the paddled canoe.

In 1865 (or 1866), MacGregor founded the Canoe Club, starting from 1873 which is called the Royal Canoe Club) with other distinguished sportsmen and travelers. There were other British canoeing clubs until the year 1936 when the British Canoe Union became the governing body. In 1871 the activity began in North America with the Newyork Canoe Club, founded in 1871, and nine years later than that the American Canoe Association became the governing body of the sport, taking the step forward.

At the 1924 Paris Olympics, Sprint canoe was a demonstration sport and at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, it became an Olympic discipline. After World War II, the International Canoe Federation was formed and became the umbrella organization of all the national canoe organizations. It has progressively become more popular since the advent of canoeing events for men in 1936 and for women in 1948. Most Olympic winners were European. After WW II they were Soviet and Eastern European, though. There was a memorable single performer:  the Swedish canoeist Gert Fredriksson, who from 1948 to 1956 won 6 gold medals in Olympic Games, and more than 40 gold medals in international competition.

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