As I was doing a bit of tidying up in my office, I came across a stack of books that in paddle sports would be considered “ancient history”. They are my collection of instructional paddling books published before 1980. I have them listed below.
My “Old School” Collection of Paddle Sport Books
- The All-Purpose Guide to Paddling: Canoe-Raft-Kayak edited by Dean Norman (1976)
- A.M.C. White Water Handbook for Canoe and Kayak by John T. Urban (1970)
- Canoeing – The American National Red Cross (1977)
- Fundamentals of Kayaking by Robert Jay Evans (published by the Ledyard Canoe Club of Dartmouth, 10th edition – year unknown)
- Whitewater Canoeing by William O. Sandreuter (1976)
- White-Water Sport: Running Rapids in Kayak and Canoe by Peter Dwight Whitney (1960)
- Wildwater – The Sierra Club Guide to Kayaking and Whitewater Boating by Lito Tejada-Flores (1978)
These are books that I have picked up at various used book stores. I’m not sure exactly what originally prompted my to buy these old tomes, but I have come to appreciate them for several reasons. First, I like to know more about the history of the sport that has come to be such a big part of my life. It’s interesting to see pictures of the old boats, paddles, life jackets, and other assorted mostly home-made gear that people paddled with years ago, and it’s kind of quaint to read the old nomenclature used decades ago.
Second, George Santayana wrote back in the early years of the twentieth century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“. While I doubt he was thinking of paddle sports when he said it, the sentiment holds true here as well as in other aspects of life. Canoeing and kayaking techniques and equipment have evolved over the years into what we know and use today. It is not unusual to hear paddlers discuss the merits and/or shortcomings of any number of skills and pieces of equipment. Occasionally, I overhear someone suggesting a skill or technique that they think is a new idea when in reality it has been tried or even used extensively in the past. There was most likely a reason why that skill fell into disuse, but if no one remembers why, it’s a good bet that we as paddlers will have to learn through our own experiences all over again why no one does it that way anymore.
Finally, I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into creating and developing what we know as canoeing and kayaking today and I’d like to know who is responsible. I’d like to try to give due credit to the people who deserve it. Wouldn’t we all like to get credit for the work we’ve done and the real “discoveries” we’ve made? We’d all like to be lauded for our accomplishments while we’re alive and remembered after we’re gone. When Eric Soares died last week, I realized how many local sea kayakers didn’t even know about the contributions this person had made to their sport. I suspect the same would be true for Don Starkell who also died recently, Verlen Krueger, Bill Mason, John Heath, and myriad others in the various disciplines of paddle sports. (By the way, these are the relatively famous guys).
Maybe we could all make it a goal for the rest of this winter to get to know a little more about those other paddlers in the past who have made things a little easier for us as we, in turn, give back to paddle sports by helping to mentor the next generation of canoeists and kayakers.
(If you need some help finding books on the history of canoeing and kayaking, you can peruse the lists on the “Recommended Reading” page of this website.