The Canoe: A Film To Be Savoured

The Canoe: A Film To Be Savoured

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“To put a paddle in the water is to feel the quiet power and possibility of Canada’s past, its present and its future. To paddle is to plug into the energies of the place, the land, the air, the water, the ancestors, the children who are yet to be born. The paddle connects us to all of that.”

“To travel by canoe is to ponder where we came from, where we are, where we’re going, who we were, who we are and who we can be. To pull is to connect to the waters, the rocks, the forests, the skies, all the creatures of the Earth, then the people. To be there, to be connected, as a mix of Canadians new and old.”

“If it is love that binds people to places in this nation of rivers and in this river of nations, then one enduring expression of that simple truth, is surely the canoe.”

Narrator James Raffan’s opening statement is bold, broad and inclusive. It sets the tone for the film ahead, highlighting five stories of people, their relationship with paddling, with the land that gave birth to the canoe and with the country made possible by the canoe.

Man paddling a canoe on misty morning with orange light
Evocative words from narrator James Raffan combine with evocative imagery.

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canada and for the province of Ontario, it makes perfect sense to mark this with a film about the canoe, canoe country and canoe people.

To those who have not travelled to Ontario, it may not be so clear but the canoe is woven into the fabric of this part of Canada.

Canoeing and travelling in wild canoe country has been my primary reason for travelling to Canada multiple times in the last decade.

The canoe is not just of historical importance. The ongoing importance of the canoe and canoeing to Ontario and Ontario tourism is clear. At the recent Adventure Travel Show in London, UK, all the companies on Ontario’s stand, representing activities in the province, were providers of water-borne activities.

And we have this film. The Canoe.

Even as an outsider, as a non-Canadian, this film resonates with me, as a canoeist, as someone who loves wild places and as someone who loves other people who love wild places.

Aerial shot of the McGuffins in The Canoe film
As a canoeist and lover of wild places, this film very much resonated with me.

Each of the five vignettes is different but connected to the whole.

These portraits are made all the more vibrant by Goh Iromoto‘s filming of his subjects and their settings. His dedication to his craft is clear and the cinematic results are a joy to watch. This is a film to be savoured.

Canoeing is also something to be savoured. The film ends with Raffan’s positive and philosophical comments on the value and validity of paddling in the modern world…

There’s a temptation to think that the canoe is a thing of the past but I also think it has lessons to take us forward. Paddling, whether it’s in a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, it offers possibilities for deeper learning. You can always be a little more calm and still in your heart, you could always pay a little more attention. It’s about balance, it’s about reciprocity, it’s about connection.”

In a world that’s increasingly disconnected, in a world that’s increasingly robbing itself of the opportunity for long, quiet contemplation and reflection, a canoe brings you back to some of those basic rhythms. That feeling of being connected to the natural world but also being connected to yourself, it does provide an opportunity to shape, define, nurture who and what we are.

Three canoe people standing on a shoreline looking at sunset
“It’s about balance, it’s about reciprocity, it’s about connection.”

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Six Men, Three Boats and The Bloodvein: Canoeing A Wilderness River

PK Podcast 002: Ray Goodwin On Wilderness Canoeing

Favourite Films: Waterwalker by Bill Mason

PK Podcast 003: Kevin Callan, The Happy Camper

32 thoughts on “The Canoe: A Film To Be Savoured

  1. Hi Paul,

    I had a feeling you’d be mentioning this film in one way or another. I saw it on its online release day, I’m a bit of a fan of goh. This is a truly inspirational film, I don’t mind admitting I welled up a bit during some parts. I’m just starting to step into the world of canoeing, first canoe trip planned of April in Galloway. Between this and Bill Masons films (just watched ‘song of the paddle’ which has me eager to take my two kids out in a few years time) I’m finding plenty of drive to get out there. Your recent films with Kevin Callan had me itching to get on a canoe trip too, but for slightly different reasons… I do like a whiskey!

    Thanks for everything you do mate,
    All the best.

  2. Paul,

    The film portrays the significance of canoe culture in Canada magnificently, and how it is a quintessential part of Canada and being Canadian. Thank you for sharing it.

    Don Witmer
    Calgary, Alberta

  3. I really enjoyed all parts of this film and so many elements struck a chord in me.
    Beautifully made with a clear simple message. So much of the photography could have been Sweden too and the message for me applies to paddling as a whole. The connection with nature, the observations of what really matters, the ryhthms of life, the weather the stars. I find these in sea paddling too.
    Many thanks for sharing it. It was a joy to watch.

  4. Nice video Paul.
    I don’t understand why a canoe is not on our flag .
    Slowly my country is loosing its identity. Corporations and media instil their views of what is Canadian and the south is everso slightly pushing north.
    Alban ,Ontario

  5. Fabulous film I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of the contributors and one very important thing.
    Notice how everybody in the film has a big smile:-) I really need to convey this to all my potential customers out there 🙂
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  6. as you know paul i love my canoeing the film pulled at my heart strings , loved the spirit of it
    thank you for sharing

  7. Another amazing film from Goh Iromoto, the first one i say was his and Ray Mears Northern wilderness film. Both capture the true essence of what it is like to adventure through the Northern Ontario lake systems and the beauty that everyone should experience once in their lives. I am now itching for the lakes to thaw so i can crack out the paddle for another year of exploration.

    Thanks for the brilliant blog, podcasts and for making that itch to get out into the woods that little more unbearable .
    Nick Evans
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada

  8. Hi Paul, wonderful video, Thank you for posting it.

  9. Hi Paul
    You out did yourself in this beautiful presentation. The Pacific Nw winter has been somewhat hard and the spring brake comes. The water is beginning to run and part of our love of canoeing, etc, is the sometimes thunder of roaring water. The Columbia River system remains culturally very much of this films message. Thank You!

  10. Thank you Paul,

    Pierre Trudeau, our former Prime Minister, despite whatever opinion others may have, made a brilliant observation, and I quote, “Travel 1000 miles by train and you are a brute, peddle 500 on a bicycle, and you remain basically a bourgeois, but paddle 100 miles in a canoe and already you are a child of nature.”
    Anyone who paddles through a pristine area, whether alone or with a companion, cannot help but become engulfed by the immediate surroundings; the paddling becomes more subdued as it is a shame to make your presence known too boldly, and you assume the rhythm of nature around you, instantly becoming absorbed by it.
    You should retire in Canada where you belong. Our country beckons. The canoe awaits. Come, taste our waters.

  11. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for mailing this too me,I really enjoyed it and hope to be on the water soon myself!
    Jack, Victoria,BC ,Canada

  12. What a great film,as soon as I heard the haunting call of the loon it transported me back to the time I spent on rice lake last year.its def on my bucket list to get out there again and go paddle in a canoe.thanks for sharing

  13. Hello Paul, unfortunately for me the video stopped at 09.51, but what i saw was a beautiful very tranquil video. Thanks for sharing. Kind regards David

  14. Hi Paul.
    I must say the first five minutes was enough for me.
    Hey its only a canoe.
    But it was filmed beautifully .
    There should have been bird life calling in the distance and insects humming about.
    Maybe the odd rainbow trout or pike catching a Mayfly.
    All the best.

  15. First thanks for sharing this film I loved the first and the last with the kids but one seniment stood out for me and it was a comment In the third where the lady said she was allowed to go out and explore ,and get lost, I did that often here in the u.k as a youngster and on holidays in Scotland and it’s the attitude to getting lost that I love . To her it wasn’t something scarey she didn’t know where she was exactly but that wasn’t a problem, sometimes I feel there can be a little too much enfasis on finding exactly where we are and not looking around us and enjoying the reason we are there .. filming great loved the format .. want to get back to my younger days chayacking on the wear .. keep up the good work Geoff.

  16. Totally awesome Paul….Thank you for switching me on to the movie….I fish on the Wye and canoeists pass me by smiling, in all weathers. They say a blind man could see how much they are enjoying the moment. I watch them many times. Never had a drift down to Chepstow! This has given me the urge to do it. Thoroughly enjoyed the hand full of stories. Beautiful people, in a beautiful place, enjoying beautiful times…..Thanks again Paul and off to the Wye to get my feet wet again. Signing Off, bye for now to those lucky lucky people….James

  17. Paul,
    I first went kayaking at the age of 10 in the mid seventies with the cubs, scouts and Air Cadets. After which I only managed to paddle several times during my time in the Air Force including in Austria and Canada. I then had a long hiatus of 12 years before a chance gift of a kayak paddle and spray deck. My wife and I both loved going out of an evening or weekend for a paddle. Shortly after this my wife became pregnant. I naturally thought that this would mean, yet again, I would have to give up something I/We loved to do. I was very surprised and overwhelmed (when after we had given away our plastic kayak) I was given an inflatable boat for Christmas. One we will all be able to enjoy once baby has grown slightly more. I can only hope we can journey to places like those in this film, I hope our daughter will grow to love a quiet paddle.


  18. Hi Paul,
    A huge thanks for this film, I was actually in tears at a few points while watching it. It brought back memories of paddling down the Thames ( not near the City) on holiday with my cousins, pretending we were explorers, ducking under branches etc, and the whole time laughing and taking in nature`s beauty.
    This film had me raring to get back on the water, out of my house and into the freedom of the countryside.
    All the very best, Dave.

  19. Hi Paul,
    Fabulous film, slightly envious, strangely enough I’d been looking at getting into canoeing after watching several bushcraft YouTubers, one of which has designed an inflatable craft soon to be for sale.
    The combination of water and craft seems to be ingrained in our DNA, a strangely hypnotic yearning to cross the waters, as it were.
    This is definitely something I intend to pursue in the near future.
    Many thanks for the film, you were right to post this one.
    All the best.

  20. Paul
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Wonderful cinemaphotography. Favourite section – The Connection – it really does stir buried emotions.

  21. Mr. Kirtley,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful film. As a student of bushcraft and an academic, I sometimes find that cultivating knowledge and developping skills tend to take away some sense of wonder from observing the natural world, its workings being reduced to rules of physics and chemistry. That’s the lot of science and academic pursuits I guess. However, watching this film and others you have shared, reading your blog and watching you vlogs, brings back the amazement and strengthens my desire to go out and experience nature every chance I get. Contrary to others in the industry, who teach bushcraft for it’s own sake, you present it as a means to achieve our goals and dreams in the outdoors, such as canoeing the beautiful lakes and rivers of the world. For this, and for all your great work, thank you.
    Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

  22. Paul choosing a favorite was almost impossible. I intend to direct everyone I can to this and will never stop doing so. My Favorite was The Explorers, because all efforts against privatization and Corporate interests must be battled. Nothing is more important in these times then awareness and conservation for public enjoyment and protection of the environment. Thank You so much for having made this offering. Your all Class Paul!

  23. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for this great film. It is like “once upon a time…”.

    Best wishes,

  24. Hey wish I had surround sound and projection could use this to play all the time at work. The narration as well as the music with the scenery so soothing and relaxing. I loved it and would like to see more and maybe meet these amazing people some day. Beautiful! Love it, Thanks

  25. Thank you for sharing this film with me. It was very inspiring and relaxing.

  26. I live on another continent and have never been to Canada. I row with a double-bladed paddle, and my English language is so bad that I do not understand it by ear, but every frame of this film responds to my heart …

  27. Hi Paul
    Many thanks for sharing this. I agree with a comment above: ‘A joy to watch.’ Makes me want to book a ticket to Canada. And I really enjoy the vlogs, I’ve learned a lot from you. Thank you.
    All best,

  28. Paul, you have lots of good stuff and this is another. I enjoyed the scenery ect. but I don’t like Canoes or Kayaks, I have only been in a Canoe one time and that was at Scout Camp. That was enough to tell me I wasn’t a fan of either as they are way to tippy so I’ll let their fans enjoy them! Thanks!

  29. This was wonderful. I am not particularly a “water person”. I enjoy land activities more. However, this film struck a chord. It has given me a deeper appreciation for why one might endeavor to spend more time on the water.

    Thank you for sharing this on your website. I would not have found it otherwise.

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