You Won’t Believe These Strange Things You Can Do in a Canoe

Pierre Berton famously said that “A Canadian is someone who knows how to have sex in a canoe.” Why he decided it applied to Canadians only is anyone’s guess, but even south of the border, it’s not the only strange thing people do in canoes. If you associate canoes with bored kids at summer camp or sedate retirees fishing, you could be missing out.

1. Play Dead Fish Polo

No one really knows the true origins of dead fish polo, but it’s a perennial favorite at paddling clubs. Legend has it that the game started with a paddler spotting a dead fish and using his paddle to lob it into a friend’s canoe. Since then, the game has evolved. Rather than real dead fish, paddlers use floating sponges. Several paddlers gather on a lake and toss the “dead fish” into the center of a circle of canoes. The object is to use your paddle to toss the fish into someone else’s canoe. If the fish lands in your canoe, you are eliminated. The game ends when only one canoe remains.

2. Navigate Ski Slopes or Sledding Hills

If you’ve ever wondered what canoeing enthusiasts do in the winter when the lakes and rivers are covered with snow, the answer is that the genuinely hardcore keep right on paddling. Although it takes a high degree of skill and a seriously durable boat, the intrepid can venture out even in the coldest days of winter to slalom down hills through deep fluffy snow.

3. Cross the U.S.-Canadian Border

Two National Parks parks have lakes that span the border between the United States and Canada. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is on the border between Alberta and Montana, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area/Quetico Provincial Park spans the border between Minnesota and Ontario. When you are paddling in the Boundaries Water near Prairie Portage, you will see a sign politely asking you to pull over and show your passport to the immigration officer in small cottage. Your reward for complying is often a chocolate chip cookie.

4. Paddle Standing Up

Canoe poling is a cross between canoeing and punting. It’s actually a traditional technique used when you need to navigate upstream in relatively calm rivers. Be prepared to spend time (accidentally) swimming as you learn.

5. Make a DIY Motorboat for Fishing

Many people associate canoes with paddling, but you can actually attach small electric motors to canoes for a more relaxing day on the water. Square-stern canoes are specifically designed to accommodate motors.

6. Dance

The entire sport called freestyle canoeing is a form of ballet on the water. Rather than focusing on handling big white water or racking up lake miles, freestylers emphasize grace and beauty, often performing in competitions at paddling events and being awarded points for style as well as technique.

7. Keep Your Beer Cold

If you are having a party at a lake and need a place to keep beer or soft drinks cold, just tie your canoe to a dock, ideally in the shade, and fill it with ice and beverage cans. The water in which the canoe is floating helps keep your drinks cold.

8. Have Sex

While a canoe might not be the most convenient or comfortable spot for amorous activities, managing this does give you bragging rights. There are two things you should keep in mind. The first is that a spacious but stable tandem boat is a better choice than a tippy racing solo or a rounded whitewater canoe. The second tip is to choose a quiet lake rather than a river with rapids to avoid having your intimate activities derailed by an unexpected swim.

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