The Ice Canoe races are back! What? You’ve never heard of ice canoeing? It is the quintessential Canadian winter sport (well, right after hockey). Essentially, five hardy athletes take a canoe onto the frozen river, pushing it over the frozen patches and paddling on the liquid ones.
When a friend posted that description for an event at the ice canoe races for MEETin Montreal, I was sold. Montreal gets a lot of winter, particularly this year. May as well go out and embrace it. Ice canoeing is uniquely a Quebec thing (though Toronto and Windsor have gotten in on the action), so it was an opportunity to find out what makes 35 teams paddle their hearts out on a half frozen river in the middle of February.
Watching, photographing and cheering on ice canoeists turned out to be an entertaining way to spend a winter afternoon outside. The teams did 3-4 laps around the over four kilometre course, which included paddling across the fierce St. Mary current of the St. Lawrence River to a touch point on Ile-St-Helen. In under 90 minutes, the first of the Elite Women’s teams crossed the finish line, shortly followed by the Elite Men’s and Sports teams. Watching the whole thing was surprisingly captivating!