Beyond paddling from A to B, the Canoe Program at Wawenock is highly structured and progressive – teaching campers increasingly more challenging and refined paddling positions, strokes and distances, over time. After basic introduction to entering, balancing and moving around in canoes, instructors move on to safety drills and how to hold paddles efficiently and comfortably. Beginning with the fun of close to shore ‘tippy tests’ that introduce the techniques of exiting and righting a capsizing canoe and moving on to more advanced forms of self-rescue, like boat over boat emptying and re-boarding, campers are always focusing on personal safety and helping others.
Next come steps leading to understanding the principles of water/paddle interaction – including stroke resistance, propulsion/efficiency, steering, etc. Campers will begin in the easier to grasp, forward seat position, then learn how to ‘stern’ – where they are also in charge of directional control and coordinating with the front paddler. As campers demonstrate proficiency in these basics, they are introduced to more advanced concepts and more challenging paddling techniques and terminology.
Over time, campers go well beyond the forward, back, left and right turns, J-stroke and paddle used as rudder that characterize the most basic forms of successful canoe propulsion and directional control. However, these are great places to begin and, even at this basic stage, they can enjoy going on short excursions out of the protection of the Cove – visiting and going inside Hawthorne’s Cave in their canoes, or rounding Barnard’s Point to explore the neighboring shoreline. Finally, campers will learn how to ‘solo’ in the canoe – much more advanced and complicated!
As older campers reach the stage where they are working towards achieving their Advanced Skills Level, they become eligible to participate in the incredibly popular overnight canoe trips. On these trips, campers either paddle miles around Sebago’s shoreline and up the Songo River, through a series of ‘locks’, before heading off to a private island camp site for the night, or are transported to put in at a nearby camp, where they paddle across the lake and then hike to their mountainside campground. (We alternate the trips each year so that campers who return and take canoeing again rarely repeat the same overnight trip.)
Campers who choose canoeing for multiple years at Camp become highly proficient paddlers, capable of teaching others or going on extended expeditions.