Folklore Has It…
Once upon a time, there were a group of voyageurs who worked at a timber camp and were drinking away merrily into the night of New Year’s Eve. In their intoxicated state, they wished to visit their sweethearts some 400 kilometers (100 leagues) away but return to camp before dawn the next day – and they could only achieve this by making a pact with the devil.
The pact allowed the voyageurs to sit in a bewitched canoe – la chasse-galerie – that was set to fly across the sea and the city, with the promise to the devil that the voyageurs would not mention God’s name, or touch any church steeple in exchange for safe delivery.
This story had a sombre end: the canoe overturned and the devil claimed the voyageurs’ souls.
Some say that this folklore became a raison d’ete in the canoe-inspired Canadian identity, whilst others believe it to be one of the variations reminiscent of the Wild Hunt. Since then, the canoe has evolved from a necessary means of transportation for exploration and trade, to a popular recreational water sport. Competitively, canoeing has been part of the Olympics since 1936.
The Kayak and The Canoe
There are those who may question: what are the key differences between a kayak and a canoe? Often, these two terms are intermingled – but they should never be interchangeable. Physical appearance-wise, canoes are generally open top. The rowers kneel or sit inside the canoe and propel themselves using a single-bladed paddle. With an open top, the canoe would have higher sides to prevent water from splashing in.
The kayak, on the other hand, has a closed deck with one or more cockpits carved into the top for rowers to seat themselves. The rowers sit with their legs stretched out before them and propel themselves by using a double-bladed paddle.
Comparatively, the canoe, with its wide hull, is a stable choice for recreational purposes. While there are canoes specifically made for expeditions and competitions, the canoe was birthed from nothing more than a dugout – a hollowed tree trunk that haunts the stories of stranded adventurers like Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and speckles the historical landscapes which paint the tales of the Red Indians. Over time, the canoe has evolved in the material of its making, and now can be found in the likes of molded plastic or other composites.
Canoeing in Singapore
The Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF) is a National Sports Association in charge of the management, coordination, development and promotion of canoeing in Singapore. The SCF champions public enjoyment of all canoeing disciplines – as canoeing is a sport that has worked up an impressive trajectory on water – in Singapore. As such, inclusivity and diversity are at the heart of the various disciplines managed by the SCF.
In 2014, the SCF introduced Paracanoe, and thereby notably removed the boundaries previously segregating the physically disabled and recreational canoeing. Paracanoeing is available at the MacRitchie Reservoir every Saturday from 3pm to 6pm.
Canoe sprint is a sport in which athletes race canoes or kayaks on a flatwater course. In a canoe, paddlers use a single-bladed paddle in a high-kneel position whereas in a kayak, paddlers use a double-bladed paddle in a seated position. SCF conducts coaching courses for individuals who wish to pursue coaching in this discipline, lending support to the growing canoeing community.
Regular competitions are also organized to provide a platform for individuals of varying proficiencies and interests to challenge themselves. The SCF is also in charge of the Singapore National Canoe/Kayak Sprint Team that represents Singapore at regional and international competitions, such as the South East Asian Games (SEA Games), Asian Games and World Championships.
Singapore Canoe Marathon
The Singapore Canoe Marathon denotes long-distance paddling without capping any maximum distance. Minimum race distances, however, are set at 20km and 15km for men and women respectively, according to International Canoe Federation’s (ICF) rules.
The canoe marathon would typically span distances of 35 – 40km, an arduous journey that includes portages where athletes have to carry their vessel and run across short distances. To quote the SCF, ‘the canoe marathon is a much more tactical race and it gives athletes the ability to showcase their tactical prowess as well as their endurance.’
Where to Canoe
The SCF takes charge of canoeing in the following locations:
Located just off Lornie Road in Singapore, the Paddle Lodge makes a home here in MacRitchie Reservoir, one of the four players that make up the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and touts the essentials for recreational canoeing and kayaking. Rent your water sport equipment here and paddle down the picturesque reserve as the serenity eases you into what may become a lifetime love for canoeing.
The Bedok Reservoir is where one can witness SCF’s Canoe Polo – an intense and aggressive hybrid water sport that sees the convergence of kayaking, basketball and water polo. The popularity of the sport is evident during the months of August through September, where fast and adrenaline-inducing matches are held between 40 teams in a tournament that will have canoe-lovers marking their calendars. Typically, during off-peak seasons, the Bedok Reservoir offers court rentals for Canoe Polo on an advanced-booking basis. Equipment rentals are available at Passion Wave.
Kallang Water Sports Centre
Operated by SCF, the Kallang Water Sports Centre is based in the Singapore Sports Hub. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at prices starting from $12 per pax for two hours during non-peak hours for adults, and $8 for children, students, or senior citizens. While canoeing in the centre may mean forsaking the calming embrace of natural reservoirs, the Sports Hub provides a conducive and controlled environment for family fun and helps beginners to familiarize with the basics of canoeing.
The Marina Reservoir allows paddlers to enjoy recreational canoeing in a serene reserve set against the backdrop of Marina Bay. At the heart of Singapore, canoeists can immerse themselves within the cityscape as they indulge in a moment of escapism. For those worried about getting the right tools for some canoeing fun, Passion Wave operates a rental service for kayaking and canoeing equipment.