Photo by Claude Barnes

Canoe tips from The Paddling Bryans

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Bryan Wallwork and Bryan Adams are the stars of the hit TV series The Paddling Bryans. They’re also the guys who took one of cottagers’ most cherished past times and turned it into a career.

Wallwork and Adams have been friends for a long time, but something that has been as longstanding as their friendship is their love of canoeing. It was that love that spurred their idea to travel North America by canoe, filming their journey from Alberta to Mexico.

They recently appeared at the Fall Cottage Life Show where we spoke with them about why the canoe was their watercraft of choice, their top five essentials for an overnight trip, and their favourite places to paddle in cottage country.

Cottage Life: Why did you guys choose to travel by canoe?

Bryan Wallwork: It’s a great way to travel because no one knows you’re arriving. It’s kind of a stealthy way to move. Along the way we must have seen hundreds of deer and every time we went around a corner there were more turtles. We actually saw a deer swimming across the Mississippi—that was awesome! You can also go places in a canoe that you can’t get to any other way, and when you leave there’s no footprint.

CL: What did you learn about canoeing along that trip?

Bryan Wallwork: A whole bunch of things that you’re not supposed to do. You know the J-stroke? [If you do it properly], you make a “J” figure, but the best trick I learned is to rest the paddle on the side of the canoe and then just leverage it out, so you don’t have to use the one arm. It’s a great cheater to save some energy if you’re on a long trip.

Bryan Adams: We also got a lot better at working together, because while we were both experienced canoers, we had honestly only been in canoe together a couple times before.

CL: Canoeing with another person involves a lot of teamwork. Do you have any tips for how people can work together?

BA: You have to paddle at the same time and keep on a beat.

BW: Sometimes I would sing a little beat or tap my feet from the back.

CL: Now that you’ve done the journey, what are your top five essentials for an overnight canoe trip?

BW: Rope, for basically everything. Rigging anything, harnessing yourself to the canoe in case of an emergency.

BA: And by law you’re supposed to have a floating rope.

BW: If you’ve got rope, you’ve got it made. You also need a knife for sure.

BA: Matches or flint stone—something to start fire. The best thing is to a have a flint stone, because even if you get it wet, you’re okay.

BW: Duct tape, which I would use for any kind of repair. If you put a hole in the canoe, you could probably repair it with duct tape. It would at least last long enough to get you to shore.

BW: And number five would be a camera!

BA: We sometimes spent half of our day taking pictures, trying to get a good shot of the wildlife we came across.

CL: Even when you’re not filming, you guys spend time in a canoe. Where are some of your favourite places to paddle in cottage country?

BW: Algonquin Park. My dad took me to Algonquin Park on my first canoe trip when I was just a kid and that’s where my family has gone for summer vacation ever since.

BA: I’ve done a lot more canoeing in Northern Quebec, around places like La Mauricie National Park. The Riviere-Rouge is a beautiful place to canoe, but so is everywhere in that region of the country as well as into Ontario and even upstate New York. There are so many great places, so it’s a bit hard to choose. One great spot outside Ottawa is Green Lake. The water is so clear there; you can see everything.