Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion kayaker Adam van Koeverden not only trains, but also cottages in Ontario’s Algonquin Park. Before taking off to Europe to finish up his last leg of training for the 2012 Olympic Games, van Koeverden found time to talk cottaging. He stopped by the offices last week and shared what it’s like to spend time at his off-the-grid escape.
Cottage Life: Reading the story in Cottage Life‘s summer issue, it seems like how you came across the land you now lease in Algonquin was a bit of a fluke. Had you considered cottaging there before?
Adam van Koeverden: It was only flukey in the way that I didn’t read it in the newspaper or see it in a real estate listing. But it wasn’t a fluke that I purchased it when I did, because I was actively engaged in looking for a place. Algonquin was kind of the dream opportunity but it seemed so unlikely and so far fetched that I didn’t really ever consider it a true possibility. That’s why it was such an easy decision to lease the land when I found out it was available.
CL: Being a professional athlete in a summer sport, do you find it a struggle to get there as often as you’d like?
AV: That’s definitely true, but it’s also a good excuse to be there, because I can paddle in Algonquin and the paddling up there is great. But yes, because I’m on the water twice a day [when I’m training], to get up there and not miss a paddle is hard. It probably would be a little easier if I were a skier.
CL: Apart from paddling Algonquin’s many rivers and lakes, what’s your favourite thing to do up there?
AV: My days are pretty consumed with keeping up with what’s going on around me, like starting fires to heat up water for dishes. I don’t really have any amenities up there, so it’s a full-time job doing the cooking, cleaning, and bit of landscaping you need to do with the forest. I mean, if I left for a year and came back, it would be out of control.
CL: How do you manage to entertain people up there, considering it’s such a high-maintenance place?
AV: My guests know that it’s not really a vacation, that there’s limited seating and they’ll probably be on a tree stump, because it’s not like I have a dining room table. I do have five beds, but they’re not terribly comfortable. I wouldn’t invite someone if I didn’t heavily interview them first. It’s basically camping, and there may be a few luxuries in that sense, but I spend most of the time outside, whether it’s raining or not, and when it gets dark, it’s dark, because I don’t have lights, just candles and lamps. I don’t invite a lot of new people up there, so they know what they’re getting into.
CL: Your family never owned a cottage and you didn’t get into paddling until you joined the Burloak Canoe Club as a young teenager. Did you get the chance to do much cottaging growing up?
AV: My family definitely cottaged. We always went to friends’ cottages or rented cottages. Actually, my family never owned any land, we even rented our home, so we never really laid down roots. That’s part of the theme of the article in Cottage Life. I guess I didn’t really talk about it, but I’m first generation Canadian—my parents are immigrants—and we’ve never had our own land in Canada, so it’s kind of the first opportunity to say, “Yeah, we’re here.”
CL: Is there anything about cottaging that makes you feel distinctly “Canadian”?
AV: What makes me feel Canadian about it? Well, my lot is completely covered in maple trees, I have beavers cutting down everything—all the birch on my property is neatly combed little stumps—and I have moose droppings all over the place. I bring people from Sweden, Germany, Norway, and Portugal there—friends I’ve made who kayak or are related to the sport—and they always feel like they are having the most Canadian experience of all time.
Read van Koeverden’s full-length feature about his cabin in Algonquin Park in Cottage Life‘s Summer 2012 issue.