This paddle is big. Really big.

Published: July 13, 2020

Mike Ranta and The Big Paddle Mike Ranta

While Americans like to claim that “everything’s bigger in Texas,” we Canucks like ridiculously large objects too, from a 90-tonne lobster sculpture in Shediac, N.B., to Sudbury’s 9-metre-high nickel, to the world’s largest hockey stick in Duncan, B.C. Well-travelled canoeist Mike Ranta decided to add to the country’s collection of large objects by building the world’s largest paddle. 

Once completed, the 110-feet-long paddle with a 17-wide blade, will weigh more than 10 tonnes, and will dwarf the current record holder, a 60-foot-long, 9-foot-high paddle in Parson, B.C. Appropriately, Mike has dubbed his creation The Big Dipper. 

With the shaft and handle already completed, Mike hopes to wrap up the project early next year so that it can be transported to its permanent home on the grounds of Killarney Mountain Lodge

But more important than the scale of the paddle is the cause it’s supporting, “I wanted to do something to honour our Canadian veterans.” A carved plaque commemorating the sacrifices of our service people will be included as part of the finished project. 

One of the key features—and most difficult parts to construct—is the hollow core that will house a sealed, stainless steel time capsule that won’t be opened for 200 years. “I’ve being telling people to put in something the size of their heart,” says Mike. Obviously, given the long timeframe he won’t accept anything organic or perishable, but given the current climate he also jokes, “I tell people, nothing about Trump or Covid.” Some of the items he’s already collected include small carvings and “lots of personal letters.” (Anyone interested in submitting items of their own can contact him through the Big Dipper website.) 

Since 2011, Mike has completed numerous epic canoe trips across the country. In 2014, he travelled from Vancouver to Tatamagouche, N.S., a journey of approximately 8,000 km that he—and his dog Spitzii—completed in 214 days. That trek make him the first person to solo cross the continent in one season, albeit with a canine companion. Each trip is done to raise awareness and funds for causes dear to his heart, including First Nations, first responders dealing with PTSD, and veterans.

He’ll take a break from paddle making this summer for his next canoe trip, which will take him from Killarney up to James Bay, and then back down along the Harricana and Ottawa rivers. Mike will finish up in Ottawa where he’ll collect his Meritorious Service Award from the Governor General, an award bestowed for “exceptional deeds accomplished over a limited period of time that bring honour to our country.”  

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