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Jon L. Weller

In Alberta, Canada during the 1960s and early 1970s the popularity of recreational paddling expanded considerably. The reasons for this were varied, including wider demographic and economic shifts that produced a population that was both able, with time and the means, and eager to engage in these activities. But at the same time there was a notable change in the material reality of the sport brought on by the development of new construction techniques and materials. The goal of this article is to investigate the changing nature of recreational paddling in the 1960s and 70s with a focus on the influence that changing materials and construction methods had on these processes. Developed for other commercial purposes, fiberglass provided paddlers in Alberta with a means of constructing more robust canoes cheaply, quickly, and with a great deal of customization. To facilitate this construction, paddlers came together to share knowledge, materials, designs, and labor. In turn, these boatbuilding workshops became the nucleus of a budding and ultimately vibrant paddling community in the province. Moreover, the increased durability and design adaptability allowed paddlers to push the limits of the sport and successively redesign and further specialize the boats allowing for even greater skill development.