The material on this page is copyrighted by Key Porter Books Limited, Toronto, Ontario, and by the Mason family, and is used with their permission. It may *not* be copied or printed. Please respect this copyright.
Bill Mason — award winning filmmaker, author, canoeist, whitewater enthusiast, artist, environmentalist — a Canadian Canoeing Legend. He has inspired thousands of canoeists across Canada and the United States with his films and books.
“He is a man enthralled with the sheer joy of guiding a canoe through challenging rapids in the early spring, awestruck by the beauty of nature as seen over the bow of a canoe silently traversing a mirror-smooth lake in the early morning…” — Pierre Trudeau, from the foreword to Path of the Paddle.
He is the author of Path of the Paddle
Song of the Paddle,
both published by Key Porter Books Limited, Toronto, Ontario. Path of the Paddle is Copyright (c) 1980. It has recently been revised by Becky and Paul Mason. Song of the Paddle is Copyright (c) 1988. These photos are used with the permission of Paul Mason and Key Porter Books Limited.
Canoescapes, by Bill Mason and the Mason family, published by Stoddart Publishing, 1995, contains reprints of Bill’s canoeing paintings.
James Raffan’s Fire in the Bones – Bill Mason and the Canadian Canoeing Tradition, published by Harper Collins, 1996, is a biography of Bill Mason.
More information on Bill Mason, including his paintings, films, and books is available at the Bill Mason Home Page, by Becky Mason. Photographic prints of his paintings can be ordered.
Mason is also the author of many award-winning movies, including the canoeing instructional video
“Path of the Paddle”
the canoe-movie “Waterwalker” as well as
“Song of the Paddle”, “Paddle to the Sea”, “Cry of the Wild”
and many, many others.
The biennial Waterwalker Film and Video Festival was established in his memory by the “Friends of Bill Mason” in 1989. Paddle Canada (formerly Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association) has administered the festival since 1991.
Autobiographical excerpt from “Path of the Paddle”
Reprinted with permission from “Path of the Paddle”, by Bill Mason, published by Key Porter Books Limited, Toronto, Ontario, Copyright (c) 1973.
“My addiction to the canoe came at a shockingly early age. I cannot remember a time when I was not fascinated by the canoe. My parents tell me that at the age of five or six my weakness for canoes began to show.
“At Grand Beach on Lake Winnipeg where we lived during the summer, I spent most of my time climbing around the canoes pulled up along the shore. My greatest thrill was to find one tied to the ladder on the pier. I would climb down into it and paddle it back and forth along the length of the rope. When you are only five or six years old and equipped with a vivid imagination, a three foot rope is not a limitation to be taked too seriously. Along the length of that rope I paddled lakes, even oceans, and ran rapids that no one had ever run before. And then the man who owned the canoe would show up and kick me out.
“The happiest time of my whole childhood was when my father rented a canoe for a week. He sometimes rented one for an hour or two, but only this once did he rent it for the week. It was just like owning it. We could go paddling whenever we wanted and stay out as long as we wanted. About the only thing that compared with that first week was the day I bought my first canoe. Nothing I’ve ever owned compares with the thrill of that purchase. I parked it out in the yard under the kitchen window so I could see it while I ate. I moved it constantly so I could view it from different angles. I had discovered that a canoe’s shape is beautiful from any angle, even lying overturned on the grass…..
“A long time ago, as I sat before my fire on the rocky shore of a northern lake, a canoe appeared out the the mist propelled by an Indian fisherman on his way to tend his nets. The poetry of motion was indescribable. He paddled effortlessly with his whole body, yet he went across that lake and disappeared into the mist faster than I would have thought possible. He looked as if he could keep up that pace forever without tiring. I leaped into my canoe and tried to emulate his technique. I’ve been trying ever since with less than perfect results. The reason is obvious. He has probably paddled every day of his life from break-up to freeze-up and I don’t. It’s as simple as that. Like riding a horse, you can learn to stay on the horse in a few hours, but it can take a lifetime to look like you belong there.
“The first thing you must learn about canoeing is that the canoe is not a lifeless, inanimate object: it feels very much alive, alive with the life of the river. Life is transmitted to the canoe by currents of air and the water upon which it rides. The behaviour and temperament of a canoe is dependent upon the elements: from the slightest breeze to a raging storm, from the smallest ripple to a towering wave, or from a meandering stream to a thundering rapid. Anyone can handle a canoe in a quiet millpond, but in a rapids a canoe is like a wild stallion. It must be kept on a tight rein. The canoeist must take the canoe where he or she wants it to go, not where it wants to go. Given the chance, the canoe will dump you overboard and continue on down the river by itself.”
Visit the Mason Family’s website.