Bill Mason’s Paddle: A Legend for Sale

The Path of This Paddle

Mason in the mist, likely using the paddle now up for auction. Photo by Ken Buck

Mason in the mist, likely using the paddle now up for auction. Photo by Ken Buck

By Adrick Brock

How much would you pay for sixty inches of canoeing history?

The highest bidder in today’s eBay showdown will walk away with a whitewater paddle used by canoeing legend Bill Mason, widely recognized as the grandfather of modern canoeing. During the 70’s and 80’s the Canadian canoeing icon produced a series of instructional books and videos (Path of the Paddle, Song of the Paddle) that have since become bibles of the sport.

“We can only keep so much of his stuff,” says Bill’s son, Paul Mason. He and his sister, Becky Mason, have donated the majority of their father’s collection to various museums, but there are still a number of boats and bits of gear they’re eager to share with their father’s fans.

Bill Mason's Clement softwood paddle. Photo Paul Mason

Bill Mason’s Clement softwood paddle. Photo Paul Mason

This particular paddle is a river-beaten, 60 inch Clement softwood used by Bill Mason during the late seventies and early eighties. Mason used a rotating cast of Clements, but Paul’s guess is that this particular paddle likely features in both the book and film version of his father’s iconic tome, Path of the Paddle.

“Dad was evangelical about the merits of the Prospector,” says Paul, referring specifically to the 16-foot red canoe that now hangs on display in the Canoe Museum of Canada in Peterborough, Ontario. The paddle, however, was less sacred to his father. “He thought of it as more of a tool,” Paul says. “Mind you, it was a tool that ranked higher on his list than whatever shuttle car he was driving.”

Mason cared more about canoes and paddles than his shuttle rigs. Photo by Ken Buck

Mason cared more about canoes and paddles than his shuttle rigs. Photo by Ken Buck

The Clement has a current bid of just over $400, but the bids are sure to rise all the way up to this evening’s cut-off, at 9 p.m. Algonquin Time (a/k/a Eastern Standard Time). Paul admits he’s a little surprised at how much the paddle is promising to sell for, and hints at the possibility that more of Bill Mason’s memorabilia might come up for sale in the future.

Paul knows the paddle will be incredibly precious for the highest bidder, but he doesn’t expect it to go into a plexi-glass case. “If Dad were alive I think he’d be more than happy if someone used the paddle and broke a tip off it. He’d get a kick out of that for sure.”

Making History: Bill Mason filming on Lake Superior. Photo by Ken Buck

Making History: Bill Mason filming on Lake Superior. Photo by Ken Buck

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