The Joy Journal: On A Boat with Chrissy Wessman

I’ve commandeered a canoe a few times in my life, and I’ve only ever gone in circles. Chrissy Wessman, on the other hand, has travelled a bazillion kilometers in her one-person canoe setting national records and winning world championships along the way. She has also helped The Canadian Dragonboat, War Canoe and C4 (4 women canoe) teams become world and national
champions on numerous occasions.

Not only the holder of multiple records, Chrissy is the most humane of humanitarians that researches and develops policies for Health Canada, coaches potential future-Olympians, and acts as a role model for all good human beings. We were lucky enough to hang out with Chrissy last week on an amazing spring day in March. She showed us what it takes to become a champion paddler at her Mississauga Canoe Club.

Ok, Chrissy. Your life’s passions – go!

I am passionate about paddling. I love the constant challenge, friendships and healthy lifestyles that sport provides and can’t remember sport not being a part of my life. I firmly believe in finding that healthy lifestyle that challenges and excites you. I once had “Do Good” on my old phone screen saver. I think you can interpret it in two ways, “be good to others” but also “always do good or your best in anything you do”. I think that motto of always doing your best leads you to cool opportunities that sometimes you can’t even imagine – sport or otherwise.

So you must be excited for this early spring. It is so amazing outside today. I never thought I’d be sitting on a log on a beach in Mississauga in March!

Yeah, I can’t believe it either. A bunch of us have been paddling on the lake already. The high performance sprint canoe kids that I’ve been coaching out of Mississauga Canoe Club are in Florida training right now. It’s crazy to think they could have run some of the camps in Canada [right now]. I keep thinking we should send some pictures of us paddling here but can’t help to think, it’s still pretty nice to be in Florida for a break. It would be amazing though if we could set up the docks and get the boats out soon and start the season off early this year!

It must feel really fulfilling to be able to share your passions and be a role model to so many people. Are you worried about your records, sorry had to do it*, being broken by any of the rowers you are coaching now? (*I promised her I wouldn’t talk about her records)

Whoa, whoa, whoa! First, we have to get it straight! Rowing is a different sport. And rowers are a different people! Just kidding – but the main difference between paddling and rowing is the direction you face when racing. You face the finish line in paddle sports and face backwards while rowing. For me, I love all the different styles of paddle sports: dragonboat, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard and outrigger – especially canoe and dragonboat because we had such a great team and I got to travel around the world.

I guess I’m always curious of what times sprint canoe women are achieving and seeing if I would have still been in the bunch. There is one paddler in particular that I coach though that I am rooting for to break all of my personal bests. I’m hoping that women’s canoe is in the Olympics soon enough and can see her going all the way.

[more of the interview after the jump]

The Mississauga Canoe Club is where Chrissy has spent thousands of hours training, racing and coaching. The club, affectionately known as "Missy" was founded in 1958.

Championship banners cover the walls at the club. Apparently, Chrissy is a champion among champions.

The workshop is where paddlers fine tune their boats. Sometimes, it is the condition of your boat that determines whether you finish first or second.

A bin of paddles used for practice.

This is how you paddle a canoe properly. No wonder I could only ever turn left.

C1 means Canoe for 1 person. C4 mean a canoe for 4. Got it?

One of these canoes holds a world record that will never be beat. Can you guess which one?

Chrissy Wessman. World Record holder of being awesome.

Well, to have earned a national record in anything is amazing. If you could hold any other record in the world what would it be?

Without a doubt, I’d love to hold an Olympic record. If women’s canoe is eventually part of the Olympics, that’s the record I’d dream about.

By the way, how many hours in your life do you think you’ve spent on a boat – without a motor or a Lido Deck or margaritas?

Good question. I guess I could go back through my training logs and count everything up. They say that you have to do your sport for 1,000 hours before you really know what your doing. We used to train twice a day most days and be on the water for about an hour each time… I think I made it past the 1,000h mark!

Twice a day everyday! That must mean you spent a ton of time training outside of the water as well. I suppose I should know, as I am still sore from the workouts that you put me through 8 years ago.

[Laughs] I still remember us lying almost dead outside on the hill after that workout. I’m not sure if it was the crazy workout or the lack of air conditioning combined with no sleep and malnutrition that being a student entails… I think it might have been both!

Either way, let’s keep the results of our arm wrestling competitions a secret. All this talk of exercise has got me motivated to get on the water this summer. Hook me up with a paddleboard?

Alright!! You definitely need to come down to Sunnyside Paddling Club. It’s an awesome spot a few kilometres west of Ontario Place. We’ve got some incredible coaches and paddling programs. PaddleCore will be offering stand up paddle board rentals there too… I’m always happy to see more people taking advantage of the water. You better be there!

So exciting! Can’t wait to do some lake surfing!

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