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Coach Greg Walker

and the History of War Canoe

About this Photo - Coach Greg Walker (2nd from rt.-far side) in a 1000 m war canoe race in 1973 on Lake Ontario. His boat was the dominant winner, setting an unofficial Canadian World Record in the 1000 m.

Typically, a war canoe will be faster than a dragon boat over any given distance, because of a better hull shape (narrower and without the characteristic 'w' shape of dragon boat hulls), lighter construction, and the kneeling position allowing for a fuller, more powerful stroke than the sitting position used in dragon boats.

A War Canoe is a watercraft of the canoe type designed and outfitted for warfare, and which is found in various forms in many world cultures. In modern times, such designs have become adapted as a sport, and "war canoe" can mean a type of flat water racing canoe.

Traditional sea-going dug out canoe carved from single cedar tree and Sḵwxwú7mesh men in Burrard Inlet. Until the Anti-Potlatch Laws of 1922, hundreds of such canoes competed in Vancouver Harbour as part of Dominion Day celebrations

War Canoes As A Sport

War canoe is largely a Canadian sport, with some teams coming from the northwestern United States as well; it is not sanctioned by the International Canoe Federation. It does not enjoy the massive popularity and marketing support of Dragon boating, but is nonetheless an important part of most Canadian canoe club racing programs. The term 'war canoe' is derived from large indigenous peoples' canoes intended for war, and war canoeing was in fact a popular sport in Vancouver, British Columbia before large gatherings of indigenous people were outlawed in 1922. 

War canoeing among indigenous communities is enjoying a revival today, although there as yet has been little interaction with non-indigenous teams.A war canoe holds 15 paddlers including one coxswain, or cox, for steering. War canoe is sometimes referred to as C-15 on regatta schedules, with the 'C' standing for 'canoe'. The paddlers, 7 to a side and slightly offset from one another, kneel on one knee while paddling. The coxswain stands with their calves braced between a yoke on the back of the boat. Paddlers on the left will kneel on their left knee and vice versa, as in a Sprint canoe, and the foremost paddler, whether on the right or left, will set the stroke. Boats are most often constructed of wood, although some newer boats will be made of fiberglass. Races will typically be of 500 m or 1000 m. The paddles used can be made of wood, but carbon fibre paddles are becoming standard, as their reduced weight leads to improved performance. War canoe is seen as a prestige event at regattas where it is held, as it allows a significant portion of a club's racing members to be in the boat at once and compete together. It is a large team event in a sport that typically focuses on individual achievements. Crews will be taken from the appropriate age range (e.g. Bantam, junior, masters, etc.), and races are held for men's, women's, or mixed crews.

History of War Canoes

War canoes were used in Africa to transport troops and supplies, and engage targets onshore. While documentation of canoe versus canoe battles in on the open ocean is rare, records from the 14th century mention various tribal peoples of West Africa using huge fighting canoes in inland waters, some up to 80 feet (24 m) and carrying over 100 men. Construction of the war canoe was typically from one massive tree trunk, with the silk cotton tree being particularly useful. The inside was dug out and carved using fire and hand tools. Braces and stays were used to prevent excessive expansion while the fire treatment was underway. Fire also served to release sap as a preservative against insect pests. Some canoes had 7 to 8 feet (2.4 m) of width inside, accommodating benches for rowers, and facilities such as fireplaces and sleeping berths.

Warriors on board were typically armed with shield, spear and bow. In the gunpowder era, small iron or brass cannon were sometimes mounted on the bow or stern, although the firepower delivered from these areas and weapons was relatively ineffective. Musketeers delivering fire to cover raiding missions generally had better luck. The typical tactic was to maneuver close to shore, discharge weapons, then quickly pull out to open water to reload, before dashing in again to repeat the cycle. Troop and supply transport were the primary missions, but canoe versus canoe engagements in the lagoons, creeks and lakes of West Africa were also significant.

Greg's National Championship Record With Cheema Aquatic Club

The National Championships (Canadian Canoe Championships) have been organized and governed by CanoeKayak Canada (CKC) (formerly the Canadian Canoe Association-CCA) since 1900. Cheema Aquatic Club formed in 1969 and was the Champion Club (winner of the Burgee) this past year in 2012. Greg's C-4 and C-15 CANMAS National races on August 26th, 2012 contributed points to the Cheema Burgee 2012 Championship win. Greg joined the club in his younger years when it first formed and was an active participant for the next 11 years during which Cheema won the Burgee in 1977, was 2nd place runner up in 1976 and 1979 and 3rd place in 1978. The Cheema Aquatic Club National Championship record is as follows:

Burgee Champion






2nd Place Runner Up







3rd Place




Paddling History of Coach Greg Walker

Greg began paddling at the age of 15 and was an original member of the Cheema Aquatic Club formed in 1969 in his home town area of Waverly, Nova Scotia. For the next 11 years he was an active member paddling singles (C-1); Tandems (C-2); C-4 and war canoe (C-15). ( "C" denotes "canoe" and the number stands for the number of paddlers).

Paddling War Canoe Once Again...

Greg Joins the Cheema Masters Program Summer 2012

This past summer of 2012 Greg once again became active in the Cheema Aquatic Club and joined the Masters Program paddling men's war canoe (C-15) and men's sprint C-4. He competed in the CKC (CanoeKayak Canada) CANMAS (Canadian Masters Canoeing) National Championships August 26th on Lake Banook. Our Captain Gordon Gillis and team manager, Christine Gillis traveled to Canada for the National Championships to cheer Greg on in his two competitions. In event # 49, men's C-4 (C45-54) Greg's 4 man sprint canoe finished 3rd of 9 teams from across Canada, and placed first of the 3 Cheema teams competing in this event. His canoe's C-4 time couldn't have been closer to a 2nd place finish with only .297 100ths of a second difference. (His team's 3rd place finish time was 2:31.859; 2nd place 2:31.562.) In event #98, men's C-15 (B 43+) War Canoe, Greg's team once again placed 3rd of 5 competing teams, this time with even a closer time to 2nd place with only .200 100ths of a second difference. (His team's 3rd place finish time 2:08.275; 2nd place 2:08.075.) The Cheema team won the 2012 Nationals Burgees which is determined by a point system awarded for each race in sprint canoe/kayak and war canoe, with war canoe being given a higher point value. A total of 376 races took place over a 4 day race period from August 22-25 and 103 race events in kayak and canoe were held on the 26th in the CANMAS Nationals competition for a total of 479 races over the course of 5 days competition.

The Black Sheep Marines team congratulates you Greg on your outstanding sprint C-4 and C-15 War Canoe CANMAS Nationals performances.. YOU'VE STILL GOT IT EVEN IF YOU COULDN'T WALK FOR 5 DAYS AFTER YOUR FIRST WAR CANOE PRACTICE. Oorah for Cheema - 2012 National Champions!

About the Cheema Masters Program...

The Masters Program at Cheema Aquatic Club is for individuals 25 years or older who enjoy fitness, fun and team camaraderie and want the opportunity to partake at competitive regattas.

The Masters Program is committed to providing coaching and training for new and experienced paddlers alike. The emphasis is on team War Canoe with additional coaching and opportunity to participate in small boats. The social component of the Master's Program runs a very close second to the competitive program. Each year they compete at CANMAS which is the National Championships.

The Cheema Aquatic Club Waverly, Nova Scotia

Coach Greg Walker and Chris Gillis at a Cheema canoe storage shed in Waverly, Nova Scotia Canada. A team of boys and girls from the Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverley, Nova Scotia was selected to represent Canada at a demonstration event at the 2012 Olympics.

The Cheema Aquatic Club was founded in 1969 in order to provide outdoor activities for local youth. It has evolved into a highly competitive sprint canoe and kayak club with additional swimming programs, office space, facilities and meeting rooms. The club also contains the largest weight training facility in the division and a six kilometer outdoor running trail. Located on Lake Thomas (originally neighboring Lake William), Cheema was the first Atlantic club to win the CCA championship and the CCA burgees in every age class. "Cheema" is Mi'Kmaq for "to paddle".

Nova Scotia Athletes take War Canoe to the 2012 London Olympics

Young athletes demonstrate the war canoe that they will paddle as a demonstration sport at the 2012 London Olympic games this summer, on Lake Thomas, in Waverley, N.S. on Saturday, May 12, 2012. War canoe racing is a mainly Canadian sport and plays an important role in sprint racing competition across the country.

N.S. – Fourteen teens valiantly paddled on one knee in a newly minted war canoe in Nova Scotia on Saturday, a practice-of-sorts for the crew’s appearance at the London 2012 Olympics this summer. The team of boys and girls from Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverley, N.S., was selected to represent Canada at a demonstration event at the Olympics, where other boats from around the world will be exhibited. Club supporters and officials from Canoe Kayak Canada watched from the shore as the crew of 14, 15, and 16-year-olds guided the war canoe through the waters of Lake Thomas on its maiden voyage.

A few smiles could be seen as the team vigorously cut their paddles into the sun kissed lake. For 16-year-old Hayley Nelson, heading to London means that she’s one step closer to her dream of competing at the Olympics. “It’s going to be something that our whole crew will be able to remember for the rest of our lives. We’re so thankful for this boat,” said Nelson of Wellington, N.S., pointing to the mighty war canoe. “We’re overwhelmed and thankful for all that is happening. ”Nelson’s teammate Tyler Graves was also beaming with Olympic hopes. “Although it’s only a demonstration boat when we go there, we all have the dream and desire to someday actually compete in the Olympic Games,” said the 15-year-old, also from Wellington. The Cheema crew was selected after beating out several other boats from across the country at a race last August in Welland, Ont. Jon Pike, the crew’s coach and the boat’s coxswain, said war canoes are uniquely Canadian and is proud his crew won the opportunity to showcase it on the world stage. “We know we've got a pretty awesome thing,” said Pike, just after steering the boat with the crew for the first time. “It will be awesome to show the world… what we have. ”Robert Fraser, a local craftsman from Dartmouth, N.S., said building the boat was a challenge, as it was the 67-year-old’s first time constructing a war canoe. He says it was hand-built without using any plans or molds. “Just like the athletes, this was a dream to me,” said Fraser, who has been building boats since he was a boy. The boat took three and a half months to construct and is built from 9 meter long sheets of cedar from British Columbia, said Fraser. The club has been fundraising for the trip since winning the race. Several Olympians are former Cheema paddlers including Karen Furneaux and Jillian D’Allessio, a Canoe Kayak Canada press release said.