Welcome to the 2017 season

Our website will shortly be updated so that you can book and pay for your paddling online. Until then, reach us by phone, or by email at enquiries@chesterkayakhire.co.uk, where there will always be a prompt and friendly reply. See you on the river soon!

Tel: 01244 422007

Bill Mason and his canoeing life

Bill Mason is a legend in the canoeing world. Not only did he write a number of highly successful canoeing books, but he was also a naturalist, artist, filmmaker, and conservationist.

Mason was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1929. In 1951, the Canadian graduated from the University of Manitoba School of Art, and it was not long until he had developed and perfected a number of canoeing strokes and river-running techniques, many of which were designed to aid canoeists dealing with difficult white-water conditions.

Mason was a lifelong devotee of canoeing and spent much of his time exploring the wilderness of the USA and his native Canada. He passed on his lifelong love of canoeing to his son, Paul Mason, who is also a devoted canoeist and artist.

His films

Before he died in 1988, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Mason created a series of canoeing instructional films, which featured his family, and introduced a range of canoeing techniques. It also tried to give an accurate portrayal of the canoeing experience.

His most popular films about canoeing include ‘Paddle to the Sea’, ‘Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes’, and ‘Path of the Paddle’. He also made a very popular film about the plight of wolves in Canada, called ‘Death of a legend’, which forced the government to rethink its policy of poisoning the animals.

In ‘Paddle to the Sea’, Mason travels to the ocean by way of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence, encountering a number of obstacles and challenges on his way, including forest fires, toxic waste, and crushing ice. He also delights in the stunning landscapes, wildlife and beauty of nature. It was this film that likely inspired a whole generation of people to take up canoeing for themselves.

His canoes

Mason used a number of different Chestnut-model canoes over the years, but he did have a favourite; a red Fort Chestnut Prospector, which was a stunning 16-foot vessel, made from wood and covered in canvas. It was this model that Mason deemed to be the most versatile canoe type ever built, despite it being behind the times in terms of modern designs and materials. After he passed, it was his Fort canoe that was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Ontario, Canada, where it can still be viewed to this day.

Despite most of Mason’s gear being donated to various museums, in 2014 his 60-inch Clement softwood paddle was auctioned on eBay, by his son Paul, who said that he was eager to share pieces of his father’s history with his dedicated fans, of whom there are still many.

Not only did Mason want everyone to enjoy the experience of canoeing, but he was dedicated to preserving nature and cultivating enjoyment of the wilderness in all who watched his films.

Mason’s wife Joyce, along with his children Becky and Paul, work hard to continue his life work and environmental activism.

If Bill Mason has inspired you to take up the pastime, a canoe hire is an affordable way to get started with the sport.