Welcome to the 2018 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

Five canoeing and kayaking greats through the ages

The art of canoeing is at least 150 years old, and has evolved in that time from a useful form of transportation along waterways, to an enjoyable hobby and a competitive and highly demanding sport at its highest level. Now we are now going to look at five people known for their contribution to canoeing and kayaking throughout the years.

1. John MacGregor

As a starting point, it seems only fair to give a nod to the man most credited with developing and popularising canoeing in the Western world. Scottish explorer MacGregor saw canoes being used first-hand while travelling in North America in 1858, and had several of them built throughout the following decade. During his life, he went on to explore such areas as Scandinavia and the Middle East, demonstrating the form of transport to numerous cultures along the way.

2. Bill Havens

When canoeing made an appearance at the 1924 Games in Paris, it brought with it a heart-warming story about American canoeist Bill Havens, who missed the chance to compete in the event to be by his wife’s side as his son was born.

Nearly three decades later, a Havens did manage to win an Olympic gold, but it wasn’t Bill – it was his son Frank, whose birth Bill had put before the chance to show what he could do in Paris.

3. Gregor Hradetzky

Perhaps the star of canoeing in its debut year as an official Olympic sport was Austrian Hradetzky, who won two gold medals in Berlin in 1936. One of them was in the gruelling 10,000m sprint, which had been phased out of the Games by 1960.

Interestingly, Hradetzky is said to have juggled his canoeing exploits with a career in building organs. In 1936 at least, his performances were certainly music to the ears of Austrian fans of the sport.

4. Birgit Fischer

German kayaker Birgit Fischer is the most successful Olympic canoeist in history, picking up eight gold medals in her career. What makes this achievement even more notable is her longevity, considering the medals were collected over the course of six different Olympic Games from 1980 to 2004; a feat that has only ever been matched by Hungarian fencer Aladár Gerevich.

Fischer’s medal haul might have been even more impressive had she not missed the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles due to an East German boycott. She won her eighth and final gold medal at Athens 2004 at the age of 42. Not surprisingly, she is viewed as an icon in her home country, where she was named sportswoman of the year following her exploits in Greece.

5. Tim Brabants

Britain’s most successful representative of the discipline is Chertsey-born sprint kayaker Tim Brabants, who became the first ever Brit to win an Olympic gold in canoeing in 2008. His success came in the K-1 1,000m event, and he also picked up a bronze that year in the 500m equivalent. This built on the K-1 1,000m bronze medal he had collected in Sydney eight years earlier.

On home soil in London last year, his efforts were somewhat eclipsed by gold medal winners Ed McKeever and the two-man canoeing team of Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, but Brabants remains the most decorated British canoeing Olympian.