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A different kind of upset in whitewater paddling: the Massive C-1 Groove

Massive Groove

In general, we prefer to maintain four or five decades of hindsight to accumulate before acquiring a modern canoe or kayak for our permanent collection. In a family as diverse and dynamic as the paddling sports in their myriad forms, there have been many flashy newcomers that have perhaps not had the lasting effect once claimed or imagined. A result of this caution is that a walk through the 500 or so canoes and kayaks in our Collections Storage facility shows a predominance of wooden hulls, peppered lightly by the odd modern composite.

CCM Collections Storage

On rare occasions, however, we have the opportunity to acquire a contemporary boat that has a story, a pedigree or a relationship to a singular person that calls for a hastier response. For instance, several years ago we had the opportunity to acquire two K-1 sprint kayaks belonging to celebrated Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden. One, by Plastex, was used at the 2004 Athens Olympics to earn Gold and Bronze. The other, a Nelo K-1, was used to claim Silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Adam van Koeverden spring K-1s

Adam van Koeverden sprint kayaks

Earlier this year, we learned about a great little boat with a tie-dye colour scheme called the Groove C-1 by Massive. Designed by that company’s owners Ian Thompson and Paul Danks for the vibrant whitewater freestyle canoe and kayaking community in the mid to late-90s, this playboat caused one of those wonderful moments in sport where a break-through design succeeds at a meet. In the hands of its accomplished paddler and co-designer, Danks, it cleaned up. In competitions leading up to the 1997 Ottawa Rodeo Worlds, Danks and his Groove had dominated again and again but would ultimately be barred from competing at the Worlds for concerns over the boat’s revolutionary design. However, the boat would leave its mark and many competitors have stated that elements from the Groove’s form influenced future hull designs in this sport.

Billy Harris (Canadian Freestyle team since 1999) claimed that: “the Massive C-1 Groove not only revolutionized the freestyle movement that we have today, but was so instrumental, that the sport had to change overnight to accommodate the capabilities of the boat.Massive Groove 2

The Canadian Canoe Museum would like to thank accomplished whitewater paddler and filmmaker Ben Aylsworth for the donation of this important part of Canadian sport paddling history and also for compiling many testimonials from the paddling community. In his words:

“The Groove changed freestyle paddling forever. It is, I believe, the most important modern freestyle boat ever designed. It exemplifies not only the lasting impact that Canadians have had on the sport (they don’t call it C-1 for nothing!) but also the spot where the world of kayaking continues to take shape: The Ottawa River.”

Olympic fever has hit the Canoe Museum! With all the excitement of the Games, we thought it would be fun to revisit some of the Olympic memorabilia in our collection.

A research request recently brought this object front and centre, and we couldn’t be more pleased!  Not only is this paddle visually appealing, but like most objects in our collection it tells an interesting story that provides a glimpse into our paddling past.


In 1952 American C1 paddler Frank Havens travelled to Helsinki to compete in the Olympic Games. The son of Bill Havens, another outstanding American canoeist, Frank had previously competed at the 1948 Games, held in London.

Frank brought three paddles with him to Helsinki. During his first week of training on the Olympic course Frank found that two of his paddle blades had developed pressure cracks. Luckily the Finnish team had brought a wood worker with them, and Frank was able to deliver his damaged blades to the Finns for repair.  Unluckily, in the week before Frank’s event was about to take place his last paddle blade broke. More bad news came in the form of an ill Finnish wood worker who was unable to complete any paddle repairs.

The American tandem team had spare blades, but they were too short for Frank’s purposes. In the Canadian camp, Earl “Doc” Whittall had heard of Frank’s dilemma and loaned him a 72 inch blade that he used for steering “war” canoes. The blade was too long, and too heavy, but suitable for training purposes until Frank could find something better.


Doc Whittall. Circa 1945.


On the day before Frank’s race, the Finnish wood worker was still too ill to perform any repairs and Frank was stuck up the figurative creek…without the literal paddle. Desperate, Frank asked Doc if he had a 69 inch paddle that he could borrow for the race. Doc responded by loaning Frank his own personal blade from the Lachine Canoe Club in Quebec, a 69 inch Clement paddle with the name “DOC” in bold black letters, and red and white stripes on the blade.


Frank Havens on the day of the 10, 000 metre race.


Frank used the Canadian blade in the 10, 000 metre C1 race on July 27, 1952. Not only did Frank win, he also set the world and Olympic record of 57.41.4. After the event Frank took the paddle back to Doc to thank him. Doc was as pleased with the results as Frank was, and gifted him the paddle, telling him that he “had earned it”.

The Canoe Museum is lucky to hold this emblem of the Olympic spirit in its collection, and to be able to tell the story of the American canoeist with the Canadian blade who paddled for Gold.


Frank Havens setting a new world and Olympic record as he paddles to victory with Doc’s Canadian blade.




Photo of Earl “Doc” Whittall courtesy of

Black andWhite Photo of Frank Havens courtesy of Sports Illustrated:

All other photos copyright the Canadian Canoe Museum.