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Something different: Canoe waxing!

Wed, Mar  23, 2011 - By Eric Fraser

Although ski wax is designed for skiing, there are some who use it for activities that are completely different...

Ice canoe races usually involve triangular shaped circuits between two distant cross the river buoys. The teams must negotiate the terrain, the current, the tide and even the wind to make the quickest (not necessarily the shortest) route to success. It is impossible to have the same path as your opponents due to these natural elements taking place. Tide and current in opposite directions create 'turntable ice' that can fool a team and rob it of a few precious seconds.

Conditions include water, snow, slush and ice. In water or loose slush we row, but once on hard slush or ice we 'scooter' about. We face the front of the canoe and keep one leg inside the canoe (in a shaped trough) and the other leg plowing-treading-pushing on the hard stuff.

Team Chateau Frontenac Workshop

Team Chateau Frontenac - Ice Canoe Racing

The captain steers by paddle in the water, but on ice the front men initiate the turns, calling out the orders for the rear men to assist. The 5 person team members are all involved in pushing and steering the boat through and around the various obstacles. Ice chunks can be long, flat and as big as tennis courts, or sharp and choppy like a minefield with points over 3 feet tall (or sometimes even bigger).

On average, in the water we row 10 km per hour. On medium difficult ice we can go 8 km per hour. On skin perfect ice, we have achieved speeds up to 29 km an hour. Scootering allows for more than twice the normal stride length of a human as we benefit from glide as well! We race on specialized carbon fibre canoes, carbon fibre oars with ice picks at the end, and the famous ice crampons we wear on our feet.

Team Chateau Frontenac Race

We are team Chateau Frontenac, captained by the local living legend Jean Anderson (electronics engineer by day). Second in command is Michel Lessard, our most experienced wax man on board, front man starboard (vp operations by day in a local high tech company). Next is me, Eric Fraser, industrial designer and innovation consultant by day, my job in the boat is rear starboard (rocket man). On the portside we have: Mathieu Grenier, front man, machinist by day. Rear starbaord is Benoit Tremblay, professor of human kinetics and our substitute is Eric Desroches, fireman.

We spend 10 hours a week training 4 months a year, 6 hours a week 8 months a year in preparation for the ice season. We have a total of 5 races a year with cumulative points. The Chateau Frontenac team has the longest winning streak since the history of the sport. So far this year, we have won all the races with 2 more to go!

The best teams (assuming equal cardio performance) are those who wax right and those who have the best field technique to transfer back and forth efficiently between rowing position and scootering position. This is more complicated than it sounds as oars and paddles need to be either stored or taken out.

Here are the steps for our waxing process:

1. Bring canoe indoors and let warm up

2. Brush to clean off dirt and leftover wax

3. Crayon on an antistatic base layer

4. Hand cork with a synthetic cork

5. Crayon on Toko HF Yellow

6. Heat in with a torch

7. Crayon Toko JetStream Yellow

8. Hand cork

9. Brush out lightly

10. Cover canoe with tarp and pack for travel

11. Once on site, apply Toko HelX

Waxing the 28 foot long canoe takes 2-3 hours for 3-4 people. We also test with a pull scale. An unwaxed canoe can require a bull weight of over 50 pounds compared to a well waxed canoe which can require less than 13 pounds.

Eric Fraser, Rocket man, Team Chateau Frontenac