Hermann and Christa Kerckhoff had the incredible foresight to start both the Madawaska Kanu Centre in Barry’s Bay, Canada’s first whitewater school for kayaks and canoes in 1972, as well as OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River in 1981. They immigrated to Canada in the late ’50’s from Northern Germany. Despite stories of Hermann and his sister paddling the whole length of the Rhine River in their teens, it wasn’t until arriving in Canada that they joined a kayaking river trip with the Ontario Voyageurs Kayak Club (OVKC).
Competing on the Rouge River in Quebec in 1969 sparked the dream of starting a whitewater paddling school. Both Christa and Hermann had just won the Canadian Championships, and they felt they should do something with this title. The idea of getting more people into the sport through creating a paddling school emerged. Little did they know that three years later, the Madawaska Kanu Centre would become the first whitewater paddling school in the world.
They chose the middle section of the Madawaska River to build their dream, as the water would be guaranteed with daily releases from Bark Lake Dam. Forty years later, the same programs started in 1972 continue to draw paddlers from around the world for high quality, personal instruction – making MKC the first commercial paddling school in the world.