In the five years that I’ve participated in Paddle the Don event, I often get a reaction of mock-horror whenever I explain it to someone. “What if you tip into the water?” they exclaim, as if this would be tantamount to plunging headfirst into a nuclear waste pool without a HazMat suit. Well two years ago, I did happen to swamp my canoe in a shallow part of the river and it wasn’t horrible at all. Plus, it’s really handy now that much of my skin glows in the dark, so there.
Now sponsored by Manulife, Paddle the Don is an event that allows Toronto’s urban paddlers a unique opportunity to paddle down the Don River. It’s flooded for the event so that the waters are high enough to make it navigable (and some sections still seem quite shallow towards the end of the day). Since 2002, it’s also been a fundraiser for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), with paddlers collecting pledges or donating out of their own pockets. There are rewards for fundraising – my $50 donation got me a BBQ lunch at the end of my paddle, and this year’s event T-shirt which is a bright blue and says “Eat, Sleep, Paddle” under iconographic images.