It started out a bit like an online date. I was looking for a speedy, stable and competitive canoe. About 18 feet long, not too curvy.

“Sounds like you’ll want a Clipper Jensen,” Yukon River Quest organizer Valerie Ross told me over the phone. “But we only have one left in our rental fleet, so you’ll need to act fast.”

Fly across the country to paddle for three days straight in a canoe that I’d never sat in before—what could possibly go wrong? I Googled for an image of the boat.

“Let me give you my credit card number,” I told Valerie.

Perhaps also like online dating, when we arrived in Whitehorse, Yukon, to compete in the longest annual canoe and kayak race in the world and finally met our canoe just hours before the start, I wasn’t sure what to think. In person, the boat’s 18-foot length and 13-inch depth was unfamiliar—both longer and shallower than the trippers I usually paddle. Yet, with those long lines and virtually no rocker, I could tell that the Jensen was a canoe that would paddle fast and track true.

Designed by marathon canoeing revolutionary Eugene Jensen (father of the bent shaft paddle and many modern race designs), Clipper Canoes began manufacturing Jensen models in their Abbotsford, British Columbia, shop back in 1980. While Clipper has since added bells and whistles like foam thigh pads and wood trim options, the hull design itself has barely changed.

With a reputation for being fast under load and stable in non-technical whitewater, it’s no wonder that a decade ago the Yukon River Quest’s organizing committee opted to outfit their small…


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