Aliesha Greve remembers climbing in and out of all kinds of canoes when she was little, and standing around to have her measurements taken for her dad’s latest project.

Composite Creations Splash
LENGTH: 7’11”
WIDTH: 23.5”

She was seven years old and her father, Al, an engineer and avid paddler, spent hours in the garage sanding a foam block into what he hoped would be the perfect kid-sized canoe design.

The idea came about one night when Al Greve, Paul Mason, Andy Phillips and a handful of their life-long paddling friends, were sitting around a campfire.

Ever thought of making a kid canoe?” someone asked Phillips, the owner of canoe manufacturer Composite Creations.

A conversation ensued about whether or not it was worth the investment: would people buy boats their kids would grow out of?

The evening ended without coming to any conclusions, but five months later, Al arrived at Phillips’ workshop door with a sanded down chunk of foam that would turn into a mold for the Splash, a seven-foot, 11- inch long, 36-pound solo canoe.

When the final design was ready, eight-year-old Aliesha and her little sister Emily were among the first pint-sized paddlers to take it for a spin.

Al’s work was not for waste. After seeing kid kayakers out with their parents he wanted an OC equivalent, and today, his proud-dad praise is well warranted. At 11, Emily was featured on the cover of American Whitewater Journal running 15- foot Baby Falls on the Tellico River in Tennessee. Aliesha, who went on to win two junior national championships in women’s C-1, is now 20 and teaching paddling courses at the Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC) which hosts a “Splash Canoe Week” just for kids.

“I learned pretty much everything I know in the Splash,” says Aliesha. “I learned the essence of canoeing at a young age.”

Phillips designs each Splash specifically for the family ordering i t. H e’s m ade o ne w ith flames and a few in a “gummi worm pattern”—a combo of bright colors dreamed up by a 10-year-old customer.

“They’re temper tantrum proof,” says Phillips of the composite hull material, which he also uses to make auto and aviation products. “A kid could throw it off a cliff and it wouldn’t hurt it.”

Its built-in tanks eliminate the need for float bags, and are custom-fitted for each baby boater, who can weigh up to 100 pounds. The Splash’s modified rocker makes it easy to manage—a bulbous front end facilitates gentle surfing and avoids uncontrolled enders on a pushier wave. It’s stable and forgiving thanks to a rounded hull.

Photo: Colin Moneypenny
Composite Creations Splash Canoe Review | Photo: Colin Moneypenny

It might be the mom and pop shop feel of the Ontario-based canoe company, or the fact that the boats are custom-built, but talking to Splash owners made one thing very clear: Composite Creations doesn’t just have customers, it has a community of clients who are keen to get their kids paddling. It’s the same reason Phillips sells the Splash at cost—“it’s about getting the next generation into the sport,” he says, not about making a profit.

The Shawanda family has three kids, now aged 12, 15 and 16, and their father Maheengun can’t say enough about what the Splash has done for his family.

When he took an interest in canoeing himself, he picked up a Splash so the kids could learn alongside him. Six years later, his family still paddles together at every opportunity and road trips to whitewater festivals every year. When his kids outgrew the Splash, Shawanda passed it on to a new owner who he hopes will have the same experience.

“It transformed everything,” says Shawanda. “We were learning together.” EMMA DRUDGE

This article on introducing friends to whitewater was published in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Rapid magazine.This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of Rapid Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

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