Sebago Canoe Club Alumni – a Part of Your Proud History

By Hap Whelpley

In December, 1967 I joined the Saint Francis Prep Flatwater Canoe and Kayak team. My introduction to the team was at the Metropolitan Avenue pool and bath house in Williamsburg. At the time, I was a member of the school swim team which practiced at the facility. The canoe team, moderated by Brother Louis Cunningham, swam for conditioning in the off-season at the same time. The Kayak and Canoe team enjoyed the practices, while the swim practices seemed more like work than fun. Probably because I realized that as a freshman swimmer I was already far behind classmates who swam competitively since birth and the fact that the canoe team looked like they were having fun, I decided to switch sports.

My entrance into canoeing was typical for almost everyone on the team. The high school students from St. Francis, Canarsie High School and other schools started canoeing with little if any knowledge and no experience in a canoe or kayak. Most did not have the talent or experience for baseball, basketball or football. Risking being overly dramatic, Sebago Canoe Club was the sports equivalent of the Statute of Liberty. The welcoming leaders, coaches and volunteers provided the opportunity for so many young men and women to learn and compete in a new sport. When the flatwater program started at Sebago (sometime in the early- to mid-60s) no one knew where it was going or the amount of work and cost it would entail.

In addition to racing, Ray Hunt introduced wilderness Canadian canoe trips to many of the paddlers. Ray, a former scout leader, decided it was easier to teach canoers camping skills than to teach scouts good canoeing skills. I’m not sure he felt that way after my first Canadian trip, but he still took me on four more.

All of us will forever be indebted to Al Musial and Scott Greifenberger, the commodores, and Gordon Miller, Ray Hunt, Brother Louis Cunningham and Robert Dumas, our coaches and moderators. These men devoted countless hours to our development as paddlers and individuals.

The program’s success exceeded all expectations. The club won many Divisional Championships and a National Championships in 1972. Henry Krawczyk, a Polish immigrant welcomed by Sebago, represented the US in the Olympics in a K-1. I could go on for a long time mentioning the individual achievements of many paddlers. While the individual and club achievements were important, the real success of the program was the lasting impact Sebago had on so many men and women. Yes, who we are today was in so many ways impacted by Sebago Canoe Club.

On Saturday, September 23, 2017, we will hold a reunion of the Sebago Canoe Club Alumni at the Lake Sebago ACA Camp, thanks to the support of Linda Peterson, the Camp Director there. We will be planning the event over the next few months. Please join our reunion, making the event a celebration of Sebago Canoe Club past and present.

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