Get to know the newest member of the Nova Craft Canoe ambassador team!
ori Baird is the founder of Paddle Like a Girl – a two-day paddling and backcountry skill building workshop for women that Tori runs on her property on the Magnetawan River. Tori’s an accomplished canoeist who has paddled some of Canada’s wildest rivers alongside her husband and fellow Nova Craft ambassador Jim Baird.
Nova Craft: Our canoes have taken you to some pretty special places. What has been your favourite trip thus far and why?
Tori: My favourite trip thus far would have to be the East Natashquan river trip believe it or not. It was my first remote multi-week canoe trip and it challenged me mentally and physically in ways I had never anticipated. It included my most difficult portage to date which was 6km through a trail-less old burn and it took us 2 and a half days to complete. It’s because of that portage that I am as resilient as I am today. I saw the northern lights there for the first time, I had my first bear encounter, I saw a couple of the most spectacular waterfalls I’ve ever seen and overall it’s a trip that will always remain prominent in my memory.
Between you and your husband you’ve got about half a dozen canoes. What’s your favourite boat in your fleet and why?
My favourite boat in our fleet is our 15’ Prospector in Blue Steel. Not only is it a beautiful boat with its ash gunwales but it’s a great option for solo or tandem use, is light enough for me to carry on long portages and fits a good amount of gear for a week long solo trip.
Flatwater or whitewater?
Tough question. Whitewater if I’m paddling bow with my husband Jim but I’m much more at ease on flatwater if I’m paddling solo.
What’s the mission of Paddle like a Girl and what inspired you to launch it? What’s been the best or most rewarding aspect so far?
My mission behind Paddle Like a Girl is to get more women out paddling and enjoying the outdoors on their own terms. My ‘solo but not alone’ trip with Cobi was the initial inspiration behind starting Paddle Like a Girl because I had felt so empowered after paddling 5 days solo across Algonquin and I wanted other women to experience that feeling as well. The most rewarding aspect so far would have to be watching women solo carry a heavy canoe that they never thought they could carry. It’s incredible to see the look of accomplishment on their face as they portage the canoe to the put-in. I also love seeing what adventures they are getting up to after leaving my workshop.
What advice would you give someone planning their first solo backcountry trip?
Start off small with something you know you can handle and gradually work your way up. You will learn so much each time you go out, but you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew in the beginning and then have a bad experience that leaves you not wanting to try again.
What’s on your agenda for the 2021 season?
This summer I have 4 workshops lined up so far and am hoping to add more to the schedule. I am also teaming up with Kawartha Land Trust and Wild Rock to run a women’s backcountry basics workshop in June. I’m currently putting together a Paddle Like a Girl backcountry canoe trip in Temagami for previous Paddle Like a Girl participants which will hopefully take place at the end of September. Otherwise we have a couple more things scheduled in August that we will announce a little later on in the season!