This year the Canadian National Concrete Canoe Competition was held at my old university over the Mother's Day weekend. Already home for the weekend to visit my mom, my wife and I decided to pop by for the finals. The fact that it was being filmed for the Discovery Channel and hosted by Survivorman Les Stroud just added to the cool factor. I love Les's show, mainly for his continual assurances that he "hates killing wildlife, but in a survival situation, all life is fair game" just before he whacks some little critter on the head and eats it.
The concrete canoe compeition is exactly what it sounds like. Teams of civil engineering students build a canoe out of concrete and race the suckers. And yes, they do float - they just have to displace more than they weigh. In the past, we were actually able to make concrete that was less dense than water but the rules have changed a little and the artificial aggregate we used to help accomplish this is now illegal for health reasons.
I competed back in 2002 at the island in Toronto. Me and one other guy who is just finishing his belated masters now (and was actually one of the organizers of this year's competition) were the first people to set foot in our school's boat. It was quite frightening, but very quickly we found out how good our canoe was. It was very robust and handled just as well as a real canoe. Being there brought back a lot of memories, though the weather this year was a lot better than cold, hypothermia-inducing rain we had in 2002.
The good news is that the Discovery Channel will be airing a segment on the concrete canoe race tonight on Daily Planet (7:00 and 11:00 Eastern), and the whole event is up on the website.
The best news is that I got to have my picture taken with Survivorman!