Kitchissippi senior inspires next generation of kayakers

A photo of Linda posting with her cross country skis on the Kichi Sibi winter trail.
Linda Whitfield, 78, broke her own record by paddling over 80 times in 2022. Photo by Ellen Bond

By Sophia Foglia

A Kitchissippi resident made waves after kayaking over 80 times last year. 

It was a personal best for Linda Whitfield, 78, who discovered her love of kayaking in the early 2000s. She has since explored many local kayak-friendly waters, including sections of the Rideau Canal. 

Linda was raised in an active family, with parents who enjoyed gliding, sailing and figure skating. She said their athletic mindset was also passed on to her own children. 

Though she grew up with canoes, Linda said she prefers kayaks since they open the water to more individual excursions. 

Linda said she also likes to paddle with others, adding that she revels in the chance to bring new friends to her favourite locations. 

“I’m confident that I can paddle in almost anything and that I can be independent,” she said, recommending others give it a try. “It’s certainly something I love to do and I would go out of my way to figure out how to get out and do it.” The challenge fuels her passion.

Linda’s friends are inspired by this “elder’s” dedication to physical activity. The avid paddler and kayaker said the challenge is what fuels her passion. 

“It’s certainly a work out”, Linda said. “I like to challenge myself to make the distance.”

Linda in a Like green kayak paddles in a lake. Threes with fall colours are in the background on a sunny day.
Linda Whitfield paddles during an excursion in the fall. Provided photo

Her daughter, Kate Whitfield, described her mother’s life as “energetic, independent, and adventurous.” She said it’s inspiring to watch her take part in activities that make her “incredibly happy” and that motivate others.

“My mom has made friends of all ages and abilities who meet up to paddle together. They support each other on the water as well as come up with ideas for new places to explore,” Kate said over email. “I have always been proud of my mom and her kayaking adventures.”

One of Linda’s favourite destinations is Lac la Pêche in Gatineau Park. She said the misty mornings and reflections in the deep blue water make this excursion even more enjoyable. Only an hour drive from Kitchissippi, the federal park located in the Outaouais region of Quebec is an oasis for those looking to take part in a variety of physical activities. 

Closer to home, Linda paddles Britannia Beach, but said she tends to avoid Westboro Beach because of its closeness to the Ottawa River rapids that can be dangerous.

When she’s not out on the water, Linda’s life is rounded out by other athletic activities. She was introduced to pickleball in Kingston almost 30 years ago. She also hikes weekly with friends to “crunch up leaves” in the fall and enjoy the beauty of the national capital regions trails. 

“We have some favourite trails in the Ottawa area that we frequently go to,” she said. “The Kichi Sibi Winter Trai along the river is great. We’ve got all these biking lanes. You can bike (or walk) all the way from one end of the city to the other.”

Kayaker Whitfield encourages those looking to try out any new sport to get healthy or stay healthy, to meet like-minded people, or get in touch with the natural world.

She points out that Ottawa offers nearby athletic opportunities and a community that promotes athleticism. “Ottawa is just a fabulous spot for doing all of the things that certainly I love to do.

“Find something you enjoy doing and go for it.”

Linda is cross country skiing down the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail
When she’s not on the water, Whitfield is cross-country skiing around Kitchissippi or taking part in other physical activities. Photo by Ellen Bond.

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