Swift Canoe & Kayak is not a company with a century of heritage. Their boats are not produced by old fashioned craftsmen using the most traditional methods––which is not to disrespect that artisanal golden age of Canadian canoe building. But founded in 1984, Swift comes from a different golden age of manufacturing, when new technology allowed designers to explore new technically advanced materials and production methods, but before technology had realized its full potential for mass production at higher profit but lower quality. To put it another way, Swift maintains the traditional craftsman’s attention to detail and quality, while exploring the potential of modern materials and manufacturing methods to achieve the goal of producing the best canoes and kayaks in the world.

Snack Bar  - Adsum
The early years, a photo taken outside the Snack Bar, which used to serve burgers and fries to hungry canoeists.

In 1961, long before they built their first canoe, the Swift family opened an outfitting shop in Canada’s Algonquin Park that specialized in outfitting long canoe trips. They became one of the first outfitters in the country to offer canoes made out of Kevlar, a synthetic fiber developed in the 1960s to provide high strength at much lighter weight than steel or other more traditional materials and without sacrificing flexibility. Vermont’s Mad River Canoe Company was the first to apply the material to canoe building in 1973, revolutionizing the industry. And the popularity of Mad River’s Kevlar designs at the Swifts’ outfitting shops soon led the Swifts to explore building their own cutting edge canoes in 1984.

Joe Torre  - Adsum
An ad promoting Kevlar 49 technology's success at the 1974 Nation Open Whitewater Championships.

Swift’s original Kevlar design, the Kipawa, remains the most popular rental canoe at their outfitting shop, however the company has continued to look to the most cutting-edge technology. Today, Swift offers custom built canoes that––depending on customer preference––incorporate modern Kevlar fabrics made from lightweight carbon fiber with traditional ash and cherry wood, as well as aluminum and heavy duty vinyl. Yet even while the company stays on the absolute cutting edge of canoe building, before each new Swift design goes to production, it is first tested in the North American wilderness lakes and rivers that gave rise to the first advancements in canoe building centuries ago.