Beyond the Field with Tom Canada

LINDSEY WARD -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

PLAYER: Tom Canada (defensive end, No. 44)

OFF-FIELD ACTIVITY: Anything that involves a paddle and a body of water.

When he doesn't have a quarterback to pursue, Tom Canada tends to get in a little over his head.

But hey, that's what happens when you spend most of your off-field time on the water. The 27-year-old Blue Bombers defensive end-slash-paddling pro is still getting used to the bottoms up nature of his newest water sport, kayaking, which requires him to spend too much time face down in the drink.

"The first thing is your body says, 'this is lame,' " Canada says.

And even though the Oceana Beach, Calif. footballer practically grew up in a swimming pool, and has spent the last eight years mastering the treacherous art of white water rafting -- he never quite knows when he's going to find himself in deep.

"I went up to raft and next thing you know I was paddling in this race," Canada says of an innocent off-season rafting trip-turned-Class 5 race on the South Fork of Idaho's infamous Salmon River. "You're just paddling until your arms fall off ... It was just so random."

Needless to say, Canada's crew didn't win. But that's OK -- the Bombers' sack man says he'd rather tackle the sport solo: "Kayaking is something I really want to do alone."

It's also a decent-paying side job. Canada made up to $80 a day as a commercial paddler, and when football season wrapped last fall, he worked as a trainer with a company called Outward Bound in the heart of Costa Rica's tropical rainforest.

"Costa Rica rivers are just amazing," says Canada, who also spent 10 consecutive days on the water while visiting the Central American country. "The water's warm. There's monkeys and sloths and parakeets."

Thankfully there were no major run-ins with creatures of the dangerous sort. But Canada -- also a skilled photographer -- managed to take some sweet snapshots of his surroundings along the route, along with his other off-season paddling trips -- which saw him rowing his way down nearly every river in America.

"It's just there's something about the river that teaches you about your life," he says. "You're starting to say I can totally bust out this rapid, but next thing you know ... you're covered in blood. It's a whole different world. It's almost like you're two different people."

With CFL season about to kick off, Canada is heading back to shore to shift into his Iron-Man alter ego. But he plans to test the waters at Sturgeon Falls, a reputable hot spot for surfing and boating on Whiteshell Provincial Park's Nutimik Lake.

And of course he brought his own kayak up to Winnipeg with him. In fact, we're pretty sure we saw it strapped onto the roof of his car.

"It's like a lifestyle," Canada laughs.


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