OC1 Essay Contest Entry - Melissa Cloutier

The following submission was made as an entry to win a OC1 from an amazingly generous donor, who wanted to see the canoe truly enjoyed, rather than turn a profit. Entrants were asked to submit an essay answering the following:

  • Part 1: “Describe how paddling has changed your life.”
  • Part 2: “How do you plan to use this canoe, and perhaps someday pass it along?”

< View all entries


Melissa Cloutier, Quebec, Canada

Hello from Canada!
I could write about how paddling has changed my life… but I think it is more appropriate to write about how paddling saved my life. My name is Melissa and I’m 35 years old. I have been a nurse for 12 years and have found a passion in caring for people. I am currently in my first year of paddling for a premiere team in Montreal. If I am not at work you can probably find me on the water… maybe its because I am a Pisces but most likely because I have fallen in love with paddling.

Here is a little bit of information about me...I am currently single and have no children, I have decided to delay the dating scene and having children to pursue my passion in dragon boat. My passions include going to the gym, jogging, swimming, spending time with friends and paddling. I am currently working at a geriatric clinic and a big part of my job is to promote health and prevent illness. I often exercise on my lunch breaks and I encourage all my patients to exercise. My goals of paddling are to go to the worlds in France in 2020, I am currently paddling on Arsenal women’s team which is located at the Montreal Olympic basin. It is my first year with this team my personal  goal is to get to the level  required to get to France. Without dragon boat I don’t think I would ever have reached such high levels of fitness.
 My paddling story started in 2010, I decided to take part in a fundraiser for the cedars cancer institute at the McGill university health center after starting my career on a medical floor I was compelled to give back and help in a small way towards the fight against cancer. Seeing so many patients suffer and deteriorate I wanted to give back and fight the cause. After deciding that I wasn’t going to jump in a boat without knowing what I was doing I signed up for dragon boat lessons at the Olympic bassin on a community team. I was able to do the fundraiser without any issues and our team raised over 5000$ towards a good cause. After getting my feet wet I decided I wanted to continue with this sport… it was not enough for me. I was then recruited for another community team. This time it was a women’s team… little did I know that this team would change my life. The Montreal Divas we were called… a bold name… but a team filled with a lot of humble, strong women. It was on this team that I would meet many amazing people… over half that I consider my sisters. It was during my time on this team that my life would take a downhill fall….2013-2014 was a tough year. My mom went into a major depression and it sent a ripple effect throughout our whole family. After having to be hospitalized for almost a week I spent all the time I could back home with my dad. Having to console your father while he cries himself to sleep at night was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. We didn’t give up hope for my mom and were able to power through. Later on that year I took a hit… I was working 12 hour shifts on the medical floor and I started feeling sad all the time. I slowly lost interest in doing things that used to give me joy I was spending my days crying and sleeping and soon was unable to work and was put on sick leave.  Waking up in the middle of the night and thinking that I needed to wrap the phone cord around my neck and end it all… walking to the hospital by myself at three o’clock in the morning because see I didn’t trust my thoughts.. I had hit rock bottom. Throughout this time I never stopped paddling. I would spend my days sleeping but always went to practice because I felt that I didn’t want to let my sisters down. No one really knew what I was going through. paddling was the only time I would leave the house. Little did I know that this is what would save me. It gave me a reason to get out of bed. It was consoling to be around such kind, caring people. I was eventually started on medications for my depression and I slowly regained my endurance. I was able to medicate myself with the natural endorphins from paddling and years later I am still at it and stronger than I’ve ever been.  I train 4 hours a week with my team and spend 2-3 hours a week doing outrigger to improve my technique for dragon boat. I participate in 7 km, 12 km races in outrigger because paddling has not only become a passion but a way of life. Had it not been for paddling I am unsure of how my life would have been. Paddling was the one reason for me to get out of bed, it gave me the strength and courage to continue and medicated me with the natural endorphins necessary to power through.

If I won this OC I wouldn’t keep it for myself…there is another person in this story… my friend Denise.Dr D as we call her… I have paddled with her for 6 years and she is like a sister to me. Denise is a mother of 3 boys, a dentist, a paddler and one of the most generous people I have ever met. She is known as the mother of our team. If you get hurt she is the first person to help you, her energy balls are the only thing we want or need to eat on our competition days. Even outside of paddling she is a person you can go to for anything and everything. She is a humble person with a heart of gold. and you know that she always gives 100%. I’m sure she would give you the shirt off her back if anyone ever needed… as she even gave me a pair of socks to keep my feet warm. She has now started a new adventure and is participating in an oc6 team. She is practicing a lot for this team and I feel this oc1 would give her more chance to practice closer to home as she has an extremely busy life. I am sure there will be many deserving applicants for this contest but I really believe in my eyes that she is the most deserving after everything she has done for me and our team.

If I think about the future of this Outrigger if I am lucky enough to win it I know it will be well cared for, used every day and passed on to another well deserving paddler. I know that Denise will take good care of it and allow everyone that needs practice to use it.  When the time comes to pass on this outrigger Denise and I will both make sure it is passed on to a well deserving paddler who will care for it as carefully and diligently as we will.

Thank you to the donor for this generous opportunity…I hope to meet them someday to thank them.
Regards and a big Hello! From Canada
Melissa Cloutier


< View all entries

Share this post...
Previous post Next post


Leave a comment

Paddle Pledge Non-Profits