Workshop: It’s that easy to build your own canoe out of wood


Building boats is better than meditation

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-build

Build your boat: At Berger Boats in Berlin, they are elegant wooden kayaks

Source: Dawin Meckel / OSTKREUZ

In the past you meditated to find yourself again, today you build canoes and kayaks in workshops. Such courses fit perfectly in a time when there is a great longing for deceleration.

A.The framework is made from thin strips of wood. Franziska works the wood with a hand plane, Steffi rounds the edges with an arrow. Everything looks filigree, like a model.

But in two days this scaffolding is supposed to carry the two women, then they want to let it into the Spree and paddle off. Steffi, 36 years old, sabbatical teacher, and Franziska, 33, wilderness educator, fulfill a dream. The dream of your own canoe.

Handmade, made of wood, covered with cotton fabric that is made waterproof. A boat, just like the Eskimos built it in the past, only that they did not work with wood and fabric, but used the skin and bones of hunted animals.

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-workshop

Also "Urban Indian" offers workshops in which laypeople learn to build canoes

Source: Elisabeth Schuster

The workshop lasts five days. After such a day in the workshop, they fall dead tired to bed in the evening, says Steffi. "It’s good for the soul to finally work with your hands again."

After the comeback of hiking, many have now discovered boats for themselves. Regardless of who you ask, whether you are a canoe rental company, tour operator or the officials of the German Canoe Association, they all confirm: Canoeing is booming.

There are said to be more than a million canoeists in Germany, according to surveys conducted by the Canoe Association and rental companies. Almost 120,000 people are organized in canoe clubs. In the past ten years the proportion of female members has risen sharply.

Above all, however, many younger people, in their mid-twenties to their late thirties, have joined them. That’s what Norbert Kohler reports. In the German Canoe Association, the man from Bremen heads the service department and is responsible for recruiting new members.

"Generation Y" loves canoes

Kohler, who sailed a long time before switching to canoes and kayaks, explains the development with a change in values. “The young people no longer only have their careers in view, they want to enjoy life and nature again,” he says.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the "Generation Y" who refuse to face job stress and instead make sure that leisure and personal happiness are not neglected. Now it seems to be driving them into the canoe boats.

The place where Steffi and Franziska’s canoe is made is a former transformer plant on the banks of the Spree in Berlin, far to the east of the capital; a brick hall from the Wilhelminian era, in which not so long ago a scrap dealer had his warehouse and in which designers, artists, photographers and film directors have now moved into quarters.

The woman who brews the cappuccino behind the bar wears dreadlocks, the guys in the front by the water are wearing skinny jeans. A disco ball hangs high above your head, in the entrance area someone has hung black and white photos of stoic-looking models on the wall, Astrud Gilberto’s voice sings about the girl from Ipanema wafts from the cafe. If you are still looking for proof that canoeing is trendy, you will get it served on the silver plate here.

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-workshop

The wooden framework is built for three days, after which the boat is covered with cotton and painted. On the fifth day, it’s on the water

Source: Elisabeth Schuster

Elisabeth Schuster and Nikola Raspopovic, who offer the workshops on the banks of the Spree in Berlin under the name “Urban Indian”, say that most of those who come to them are looking forward to a break, that the longing for slowing down is great among canoe fans.

Above all, designers, architects and civil engineers would attend the courses, but also many who work in social professions. They all want to finally do some manual work again, to create something of their own.

“It’s completely different whether you just buy a canoe or whether you know exactly how your boat works because you did everything yourself,” says Nikola Raspopovic. He developed the canoes. Because they are open like a classic canoe, but are usually driven with a double paddle like a kayak, he named them Kanuyaks.

Canoeing is the ideal balance

The 42-year-old Raspopovic, who wears a three-day beard, a messy hairstyle and an old leather jacket, is an autodidact. He built his first own boat 14 years ago. At that time he was living in Porto and studying art, the canoe was created in his studio.

His boat should be fast and should run well in swell. First he took it out to sea, then paddled on the Spanish-Portuguese river Douro, gradually conquering river by river with a handful of friends.

The economic crisis in Portugal brought him and Elisabeth Schuster, who worked on a theater in Porto, to Berlin four years ago. Since then, the two have offered their canoe building courses here. In the beginning it was sluggish, but inquiries are increasing now.

Carolin, 37, and Ahmet, 40, also came to build their own boat, a Canadian with four seats. She is an architect, he works in the Volkswagen design center and commutes between Wolfsburg and Berlin.

"Water sports were not a privilege"

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-your

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“Water sports were beautiful, that wasn’t privileged, many had that,” remembers Bert Kruger, who worked for the GDR water protection agency. This historical AuA picture from 1977 showing young people on the banks of a lake in the Mecklenburg Lake District. This year was already …

Source: picture alliance / ZB

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-workshop

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… the second edition of the Ibis II in production. The plastic sports boat was manufactured at VEB Yachtwerft Berlin. He remembers the manufacturing process very well …

Source: Stefan Weibenborn

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-canoe

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… Detlef Knoppe (right), the master boat builder built not only plastic boats but also mahogany rowing boats for GDR Olympic teams. Today the pensioner is doing handicrafts together with his exleague colleagues, the GDR ship electrician Wolf-Dieter Borck, still on boats. The Ibis wasn’t the only one …

Source: Stefan Weibenborn

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-easy

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… plastic sports boat that left the shipyard. Other models were called Milan, Mowe, Hecht or Merlin. Also the type Lipsi, here on the cover of the "NBI Neue Berliner Illustrierte", was manufactured in the yacht yard in Berlin. While the Lipsi can rarely be found today, the Ibis II …

Source: Schatkowski Archives

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-build

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… comparatively often in relevant classified ads. However, it cannot be ruled out that …

Source: Stefan Weibenborn

Workshop: It's that easy to build your own canoe out of wood-easy

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… the plastic tub with the Trabi’s rear window as a windbreak is becoming a sought-after collector’s item. The Trabant went through a similar development – often different at times of transitionRbelt, well-preserved and rare copies of the DRR people’s car change hands for a lot of money.

Source: Stefan Weibenborn

Together they founded a small company and sell furniture that they design themselves. They have been canoeing for a number of years. "I work a lot on the computer, there is hardly a better way to compensate for it than being out in a canoe," says Carolin.

Without a motor, without diesel through untouched landscapes – canoeists are looking for a different kick than the owners of motor yachts. Ahmet likes canoes because of their slowness; being on the water calms him down.

You have enough time to perceive nature, but still keep moving. What you have achieved in the process is usually only noticed the next day when the sore muscles report.

"In no other boat you are closer to the water," says Norbert Kohler from the Canoe Association. Those who canoe can experience rivers and lakes from a duck’s perspective. “You can feel how the water reacts immediately to every movement of the body,” enthuses Kohler.

There are beautiful canoeing areas everywhere in Germany

And you can use kayaks or canoes in waters for which other boats are too big: small, enchanted rivers, mudflats near the coast. For Kohler, it doesn’t necessarily have to go out into nature.

He had his most extraordinary canoe experience in the canals of Venice, he says. Kohler is also a dropout. Ten years ago he quit his job as a project manager in the IT industry and has been involved in the canoe club ever since.

The fact that the sport is so popular is probably due to the fact that nowhere in Germany is it particularly far to get to a beautiful canoeing area. In the north it is the Weser, the Trave or the Treene that are worth navigating, in the south it is the rivers in the foothills of the Alps such as the Isar or the Iller.

And even in Germany’s rather arid center there are some beautiful canoe rivers – for example the Lahn in Hesse, which is particularly suitable for beginners.

How to cleverly save a canoe from sinking

These kids in Malaysia are having fun in the water. Then her canoe threatens to sink. But no problem: A smart girl brings the boat back to the surface with an ingenious trick. Source: Zoomin.TV

The possibilities are greatest in the water landscapes of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. Many rave about the unspoilt Peene, which leads to Usedom and which has been given the title “Amazon of the North”.

The Mecklenburg Lake District is perfect for multi-day tours, with narrow rivers connecting the countless lakes. What is possibly the most spectacular canoeing area in Germany is still in the making: In the south of Leipzig, what was once the largest lignite mining area in the world is becoming what is known as the New Lakeland. There should be 17 lakes connected by waterways at the end.

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What else speaks for canoeing? It’s very easy. Most can do it intuitively. And it’s a sport that you can do well with the family. If you are not completely clumsy, you can go on the first tour yourself after a short introduction.

The wooden canoe is ready after five days

Subtleties such as the Eskimo roll or sculling, a particularly elegant form of evasive maneuver, can also be learned later. Or practice the trend variants of canoeing: stand-up paddling has been very popular for a few years, freestyle riders try out new tricks with their short boats in wild waters, and ultra-light kayaks are called surf skis and are used for surfing can.

After five days in the wood workshop, Nikola Raspopovic’s course participants finished their boats. The maiden voyage starts right on the premises. At a pier it goes into the river. An excursion boat passes by, creating waves, it rocks, but the Kanuyak remains stable in the water.

The boats are light and manoeuvrable, a single kayak weighs less than 15 kilos. Out of town it goes past brick buildings, under bridges. It doesn’t take long before you have the rhythm out, the paddle strokes become more even. And then you can feel it. Happiness on the water.

Here you learn the art of canoe building

Urban Indian

The boats are made in a skin-on-frame construction, a wooden structure is covered with fabric and made waterproof. The wooden framework is built for three days, after which the boat is covered with cotton and coated twice with a coat of paint. On the fifth day, the new boat will go straight onto the water.

The construction of a single kayak including all materials costs around 900 euros, a two-person canoe is available from 1200 euros. "Urban Indian" offer their workshops not only on the banks of the Spree in Berlin, but also in the middle of nature, for example on the Peene, which is considered the Amazon of the East.

Information and registration at

Berger boats

The boats of the brothers Lutz and Tim Berger from Berlin are particularly elegant. In addition to canoes and kayaks, they also have row boats, a paddleboard and even small sailors in their program. All these boats should be easy to build yourself according to instructions, but workshops are also offered.

The kits for a single kayak start at 780 euros, a kit for a two-man canoe is available from 975 euros. Participation in the six-day boat building workshop, which runs in the Berlin workshop of Berger Boot, costs 549 euros (plus kit).

More details at

Canoe maker Krauss

Stefan Krauss sells kits for wooden canoes in strip construction from Rudersberg in Baden-Wurttemberg. The canoes are based on the boats that Native Americans built; the plans come from the Canadian Ted Moores, who wrote a kind of bible for canoe builders with the book "Canoecraft".

The kits for canoes start at just over 1000 euros for a one-person boat, the kit for a canoe for two to three people is around 1300 euros. Stefan Krauss also offers courses. A detailed introductory course (6.5 hours) costs 389 euros.

Information at

Ideal areas for canoe tours

Mecklenburg Lake District: A good starting point for a canoe tour on the Mecklenburg lakes is the Fleether Muhle on the Ratzsee. From here you can take a day trip, but also multi-day tours. There is a nice beer garden, holiday apartments ( and a campsite (

The selection of rental canoes is good and extensive, if you want to be on the safe side, you should reserve in advance (, Tel. 039833/26727). A good address to start a tour through the Muritzsee National Park is Kanu Hecht in Kratzeburg (, Tel. 039822/17983). Operator Ingo Hecht also offers guided tours, such as a "canoe safari" in the Greater Canada.

Lahn: The current is not particularly strong, the landscape is beautiful: the Hessian Lahn is a perfect river for canoe beginners. The Lahn is navigable all year round on a stretch of around 160 kilometers. In between you can moor and visit cities like Wetzlar or Weilburg.

There are some providers who lend boats and also offer shuttle trips to get on and off, for example Lahntours ( or Kanu Lahn-Dill ( Lahntours also operates the popular Schohleck campsite, which is on the route. Here you can rent Indian tipis.

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