Sink or Swim: Canoe Battleship Returns

Dora Kreitzer, Assistant News Editor

Complete chaos ensued as Canoe Battleship took over at the Kinney Natatorium. Sponsored by both CORE and OEL, canoes of four to five competitors filled the “battle waters” and attempted to sink the other boats until only one was left floating. This year’s winners were Mathew Zilberman ’25, Erica Weiss ’23, Brandon Burkett ’23 and Eva Crisafulli ’24.

Canoe Battleship is set up in a tournament style where up to five teams are competing at a time in one quadrant of the pool to fill up other canoes while also protecting their own. Each round lasts a maximum of 10 minutes. The top two teams from each quadrant then move to the next round and quadrants are slowly consolidated until only one team remains.

Before the battles began, there was a buzz of excitement as teams anxiously awaited hearing their wristband colors called and being able to get in the water. The first team in the pool was so excited that they tipped entirely on their own, before another boat was even loaded and sent in. 

For first-year students and for those who did not experience Canoe Battleship because of COVID-19, competing was both exciting and nerve wracking.

“I’m feeling really excited and also nervous… this is my first time doing this and it is so much fun,” Serena Porte ’25 said. 

“I’m a little nervous about Serena throwing water at nothing but that’s alright. I feel like all of the people also make it a little nerve wracking because I really don’t know how it is,” Maya Hernandez ’25, Portes’s teammate said. 

In competition, each member of the team is given the choice of a bucket, a Thermarest pad (to use as a shield) or a water gun. Some teams were really strategic with the use of their given items: 

“So our strategy was, since there were four of us, we knew we wanted two buckets and two shields. Our people in the middle were going to be in the middle so we put Hannah and I on the ends on the buckets because we got that competitive nature. And then, whenever we were close to another boat, we just went hard with throwing the water,” Grace Garvey ’25, whose team advanced past the first round of competition, said. 

But, tensions seemed a little high on others:

“We endured as best as we could. By the likes of Brendan Baganski and Gabriel King chucking bucket and bucket of water, we had to counterbalance. The way that we lost was via Parker Ashnault not being able to keep his limbs inside of the boat, not to name drop… There are no friends in Canoe Battleship, only enemies,” Gabriel King ’25 said, just moments after his canoe sank in the first round. 

According to the winning team themselves, they didn’t really have a strategy. While they did feel as though they had an advantage only having four people because the boat was easier to balance and lighter, they “just tried not to rock the boat and to stay out of the middle,” Zilberman said. 

Sticking to the outside was definitely a challenge, considering that teams could only use their objects or their hands as paddles to navigate. Volunteers from CORE and OEL swimming around the pool were constantly pushing canoes back into their original quadrants, though that did not stop teams from trying to sink boats they were not even competing against. 

Competitors were also not allowed to stand in their boats, jump out into the water, physically contact members or equipment from other teams or empty water from their own boats into the pool or other boats. From the stands, seeing quite a few infractions, it was clear the competitive spirit knew no limits.

The winning team though seemed to have a much calmer energy, which could have been what secured them the win. 

“We weren’t supposed to win. We definitely weren’t serious or devoted enough to win, but I guess it was that low-stakes attitude that ended up helping us. I don’t know. But I think the true highlight from that day was taking a late night run to Sheetz afterwards. That was legendary,” Zilberman said. 

“It was very high energy and an exciting way to engage with the Bucknell community. I would absolutely recommend the experience to others in the future (if they’re up to challenge the champs),” Weiss said. 

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