New boat revitalizes Erica Scarff’s career

Canadian Paralympic Committee

May 18, 2022

2018 accident put Paralympian’s career on hold


MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Erica Scarff’s paddling career got the jolt it needed when it was announced that the women’s VL3 canoe event will be added to the 2024 Paralympic Games program. Combining her skills in both kayak and canoe has motivated the leg amputee to return as one of Canada’s premiere female Para paddlers.

Back in 2016 at age 20, Scarff was Canada’s top female Para kayaker. She competed at the Paralympic Games in Rio – the year Para canoe made its debut on the program – and earned a promising sixth-place finish in the KL3 kayak event. The following year she won a Pan Am title and was fourth at the world championships.

But in 2018, her career was completely derailed when she suffered multiple injuries after she was hit by a car in Mississauga, Ont. The scars were both physical and mental, and lingering. When she decided to come back to get a spot for the Tokyo Games, there simply wasn’t enough time to regain her previous form.

“That was really hard for me especially that I had already been [to the Games],” she admitted about missing Tokyo last summer. “But I tried to take it in stride and keep moving forward. I knew I wanted to be in the sport for a while.”

Both the national Para and able-bodied paddling teams trained together for two months this winter in Chula Vista, California and they recently held another camp in Halifax. The athletes are back at their home bases now and will depart for Poznan, Poland Saturday for the season opening World Cup at the end of the month.

Since last season, Scarff has revitalized her career by adding the VL3 canoe event to her kayaking duties. In Rio, there were only kayak events in Para canoe and in Tokyo the men’s and women’s VL2 and men’s VL3 were added, which are raced in Va’a boats.

“I’ve been focusing a lot on the VL boat and bettering my technique as well as my endurance and strength,” said Scarff, 25, who started training in VL last year. “My coach (Marc Creamer) made an adaptation for me so I don’t have to wear my prosthetic in the boat which has helped a lot and is working well.”

With her women’s VL3 class set for inclusion at the next Paralympics in Paris, Scarff wants to capitalize on this opportunity.

“I always admired the able-bodied canoers and I really wanted to try it out,” she said. “I wanted to try something new after being in the sport for so long, and it’s giving me something to be excited about.”

For the Para paddlers, Poznan is the sole World Cup for them before the world championships for both able bodied and Para takes place August 3-7 in Dartmouth, N.S. After missing Tokyo, Scarff definitely wants to be at worlds.

“It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to have a worlds in Canada. It’ll be fantastic to race in front of my friends and family and I’m really excited about it,” said the recent graduate in kinesiology at Brock University.

At age 12, Scarff was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that Terry Fox had which forced an amputation just below her hip on her right leg. An avid athlete before and after her amputation, she started paddling in 2013 when it was suggested to her by her coach at the time Mari Ellery at a prosthetic clinic.

Now Scarff begins a new chapter in her career which she hopes will include a podium in Paris.

Can Crew Newsletter

Receive the latest news, athlete stories, and behind-the-scenes access directly to your inbox.

"*" indicates required fields