Inside Disney’s Beloved Cast Tradition of Racing Canoes 

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Every year, hundreds of cast members compete in Canoe Races Of the World (also known as C.R.O.W.), rowing together around Rivers of America past iconic mountains and mansions before the first guests enter Magic Kingdom Park. And this year, we’re sharing an inside look from a canoeing champ who has a few behind-the-scenes insights every Disney fan will enjoy.    

Feeling a Sense of Teamwork 

As many of you know, canoe racing is Disney’s longest-running cast tradition, dating back to 1963 at Disneyland Park – and cast members like Michael “Coop” Cooper still take great pride in carrying on its legacy.  

For nearly half of his 40-year Disney career, Michael has rowed with his colleagues – leading him to win a record number of championship paddles. 

“Whether you are rowing or steering, it’s all about proper paddling, calling the strokes, steering your canoe to make turns – but most of all – constant communication with your team to continue along the river path,” said Michael, whose day job is a manager but also serves as his team’s rear steerer.  

Joining Forces with Fellow Cast

Michael also loves sharing his winning tips and tricks when welcoming new teammates from across the company. This year, he passed the oar to first-timer Amanda Curry, a lifeguard at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. As a sports lover, Amanda was thrilled to join one of the most competitive teams in the league and learn paddling skills from Michael and other C.R.O.W. champions.  

“I grew up canoeing and kayaking on the river back home in Maryland – this is a great way to bring what I do back home to Florida,” said Amanda. 

Cast members agree that everyone’s seat in the canoe plays an important role – whether you’re a new rower like Amanda or an experienced rear steerer like Michael.  And just like in the workplace – working toward a common goal is the name of the game for all 80 teams who competed this year.  

A team of cast members participating in  
Canoe Races Of the World
Being a Part of Disney History 

Regardless of who wins, the cast member canoe races are about having fun. This year marks the 50th season of this iconic cast event at Disney World, bringing diverse teams together for a truly unique experience at the heart of our cast legacy. And this spirit of teamwork lives on through the decades around the world – with iterations also taking place at Disneyland Park, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland

“I hope these canoe races will continue for even more generations of cast members to come,” shared Michael. “It’s truly one of my favorite traditions and memories from being a cast member.”  

Canoe Races Of the World is just one of many Disney perks that cast members look forward to every year, like being the first to preview a new attraction, walking the red carpet to celebrate a milestone anniversary at our Service Celebration, acing trivia games during Goofy’s Mystery Tour, and enjoying yoga and 5Ks inside our theme parks – to name a few uniquely Disney activities that build a sense of community.