Advice on recovery stroke for single blade

Adventure…good topic…just about EVERYONE has added a bit of great stuff in their replies,
Learning a stroke by how it should feel when done correctly, ie Homes375 and others have eluded to…on a day with little wind, is a good way to measure one’s progress…and observe the canoe’s response. Remember how the canoe responds to those properly executed strokes with/out a recovery phase…can really help when motha’ nature decides to throw in some shifting winds. One learning often finds oneself clenching the top, grip hand, so tightly that flipping it downward for a J can be a chore. Try easing up with that top hand’s grip and add some with the shaft hand…and you’ll be able to improve a slower, downward roll with a faster and relaxed flip, thus reducing the time it takes the blade to turn…and don’t let that part of the stroke die off in accelleration…accellerate all the through the blade twist, done correctly. You’ll get to appreciate the stroke in how you can add most anything to it in addition to gaining accelleration. The Canadian, as everyone’s hinted to, is more of a controlled, slower speed stroke with just as many options that can be thrown in…again by feel. Agreed…to begin with…it’s nice to have a more hydro-dynamic paddle that can slice through the water easily. A blunt paddle is defeating its purpose… Apologies for the ramble…but it’s ~3 more weeks of home remodeling before I throw resources into a truck/somekind of 4wd and can get back up into the woods with clearance and tough tires…seems like an eternity.

No death grip on either shaft or grip

Don’t crank your shaft wrist. Just let the paddle rotate like it’s the mast in a gooseneck

A palm roll helps avoid stress on your arms from a J stroke as that position is not natural but won’t work on anything other than a symmetrical blade and grip

@kayamedic said:
No death grip on either shaft or grip

Don’t crank your shaft wrist. Just let the paddle rotate like it’s the mast in a gooseneck

A palm roll helps avoid stress on your arms from a J stroke as that position is not natural but won’t work on anything other than a symmetrical blade and grip

Very good points.

I’m very happy with all of your thoughts. I will be “trying” to put all this into action. Hopefully will get to paddle in the next few days, perhaps this afternoon.

Well I learned some stuff today. I took my 10 yr old boy and we went on a local river. Bc my canoe is a solo, I just rented a 14ft tandem with the cheap aluminum/plastic paddle from the outfitter. Apparently there really isn’t anything wrong with my stroke. My son never touched the paddle. I paddled the entire 8.5 miles. I sat in the stern seat and was able to do the Canadian pretty well. The regular J stroke worked too, along with my “whatever it is” rudder stroke. I had WAY more boat control. So as I’m paddling, I’m wondering why? First thing that strikes me, is that I was sitting more to the stern than in my Solo 14. So I probably had more leverage. I had the same gear I normally paddle with, plus another 70lb kid in the bow seat, so payload and weight should have made it harder, but it wasn’t. It was a great handling boat.

So now I’m pondering why is the seat where it is on my Solo? How far should I move it back? Why did a much wider, heavier, cheap ass canoe w/ donkey plastic paddles handle 10 times better than my Solo 14? LOL

My guess is that it “handled better” because being harder-tracking, less finesse is needed to keep it going straight. That tandem canoe was simply a whole lot harder to steer, and thus it was a lot easier to make it go straight.

The seat of a solo canoe is near the center of the boat because that gives you the best combination of efficient forward power along with the ability to apply several different options for steering, correction, and other fancy moves. For example, it’s easy to make a solo canoe go straight sideways through the water (it’s super easy with a tandem too, but both paddlers must share the work!). But just try to make a solo canoe move directly sideways through the water while you are sitting at the rear. Can’t be done, no way, no how. Other examples could be given too, but that one’s pretty clear.

Don’t even think about moving the seat on your solo toward the rear just because you had better luck paddling a tandem canoe that way. Once you get your paddling skills under control, the relatively squirrelly handling of your solo canoe will no longer seem like a handicap. Instead, it will be liberating, letting you do all sorts of useful maneuvers that you probably haven’t even thought about yet. Right now you seem to be worried about keeping control while going a straight line, but you’ll get way beyond that in time.

I have never owned a Solo 14 but I believe it is a symmetrical hull, at least below the water line. If I am wrong on that point, perhaps a Solo 14 owner can chime in. Most solo canoe paddlers will try to trim their boats so that they are neutral or a little bow light. Too much bow light, or bow heavy can cause handling problems. For most canoeists paddling from a kneeling position, their center of gravity winds up being somewhere close to their belt buckle location. If you want to trim a symmetrical solo canoe neutrally, you position your belly button around the longitudinal midline of the hull.

Where you position the seat or kneeling thwart to achieve that depends a lot of how you sit, or prop your rear end on the seat. Some people will just use the front of the seat frame as a sort of a prop to brace their backside against. Others, will sit on more of the seat, and in this case the seat itself will need to be mounted farther forward.

If you paddle primarily sitting, your legs will be out in front of you so your center of gravity will be somewhat in front of your belt buckle. But you will likely be sitting further back on the seat also. I find that for kneeling, I position the front of the seat frame or kneeling thwart around 5 inches of so aft of center line for a symmetrical hull. For sitting, I usually wind up positioning the front of the seat frame about and inch and a half behind the center line. I paddled a solo canoe with a sliding center seat many miles years ago, and paddled it both sitting and kneeling. I consistently found when going from sitting to kneeling, I had to move the seat back several inches to maintain trim.

When paddling a 14 foot tandem at the stern station, your paddle is going to be closer to the stern of the boat than when paddling a 14 foot solo from near the center. This means that the power phase of your forward stroke will have somewhat greater tendency to turn the boat away from your paddle side because the stroke excursion is farther from the canoes longitudinal pivot point. But it also means that any corrective or steering stroke is likely to have greater effect for the same reason.

Also, in a tandem you have the bow paddler’s stroke tending to counterbalance the turning effect of your stroke, assuming you are paddling on opposite sides. If the bow paddler does not maintain a fairly vertical paddle shaft and has a lot of “sweep” in their forward stroke, this counterbalancing effect can be pretty substantial.

Several good suggestions above. Let me reiterate a few. The correction portion of the (thumb down) J is very short, barely noticeable if done correctly. The entire stroke can be done quite rapidly, if done correctly. The Canadian is no more than an extended J with underwater recovery. A good relaxed J stroke naturally morphs into the Canadian. Getting the Canadian underwater recovery angle of attack on the forward edge of the blade is the tricky part that takes some practice. More down angle (forcing you to do a lifting force on the shaft) yields more of a J type correction. At the very end of the recovery, angle the forward edge up slightly and the paddle will pop itself out of the water, continuing its natural forward momentum, ready for another entry catch, If you have a thin knife edge blade sometimes it comes out making a “tfwwitt” kind of sound.

Try the pitch stroke, essentially beginning the J rotation of the blade during the power phase, instead of waiting until the end of the stroke. If pitch is done correctly, no further correction is necessary and you can move the boat forward very quickly.

The seat should be fine. The Solo 14 is a frequent entrant into basic canoe classes. That is going forward efficiently. People do get it without undue fiddling with the boat unless someone really fiddled with it prior to your ownership

Paddling is a union. Solo boats are fast to show the paddlers shortcomings. Not to worry won’t last forever if you put in the water time

I’ll add one more general comment that’s related to what’s going on in this discussion. I remember that it took me a good long time to get reasonably good at the basic J-stroke. I’m thinking it took about one-and-a-half paddling seasons full of frequent outings in a solo canoe (and if you have read a lot of my posts over the years, you can probably guess that I’m the sort of person who thinks about such things in great detail, rather then just going through the motions, so yes, I worked hard on getting better during all that time). That was about 12 or 13 years ago, and I know for sure that for at least the next few years I continued to discover new nuances at a rapid rate that I’d never imagined before. I recently got a reminder of this when somehow I ran across a history of my posts on this site which is accessible within the new format (not sure if you’ve been here that long, but the site underwent a big renovation many months ago). Right at the top of the list was a question I asked way back then about the J-stroke which contained some very erroneous thoughts on my part regarding its ergonomics and natural efficiency. Seeing what I wrote back then reminded me that it really does take a long time to get this basic stuff figured out, and along with that it takes a long time for your perception of what’s going on to evolve.

There was a guy who used to post here very frequently, whom I won’t name, who on a couple of occasions went to great lengths to deride me about things I said regarding just how difficult it is to become truly proficient at solo single-blade paddling (and I don’t claim to be an expert - just reasonably good at a few of the basics). Since then, I’ve never come to regret saying what I did, and I’m more convinced than ever that that person and anyone else who thinks single-blade paddling is easy or comes naturally simply hasn’t ever come to grasp the subtleties of good paddling. So to you, I will say just keep at it and be confident that if you practice and pay attention to all that’s going on, your whole way of understanding the process will evolve at least as much as does your skill level as time goes on. It’s worth the trouble in the end.

Charlie Wilson (CEW in this forum) wrote a great article on this subject 'P1 BLADE, BODY, BOAT The Physics of Paddling Forward I ’ you may find interesting, as well as his older posts. Could it be that your reach over the gunnels at the center of the Solo 14 just makes it a little more difficult to make the stroke when compared to stern seat position of the tandem? A well executed power stroke, (vertical paddle and parallel to the keel) requires only the most subtle correction. I have relatively short arms and had difficulty perfecting my strokes in a solo as well, but found it much easier to execute a good stroke in a narrow hull with good tumblehome.

This has gotten to be a rather long thread and most of what needs to be said has been said. Nevertheless, I’m going to endorse the idea learning to single blade does not come quickly. I’ve been at it for about a dozen years and I’m still learning. I both credit and recommend lessons from the good folks who run the freestyle symposiums. They started me in the right direction and can do the same for you. Without their guidance, I was floundering. Following a couple of sessions with them I had some technique to build on.

To the original question about Canadian stroke recovery and correction, the leading edge of the blade needs to point ever so slightly toward the hull as the slicing recovery begins. This will provide a gentle and subtle pry that returns the bow to the desired course. Use only as much as you need and as soon as you have your desired correction flatten the blade and slice the remainder of the recovery with a feathered blade (no pressure on either side). As you are figuring this out, paddle slowly and without much oomph until you’ve got the rhythm down. Then add to the power and pace of the stroke. All of this is best done in zero wind and current so that you can clearly see the effect of what you are doing with the paddle. And, watch what the bow does, don’t look at the paddle.


Watch Bill Mason’s video “Path of the Paddle Solo - Basic”. Available on the NFB site. He describes and demonstrates the transition from J to Canadian.

Probably the hardest part of getting a straight non sweeping forward stroke is to extend the grip arm nearly straight. I’ve rarely seen paddlers get that in a solo without reminders and a development of muscle memory. Stacked hands it’s called. And it can be limited by too short arms
Another is the cab forward stroke. Ending the power phase ahead of your hip. That will significantly aid in tracking on the flats

Thanks for all of your input.

Well, I’m leaving this week for Montana. Not taking my canoe. So it will be a few weeks before I’m back working on my stroke. Hopefully will get to do some type of paddling in Glacier though.

When I get back, I may set up a camera and video my paddling for ya’ll to coach me up.

@yknpdlr said:
Watch Bill Mason’s video “Path of the Paddle Solo - Basic”. Available on the NFB site. He describes and demonstrates the transition from J to Canadian.

Great video, thanks for sharing!

$3.95 well spent. Video was cool.