Backwards Rowing?

Or maybe Olympic style, or racing rowing if you will.

Basically, sitting backwards, using two paddles (or oars).

Are there any “recreational” (not racing) kayaks or canoes that use this setup?

Old Town’s Osprey canoes
They can be ordered with a center seat and two sets of oarsockets located on the outwales. The center set is for solo rowing and the forward set is for rowing with a passenger in the stern seat. These are reasonably efficient recreational canoes (very stable, wide arch) made with Royalex. If some manufacturer would implement the same concept with a composite tripping hull (say, like the Spirit II), more of speed/efficiency potential rowing offers would be realized without the weight and speed restrictions imposed by Old Town’s use of Royalex (blunt bow). Nonetheless, the Osprey (14’ and 15.5’ versions) work pretty well as a versatile and functional rowing canoes that don’t cost an arm and a leg. If you want more performance, try putting OT’s oar sockets (see their accessories page) on Wenonah’s 17’ Royalex Sundowner (they fit perfectly). This would result in a semi-quick, semi-seaworthy canoe that could trip as well as cruise. The best oars at a reasonable price are the aluminum tubed spoonblades made by Cannon … (and sold by Spring Creek) which are strong, light and grab hold of the water longer (through a wider arc) than straight-bladed oars. Sliding seat rigs don’t offer much advantage unless mated to a longer/faster hull … and their complexity is often a disadvantage in more casual applications.


They are pretty heavy to get to and from the water.

Many of the rowers have built their own, and many of them are pieces of art.



Alden Rowing
Alden makes rotomolded rowing shells that are cheap and sturdy. Can’t carry stuff in them like the canoe or guideboat option, but if your real interest is a good workout, this might be a good choice. With a sliding seat, you use your legs also and get more of a total body workout. They also make lighter, more expensive fiberglass and carbon models.

I row a lot
I have a modern version (Kevlar and fiberglass) of an Adirondack guide-boat, and a smaller hard-chined boat that is similar. Rowing is definitely a very efficient and versitile way to go. Stap mentioned that he rows canoes, and I think Spring Creek sells conversion kits that allow you to row most canoes, even if mounting oarlocks right on the gunwales is not practical (Spring Creek uses an outrigger system to carry the oars, if I recall correctly).

You don’t need mirrors to see where you are going if you are halfway flexible, but it is easy to run into things anytime you are pretty sure the coast is clear and you stop looking (late this fall, I manged to run smack into the only bouy remaining on a 9,500-acre lake. Fortunately they had replaced the normal full-size bouy with a tiny one, in preparation for freeze-up). As far as guide-boats being “heavy”, I guess they are when compared to a lightweight tripping canoe, but not when compared to the average touring kayak.

Google for Voartex RowRig.
The best add-on rowing setup for a canoe that I have seen. Outriggers, sliding seat, good, long spoon-blade sculls.

You will have to e-mail the Canada distributor for more information. There used to be a Voartex site, but I can’t find it. The designer rowed at MIT and knows what he is doing.

Is this what you are looking for?

– Last Updated: Jan-16-05 1:06 PM EST –

check out the scout rig

No, but it looks like a good setup also.

For very fast canoes …
… check out this rig. It looks like an easy bolt-on for most any canoe with gunwales 32-36" apart. They package some durable medium priced (for true sculls) oars with it for about $600.

Granted, a conversion like this is too expensive for most people to consider. But, if you couple it with a Swift Quetico or Minnosota II (or some other fast 18’+ boat), it would be an extraordinary rowing boat capable of both fast training and efficient flatwater tripping for someone willing to learn how to use it well. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to put it in a low-end plastic canoe because it’s cruising potential would never be realized with an inherently slow hull. But think of the glide and easy (full body) workout it would provide with a fast composite canoe 18 feet or longer. One guy I read about rows a Minn II double with his wife (using other piantedosi rigs … not the Scout). When in tight waterways, they switch to paddling.

Also Old Town Disco 160
The Disco 160 is sold this way and the Guides can be converted to rowing by replacing the center thwart with a seat