C Stroke vs. J Stroke vs. Canadian?????

I have recently been asking a lot of canoeing questions here…kayaker recently taken up solo canoeing…

Here is another.

First: I can do the J stroke no problem. Having a little bit of a hard time figuring out how the C stroke varies and can’t find a whole lot about this stroke. I know the c stroke has a small bow draw at the beginning but ends the same as a J stroke right? So is it not just a J stroke with a bit of a bow draw at the beginning and perhaps more of a push at the end rather than a static ruddering action that you might use with a J.

Next question on C stroke…should the stroke extend a little under the boat during the middle of the power phase as opposed to parallel to the water line as with the J?

Finally…Now that I think I can do all three strokes reasonably well (provided I have the C stroke correct as described above)it seems to me that all 3 strokes are all variations of the same thing more or less and that they can all be done somewhat interchangably when paddling and blended together a bit. In other words doing a J stroke or C stroke with a moderate under water recovery…kind of a blend of the J/C and Canadian. Or a C stroke ending with an under water recovery correction like the Canadian rather than a stern pry.

I find myself doing these things and blending the srokes but I am a beginner. Is doing so a good thing and drawing on the strengths of all or is it sloppy technique and drawing on the weaknesses of all rather than the “pure” version of the stroke?

Just want to understand a little better and make sure I am not learning bad habits.



C stroke
You’re right on, in that the C stroke is a J with a draw at the beginning.

Generally you will use only a single C, or possibly two to get the boat moving and will then revert to the J.

If you are able to get your grip hand out over the gunnel, far enough that you can get the blade beneath the hull, you can "enhance the C even more. Generally that won’t be necessary but occasionally it can be useful.

An example might be when running a twisty stream. You come out of a turn heading to your offside and immediately need to turn sharply around a bend to your onside. A deep C with the blade arced beneath the hull would be just the ticket. Heeling the boat moderately to your onside would enhance the turn even further.

Don’t get too carried away with the purity of a J or a C or any other individual stroke. You do need to learn to do them well as individual elements, but great paddlers blend strokes and maneuvers into each other constantly.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

Boat design matters too.
A canoe with a lot of rocker usually needs a C-stroke to get moving, where one with a longer waterline is slower to yaw toward the offside, coming up to speed where the J-stroke will suffice.


All canoes yaw when leaving a standstill
some more than others…yaw away from the paddle side. Its because the forward stroke acting as a sidewheel pushes the bow the other way…The draw part of the C anticpates that and nullifies it.

The faster you go the less correcting you should find yourself needing…you can drop the C after the second of third stroke and just use a J. Faster and faster and the tail of the J can become more cut off and very brief.

Another hint to get going arrow straight is to have your first stroke gentle, the second with more power, the third at speed. If you burn rubber you will have more yaw.

Marc has answered you correct and I will

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 9:52 AM EST –

add one more great stroke to continue the fun .With all this talk of blending you can start trying out the Indian Stroke- full forward recovery and one full rotation of the paddle. It is my 75% stroke for beautiful enjoyable paddling and especially while trolling a fly. And the most quiet.

minor correction
its half a rotation -180 degrees. It actually has a name: palm roll.

One stroke is done with a power face, next with the former backface acting as a new power face.

Only works with symmetrical paddles. Is quite uncomfortable at first with a dedicated grip.

got any links to describe?
I would love a very quiet technique to approach fish on the flats.

Bill Mason describes it pretty well…

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 12:45 PM EST –

... in "Path of the Paddle". I find the Indian stroke to be very natural when constant attention to boat control is needed while weaving between fallen trees, and that's ultimately where I learned to do it.

It works like this: The power stroke is normal. Then you turn the blade so the power face faces away from you to do the little "flip" like at the end of a J-stroke. Then, instead lifting the paddle from the water, you slice it forward alongside the boat, with the power face still facing away from you. While you do this, your palm rotates on the end of the grip so that when the blade is all the way forward, you are ready to turn the side of the blade that is facing you toward the rear, so that it becomes the new power face. You are now in position to apply the next power stroke, and the paddle has rotated 180 degrees since the previous power stroke.

The reason this stroke is such a natural for weaving and dodging is that during the recovery phase you can pry or draw to push the boat sideways, and it is also perfect for applying a strong draw right before turning it into a power stroke again, so it works great for sharp turns to your on side. For sharp on-side turns, you are blending the Indian stroke into a wide, under-the-hull C-stroke that has a strong draw well forward and a strong outward push well behind you for the "normal" correction phase (which is like the end of a J-stroke). It's like spinning your boat while also moving forward.

By the way, this stroke is not the most quiet unless you are moving very slowly, in which case it is "just as quiet" as any other stroke. With any speed, the blade does make sound as it slices forward. A J-stroke need not make any noise at all at slower speeds, and will be quieter than the Indian stroke at average speeds. However, the Indian stroke involves less visible motion, so when sneaking up on wildlife your movements won't be so startling for the animals to look at.

This stroke
is actually easier to do than to describe. At least for me!

As for noise, I find that a nicely cambered blade with fine edges can be made to slice rather quietly.


Indian Stroke description …

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 1:17 PM EST –

Indian Stroke:

This stroke is also known as the underwater stroke, because the paddle blade remains in the water throughout the entire stroke. Some people call it the Canadian stroke, but in fact there's a stroke rather between the J stroke and the Indian stroke that is more generally called the Canadian.

The Indian stroke is used for paddling a straight course and is very useful against strong winds or running rapids.

Start your stroke as you would with a "C" stroke or slight "bow draw". Continue the stroke as a "J" stroke. At the end of the stroke, knife the paddle blade forward for a recovery and rotate the grip of the paddle in the palm of your upper hand, keeping the paddle blade completely submerged. Return the paddle blade to the starting "C" stroke position. ( NOTE: The power face and back face of the paddle switches back and forth on each stroke. ) Then you are ready for the next power stroke, and you did not take the blade out of the water. If you do it slowly and carefully, there is no sound from the paddle, making it possible to sneak up on wildlife and get a close view.

By varying the force of the "C" stroke at the beginning and of the "J" stroke at the end, along with corrections during the underwater recovery portion of the "Indian" stroke, you should be able to very quietly and easily keep your canoe on track and under control.

I find that this stroke is very efficient for a long day of paddling. IMHO it's also a user friendly stroke that's easy to learn and a lot of fun to play around with. Get out there and try it. Blend those strokes!

Here are a few links I found with a quick search that might help:




I didn’t know Nigel Foster had a book on canoeing. Will go back and do some more reading. I sure wish there was quality local instruction available here in South FL. It would be great to have someone check my paddling techniques and give me some pointers on how to improve. I am sure that after all this time I have invented some of my own strokes and have blended them into traditional strokes. Ignorance is bliss :slight_smile:

from a rookie
I learned these stroke from written descriptions(the hard way!) her’s some tips;

C-stroke-start with mastering a turn to the paddle side without switching sides and reduce it till you go straight.

Either knifing J (Canadian) or Indian stroke are a LOT easier to do with a narrow (like an ottertail) paddle.

Rookie Turtle

he fibs
not a rookie…but a lifelong learner as we all should be…

The Indian Stroke should be very quiet. The recovery discussed is known as an in-water recovery with a palm roll and should be almost silent. If noise is heard during the slice forward that means the paddle is influencing the hull direction and defeating the purpose, as the Indian Stroke is designed to be noiseless. Applying directional force during an in-water recovery for correcting, would be more like a Canadian Stroke. The secret of the Indian Stroke is to finesse the thumb-down correction to be going prefectly straight prior to the recovery, so that the recovery can be neutral and thus without sound.

Depends on Speed

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 3:12 PM EST –

As I stated above, the amount of noise depends on your speed. I usually use a really nice paddle with a super-thin blade, but rapidly knifing it through the water does make sound, and with any degree of forward speed, knifing the blade during recovery makes the blade move too fast through the water to be totally silent. However, what I call the "sound" of the blade slicing through the water is what MOST people say is "silent". I'm quite sure that's the difference between us here, since you did say it only makes noise if you are applying a force (like a "ramped" draw or pry). The blade will gurgle with a ramped draw or pry, but it will hiss when it only slices, unless you are going slowly so the slicing speed is kept to a minimum. I can insert and withdraw a blade more quietly than it can be sliced when the boat is moving along with some speed (though I can't do that nearly as well with any of the popular blade styles that are squared-off on the bottom. Nowadays you've gotta hunt for a blade that inserts quietly without fail). By my way of thinking, most "quiet" paddlers are not silent at all, only "less noisy" than most. I do a LOT of night-time boating, and my ear for paddle sounds defines every little drip and hiss as the opposite of "silent".

I think jsaults made a more accurate statement regarding the quietness of the Indian stroke above, when he said "a nicely cambered blade with fine edges can be made to slice rather quietly." "Rather quietly" is not the same as making no sound.

At a rapid clip the inwater recovery
makes a zinging sound…but at slower speeds it really is silent. He was talking about another sound of water disruption that we call “burbles and piffles” I think. Thats bad.

The inwater recovery works well with all blades, but with a squared off blade if your angle is off even a little there will be too much noise.

I have listened to Pagayeurs paddle and it is quiet at slower speeds.

The inwater recovery is handy for watching wildlife where you want to go slow to get that good shot with your camera.

Pagayeur I missed you and the rest of the silent stroke crowd this year in Louisiana.

I use the Indian Stroke
when I am noodling along, poking about here and there. I will have to try it for speed and see how quiet I can be…


The Indian Stroke evolved for fishing or hunting and as such is only an “Indian Stroke” when silent. This is for the paddler who asked about strokes for fishing in the flats. BTW, it does not have to be necessarily a slow stroke, but at higher hull speeds may zing a bit if one is not careful. Lifting the blade straight up as it moves forward during the recovery can reduce the sound at high speeds. As you say it’s great for photography. It allows for a good picture without harm to the subject.

After 14 straight years, it seems strange to not have our Spring paddle time, here in La. but all good things eventually end. Hope ya’ll find some satisfying venues to fill in.

My Kettlewell Special vibrates
noticeably when it’s pushed hard during in-water recovery strokes and is quite squirrelly at cruising speed, requiring constant attention, but using it has helped to refine my technique, I think.

Most of the time I don’t use any of them
and most of the time I can leave a dead stop and hit a target with no C, rudder, or J.

If y’all have a good forward reach, and a firm forward catch, the bow will dig in opposite your stroke, and then when you feather just prior to your hip, the wave the bow has created will push the bow back into the original direction.

It’s a short stroke technique, and the catch must be fairly firm. If you don’t get on the catch promptly, then you’ll need to J or rudder.

I succeed with this stroke in high rocker whitewater boats, so it is NOT dependent on a strong tracking tendency.