Canadian Stroke

OK Glenn’s post about Callan’s paddling article reminded me that I have never learned a “Canadian” stroke aka the “Knifing J”

So I just pulled up “The Path of the Paddle Solo”

To see if I could figure it out with some help from old Bill.

Seems pretty straight forward EXCEPT, when he is slicing the paddle forward he talks about pulling up. Huh?

I can see the blade is roughly parallel to the surface.

I know I can slice the blade through the water with minimal resistance/correction by keeping it parallel to the forward motion. I know I can make it climb or sink by changing the pitch. And If I resist the climb or sink I could force it to drag.

That drag would cause a correction so long as it was behind the pivot point of the canoe.

So can anybody tell me?

Does the Canadian Stroke involve a climbing or sinking pitch?

Or is there something else I’ve missed?

climbing pitch
At least that is what I do.

During the recovery, as the paddle blade is knifed forward, the blade is kept at a climbing angle. Before the blade exits the water some load is applied to the power face by applying some upward (toward the sky) pressure on the blade. A vector of force generated by the paddle on the water will effect the correction.

It takes some playing around to get the angle of pitch and the amount of upward pressure just right and it changes with different paddles.

Thumb forward?
So the power face is facing the surface?

Leading edge higher than the trailing edge?

is with the pressure toward a climb but with the leading edge down. Very momentarily

Its a very quick and powerful correction… after the correction is enough I let the paddle float up leading edge higher than trailing.

So my answer is both.

This is one situation where a video is very handy

I’m thinkin’ a slightly climbing pitch,
Tommy. My own paddling with a single blade evolved into a pitch stroke as I switched from open boating to video boating out of a c1. I felt the need for speed without switching- the bottom inside edge of your paddle blade is very slightly angled up just as it leaves the water (outer bottom edge slightly angled down) and you adjust the angle and amount of catch according to the amount of correction needed. With knifing, your paddle is in the water longer and it is going to be more level with the surface of water- . The pitch stroke is closer to your body and further from the end of the boat, while the longer knife stroke has less pitch. Thanks for sharing the video link. Its fun to go back and revisit.

That is what I do
Starts out like a typical J stroke with grip thumb turned forward.

I am pretty sure that I use a blade angle similar to what is shown in this video starting at around 1:10 minutes:

Of course, the problem with watching a video of the Canadian stroke is that you can’t really see the upward pressure loading the power face which is what makes it work.

I expect that the angle of my paddle blade changes a bit during the recovery but I don’t think I ever have it pitched at a diving angle. I suppose I could be mistaken. It is a stroke that involves a good deal of “feel” to get it to work right.

power face
You are essentially doing a gradual and elongated “J”. Enter at the end of the stroke as if beginning a J, but do not apply corrective force then… slice the paddle forward with ease so the power face is relatively parallel to the surface, beginning with only a slight downward angle so the paddle wants to take a shallow dive as it slices forward. The leading edge is angled slightly down as long as the canoe direction corrective force is needed. The downward angle is resisted by a slight upward pull on the paddle toward the surface - this is the corrective force.

Ease off on the down angle when enough direction correction is accomplished, and rotate the paddle slightly to angle the forward edge slightly upward. The paddle will then pop out of the water with a distinctive sound, ready to enter the next stroke. It should all be a very smooth and comfortable action with a good feel.

My understanding, and how I do it, …

– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 4:26 PM EST –

... is with a knifing action that has no pitch, but with a lateral force applied as the blade moves forward. If the blade were actually "pitched" relative to its direction of travel through the water, there'd be substantial resistance to that forward motion and you'd you'd feel it when slicing forward, but there really isn't any such resistance. So by my way of thinking, the blade is knifing "cleanly" through the water while having a bit of pressure exerted at 90 degrees to the power face.

I'm not very good at the Canadian stroke (and probably am not qualified to give advice to Tommy!), but I wanted to toss in that little bit about whether the blade is actually "pitched" in relation to its direction of travel through the water during the recovery stroke. I think there's a huge difference between generating a lateral force by slicing with pitch applied, and generating a lateral force by applying such a force at a right angle to the blade's direction of travel while it slices cleanly through the water with no pitch.

If you want to get technical about it, there would be a slight downward pitch using this method, since the blade slips sideways a bit due to the lateral force that you apply, so its actual direction of travel is slightly askew of the "knifing" direction. But that angle is so slight, and the method is so much different from various other "sliding pitch" strokes (strokes where there's much resistance to pushing the blade along its path through the water), that I'm saying the blade in this case has no pitch.

Getting even more technical, applying a lateral force that has a substantial upward component to it, as is the case here, is not the most efficient direction that such a force can be applied if only wanting to correct the course of the canoe. My understanding is that the relaxing nature of the stroke makes up for the correction force being applied in a less-than-optimal orientation (those who are good at the stroke say it's efficient mainly in terms of how relaxing it is to do).

The Northwoods stroke
is the ultimate evolution of the J to Canadian to Northwoods.

Its a very horizontal stroke in the that the grip hand actually drapes over the shaft near the top. (Hence the term variable grip on paddles that have a flat area near the top)

Its a short stroke with a scoop like motion along the side of the blade providing forward momentum at the end of the scoop the leading edge of the paddle is angled down and the trailing edge up. Meanwhile the paddle is brought through a recovery by pushing down and back with the grip (draped over the shaft). You hear a zzzing of the paddle through the water and feel the boat stern skewing away as you do with a J stroke Just before the next stroke is to start with forward propulsion the paddle blade "pops’ out of the water.

Its a highly regionalized stroke used extensively in Maine and seldom seen elsewhere.

you lost me on the first part of the

– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 5:57 PM EST –

description. The part that made sense to me was "Its a short stroke with a scoop like motion along the side of the blade providing forward momentum at the end of the scoop the leading edge of the paddle is angled down and the trailing edge up. Meanwhile the paddle is brought through a recovery by pushing down and back with the grip. You hear a zzzing of the paddle through the water and feel the boat stern skewing away as you do with a J stroke Just before the next stroke is to start with forward propulsion the paddle blade "pops' out of the water."
You lost me when you described your hand draping over the shaft. I can't visualize that or see a need to do it to complete the stroke as described.

something like this?

– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 5:58 PM EST –


The paddle is held as in the diagram and the inboard wrist drapes over the paddle. The hand does not hold the top of the grip.

now that makes sense,
they’re using paddles that are really long. In order to keep the stroke short they have to choke up. When I was younger and paddling a canoe in the nmw I didn’t use a long paddle so I couldn’t conceptualize the stroke as described even though I’m familiar with the geography. I did see some folks that liked standing up in canoes and paddling ww with really long paddles. “Striding” in its infancy I guess. Different strokes for different folks.

I liked the video clip. I never made it to Musungan Lake but we used to joke about “Musungan Rattlers”. I bought my paddles from Ray Porter near Patton Me. I don’t think he sold anything as long as what was seen in the video. I think for a while he was supplying LL Bean with paddles. I’ve still have an ash paddle he made, stained dark, with what we called a “pear” grip. Nowadays I’m using a t-grip. Ray’s stripper paddles were light but didn’t last long- about a season and a half of paddling. Went through two of them.

oh yeah, and the signalling was great!

Down pitch increases correction
The more you pitch the leading edge down while lifting up to the sky, the more the corrective force will be. You can apply sufficient force this way to spin the boat to the on-side. Thus exaggerated, it becomes like a reverse sweep stroke with the “other” face of the paddle.

I don’t pitch the leading edge down when I am at traveling speed going straight ahead. It’s pitched up with light pull to the sky. You will intuitively adjust the leading edge pitch, the sky pull and the length of the in-water return with practice.

You can slice out into the air and right into a slight bow draw entry for the next stroke. With a bow draw entry, you don’t need much sky pull correction on the return.

I don’t see any significant difference between the Canadian and Northwoods recoveries. They are the same type of recovery force application. The difference is the more horizontal angle at which the paddle is held due to the lateral grip. These are very comfortable traveling strokes, which give the lie to the “vertical paddle” meme.

Those choked-up long paddles, however, are ridiculous and unnecessary. The paddle should end where the top hand holds it. And you don’t need a flattened grip to hold a grip laterally. You can do the Northwoods stroke with a short paddle top-gripped in the usual way, or flatten the paddle out more horizontally by holding a regular grip laterally. Dave Curtis has designed top/lateral hybrid grips that are made by Mike Jones at Cricket Paddles:

Nice :slight_smile:

– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 11:57 AM EST –

I realize I'm not contributing to the discussion in any substantive way, but I am impressed. I think you are the first person I've ever seen on an Internet forum who knows how to properly use the word "effect" as a verb :).

Next, ditch the J and other correction
strokes altogether. They are not needed for solo paddling, though the stern paddler needs correction strokes.

subtle strokes
The difference between the J and the Canadian is usally a few thousand hours of paddling.

That depends on the hull and conditions
At least that is my experience.

I can paddle a cab forward inside circle ala Tom Foster quite easily in my Outrage and somewhat less reliably in my Independence. Can’t do it at all in my Magic or my Osprey.

It does not take to much wind to make that a fools errand in any hull, at least for me.

So rather than take tools out of my quiver. I choose to learn as many strokes as I can as well as I can.

Snark to your hearts content. I’d rather paddle.

And from both to the cab forward is
another 1000? Took me about a decade. That was 25 years ago. Most ww slalom paddlers don’t J or rudder on 85% of their forward strokes. Does save a bit of drag.