canoeing solo


I’ve looked for this question, but could not find it in previous posts so if it has already been discussed just point me to the thread if you would, thanks.

My canoeing has always been tandem though I am going to start getting out there solo. I’ll be getting a new canoe soon-mad river explorer 14tt-

My question is this: What is the easiest way to accommodate solo paddling in a canoe in whitewater? Would it be sitting/kneeling backwards from the bow position or installing a middle seat to sit/kneel from or does it depend on the type/size of canoe? or other options? thanks!


Solo WW
It depends on what kind of whitewater you’re paddling. Whitewater solo canoes usually use a saddle in the center of the boat, often with thigh straps and footbraces. I’d think a center seat would make sense if your primary use will be solo.

Here’s some whitewater outfitting:

WW solo
probably it would be best to start with a Solo Whitewater Canoe. Look to Bell, Esquif, Mad River and Mohawk.

solo canoeing
Well, I won’t be paddling in anything over class III and it’ll be mostly class II so I won’t need thigh straps and I had just planned on installing a regular ash/cane seat in the center or 7-8in back from the center, but a removable saddle might be a good idea.

Any other thoughts would be appreciated.



seat vs kneeling
Something to think about, depending on your past experience. Consider foot braces if you use a seat.

I’ve traditionally been mostly a kneeler, particularly when you have to really dig in. Last year I decided to replace my kneeling thwart with a seat. My first discovery was that I could not get the same power strokes I was accustomed to while kneeling. I’ve been experimenting with foot braces and am of the opinion that they are needed if you are sitting, particularly in a center seat.

solo paddling

– Last Updated: Jul-15-07 12:57 AM EST –

That's a good point about foot braces. I'm looking at the explorer 14tt because it's a tandem canoe, it can manuever fairly well in whitewater and it's also small enough to paddle solo as well- so I'm trying to get the best of both worlds on a budget. So any other suggestions on well made tandem canoes that are in the $5-900 range?


solo canoe
To effectively control a canoe in whitewater, even “just” class II, you need to have your weight centered fore and aft in the hull, and you are much better off kneeling. You can’t effect good correction strokes at bow and stern if you are at one end of the hull, and if your weight is way off center, either the stern or the bow will be effectively “pinned” and difficult to move. If you are planning to paddle the Explorer 14 solo in moving water, you have to consider its width of 34 inches which means you will probably need to sit closer to one gunnel to get an effective forward stroke or stern pry or draw. I think your best bet would be to install a kneeling thwart near the center and glue a couple of 1 inch thick minicell knee pads to the canoe bottom. Place the thwart such that when you are kneeling your hip bone is about 4 inches behind center. Make the knee pads wide enough so that you can sit off-center toward either gunnel and still have your knees on the pads. The kneeling thwart will allow you to slide to either side a bit. If you center a pedestal in the middle of a 34 inch wide canoe, you will have a hard time reaching out over the gunnels. The kneeling thwart can replace the center thwart or yoke.

Get flotation too.
A 14 ft canoe filled with water in cl 3 or cl 2 ww is not fun.

And if your dead-set against thighstraps, you’d best be very selective in the cl 3 waters that you paddle, and be sure your skills are up to it.

Tough to secure flotation in poly hulls
The biggest argument against poly canoes in whitewater is that you can’t glue in tiedowns.

No so that they will hold anyway.


kneeling thwart
how low or far down from the gunwales would the thwart need to sit? enough to accomodate my feet when kneeling?


flotation in poly
I do know that getting adhesives to work efficiently in poly boats is difficult, but I’ve been told that it is possible to secure flotation in poly boats - I guess just figuring out a differnt anchor point for the would be normal floor anchor(?)

If I had the options I’d get a royalex boat like the explorer 15 or maybe a mohawk (of course now they’re not making royalex boats), but I don’t have all that much of a price range ($7-800) to work with so that being the reason for “going poly”. I am searching for a good used boat- (something set up for tandem, but small enough to occasionally solo), but no luck yet.


poly hulls
The MRE14tt will never be a WW boat, and I don’t think you should knock yourself out pretending that you can make it one.

Your primary goal - a supremely worthy one AFAIC - is to get out on all kinds of water cheap. I’ve paddled WWIII in a completely bare (no seat, no center thwart, no nuthin’ except for loose foam knee pads) MRE16 so it can be done.

I’d put in a canted center seat. It can be comfortably used as a kneeling thwart or as a seat. Low, but not so low that it’s a foot entrapment hazard. Use a foam pad to kneel on. I wouldn’t try to glue it into the poly, but it has to be secured somehow. I’ve used pieces of flex plastic water pipe, formed and snapped in like ribs to hold stuff down. Cheap. Effective. Reversible. 'Course you could carve ash or white cedar ones. With a crooked knife.

Keeping the outfitting simple will make it easier to adapt the boat for poling. :slight_smile:

Paddling that boat in WW will be something like swinging two bats while you’re in the on-deck circle, and if you learn good posture and technique, you won’t be wasting your time or learning bad habits.

If you paddle WW, especially alone or with novices, install some floatation, but don’t overthink or overdo it. I know some otherwise completely respectable OC-1 paddlers who use inflated inner tubes or ratty foam blocks wedged under seats or thwarts. They don’t displace water like the expensive ones, but mostly you’ll be pulling onto a bank to empty a swamped boat. Mostly, your interest is to avoid swimming around rocks in moving water trying to control a 3000 pound mass.

Use your head. Scrimp on what you have and save up so that you can buy a real boat after you have enough experience and have gathered enough advice to shop for one.



Not the Right Boat
I would venture to say there are few, if any paddlers out there who have spent more time in this boat, especially solo on rivers. Had a St. Croix (same boat, don’t know why they changed the name) first year it came out and an Explorer 14TT later. This is a good river boat, but I’d only do an occasional class II drop in one. Even at 6’2", I wouldn’t consider my arms and body to have the reach required for using it for steady class II’s and class III’s. I recall someone on a few years ago who bought one for classII-III and was very unhappy with it and eventually sold it. As someone who has spent many years paddling that hull, I would highly reccomend you look at a dedicated WW solo boat. Good luck. WW

good advice…
I’ll take that into consideration before paddling the explorer solo in just any water. I mostly paddle tandem anyway. I’ll look into a boat more suited for paddling solo in the future when the money is right.


IMO… 14 ft canoe is too small…
to be of good use as a tandem canoe. 15.5 ft is the minimum I would use for any tandem paddling. I think your best bet for a WW canoe should be a solo canoe, I take my 16.75 ft tandem through heavy class II rapids but I always do it solo.

Any questions?