Forgetting the pry? Fat Elmo's thread

about stern-ferrying in to shore in river current made me realize that I did that all the time in my early years, paddling tandem stern. And of course I used a pry stroke half the time to do it.

Now, paddling solo, I almost never use a pry stroke. I may wedge occasionally, pushing the blade forward along the side of the boat to slow it and move it toward the non-paddle side, but I almost never have occasion to pry.

I’m not sure that the pry stroke is very useful for solo whitewater canoeing. One gets so fast at cross strokes, and the pry can catch on the bottom to produce a spectacular upset.

But in tandem, especially the stern, the pry stroke is still important, and people like me should practice it now and then to keep the technique sharp. Thoughts?

I believe the stern pry
is more effective and efficient in whitewater rather than cross strokes if the intent is to get the bow back in position, in that it is quicker and more powerful. Cross forwards are good for gaining momentum, such as a peel out. If you are talking about a pry stoke to move the boat offside abeam, then I agree that there really is not much call for it.

Bob Foote has a good description and photos of the stern pry on his website

I used it a half dozen times yesterday
in a down river race in a twisty turning river as we were rounding switchbacks to keep the stern from bouncing off logs and missing sweepers.

Also being the stern paddler I use it lots of time when we are coming into a landing.

My admiration is still with you solo paddlers who do it all!



No Firm Opinion Here

– Last Updated: May-06-07 3:42 PM EST –

For my solo paddling, I'm still working on improvement in this area. My normal mindset is to try to avoid any lack of skill development of that which is less convenient (examples- back when I was a percussionist I tried very hard not to let my right hand become dominant, and did the same when practicing right- and left-legged kicks in tae-kwon-do), so along with making sure my right-handed and left-handed paddling are equally comfortable, lately I've been trying to develop a decent solo pry even though a draw is much easier for me (like you, I find that "wedge" action to be pretty useful, which is sort of "half a sculling pry" in principle). What you say about whitewater paddling and the risk of catching the blade on a rock during a pry makes sense to me, but for now, I hope to become proficient at both methods, just because I want to.

I still use a stern pry. It’s the old
vertical pry that I’ve been neglecting.

in general I try to avoid practicing
strokes that use the gunwale or side of the canoe - solo and tandem. Because I have noticed in very tippy canoes, that it can have a bad effect on stability.

Vertical Pry?
are you using that to sideslip the boat (or your end of it in a tandem)?

I think I’ve seen that on the Bill Mason vids. Never had an occaision to try it.

Any reason to use that rather than sculling?

I rely on a stern pry to get back my angle when I’m getting bouced around in heavy water. Once in a while it serves as a righting stroke. I’ve never had a situation where I wanted to make it vertical though.


I don’t know of a way to replace a
vertical pry in the stern of a tandem boat, because it is somewhat more effective than a ruddering pry. I don’t find sculling “away” to be as effective as a vertical pry, which of course can be made repetitive by just scooping back in for another pry.

In whitewater, however, the risk of tripping over a pry is such that I often train bowpersons to go for the cross-draw.

“Pry” doesn’t actually mean “pry”

– Last Updated: May-07-07 12:36 PM EST –

You can do pry strokes by using the gunwale as a fulcrum, but you can do pry strokes without contacting the gunwale too. In fact, any stroke where some componant of the paddle's thrust is away from the boat is considered a pry. If you DO use the gunwale as a fulcrum and it is tipping your boat, it means you are prying to far beyond a vertical paddle position. A prying paddle in a vertical position will not tip your boat to any greater degree than if all support of the paddle shaft is provided by your hands.

Ah’s uses de pry

– Last Updated: May-07-07 2:07 PM EST –

quite a bit, since ah' prefer solo Canadian style paddlin'. Ah' agree wit G2D on de possibility of jammin' up on a rock an' dumpin' usin' de pry - but, wat ah' taught me hands (bypass me noggin') ta do be ta not hold de paddle grip tight waan ah'm doin' de pry. Wat ah' want is - if ah' do jam hard on a rock which would be enough ta knock me over, ah' want de paddle ta pop out of me grip hand, but not out of de shaft hand. While pryin' in WW ah' only grip de very top of de outward facin' paddle grip wit me finger tips causing de grip end of de paddle ta slide past me fingers if ah' encounter too much pressure from a jam. Of course, all de while holdin' onto the paddle wit me shaft hand an' allowin' the paddle to pivot there in the event of a hit. Hard ta 'splain but easy ta show. Gon'na make a picture on wat ah' be gittin' at. Always worked fer me, yer git a wobble when dis happens but ah' never got dumped due ta a pry. Yet!