Freestyle from a Saddle?

I’ve heard rumor of older Freestyle boats equipped with a saddle. Pat Moore?

Some of the maneuvers I see now seem to require that the paddler turn sideways in the boat. Doesn’t seem possible from a saddle.

Leaves me wondering. Were those moves not done in those boats? Were they done differently? Were those paddlers incredibly flexible?

Can anybody point me to pictures of Freestyle from a saddle or even pictures that show how such boats are/were set up?

On the Hemlock Canoe web site. There is a picture of Bardy Jones in a Blackhawk Proem with a saddle. Under the Canoe History album.

Reverse cross moves
according to what I have heard called “The Wisconsin School” were done with a slight backward lean and just a little torso rotation.

No transverse kneeling. Many of Pat Moores canoes were saddled and he was a proponent of FS (or Sport Canoe)

Charlie might be able to flesh this out a little as I was not around in the 80’s.

The Steckers are the last I knew who used saddles. They preferred them for comfort. Saddles made me paddle a way that I was not used to… just personal preference. I dont have much seat time in a saddle for FS.

well if you ask me
Pat Moore may indeed have been the better paddler.

Just too bad he became too frustrated with the challenge

of FreeStyle paddlers who moved around in their canoe

which in a way made them better FreeStyle paddlers

but arguably not better paddlers…?

Personally I wouldn’t care about it at all, if I could paddle like Pat Moore,

and just stick to my own style of paddling FreeStyle or whatever:

as long as people appreciate what you are doing it is just fine?

Certainly the variation of styles would be very nice!

Pat advocated what he called “Sport Canoe”, with pedestals. It was not maneuvers done to music, but rather a series of courses with bouys, etc. It was totally different than Freestyle competitions. I personally, find pedestals to be very limiting and do not like to use them.

The question you touch on is a very fundamental one and has been discussed for a long time. There are basically two schools, one I call the “centerists” do not believe in moving around in a canoe, the other I call “movers” like to move around. Correctness of either comes into play only when setting standards for comp. Otherwise do what floats your boat. Briefly, on the one hand if one accepts the concept that weighting canoes to change pitch and roll (for instance) to aid in maneuvering is acceptable then why not move to achieve this. On the other hand transverse kneeling or reversals make a mockery of reverse and cross reverse maneuvers (e.g., reversals were banned for cross reverse maneuvers in comps). So, I seperate regular paddling in which any action is accepted to achieve an efficient result and FS comps. BTW turing sideways in a solo canoe results in not only easier heelng but a huge strength and mechanical advantage for executing most strokes, especially the forward. That said, one must possess the ability to return to center quickly and without bobble to legitimately use this approach.

Hope this short abstract does not confuse this rather complex subject which needs much explanation.


Pat advocated pedestals, not saddles.


Technically you are correct

– Last Updated: Jun-01-10 1:08 PM EST –

but both are a bump in the center of the boat and should not move unless the paddler wants them removed.

As Pat has disappeared so too have pedestals. For some they are quite an impediment to getting in and out without getting hung up. Of course, you whitewater guys would laugh as it certainly is possible!

But FS derived from touring technique for the most part.

I’ll ask
Bob Foote and Karen Knight this weekend at thier Freestyle Canoe Clinic. I’m sure Bob could tell me in as much historical depth as I can absorb.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

probably not
Both were later in FS…especially Bob. But glean what you can.

Freestyle has become overly stylized
I was involved with many “freestyle” paddlers in the early and mid 80’s, in the sense of paddling a lot with Mike Galt and friends in Florida and some Curtis boaters up north.

This was when most people called it “sport canoeing”, if they differentiated it all from regular canoeing.

Sport canoeing began in “regular” cruising canoes that were not specially tuned for the stylized moves that later evolved in the narrow and formal “freestyle” competitions post-1990. There were no saddles in any of the Galt, Curtis or other mainstream cruising solos that I recall in the mid-80’s, except for a few of Pat Moore’s more radical solos.

I know that whitewater boaters like Foote, Scarborough and Deal (who had been involved since the early 80’s) entered Freestyle in greater numbers after 1990, but have no idea whether they brought saddles along with their techniques.

I didn’t follow the development of sport canoeing closely after 1988 – or the stylized, formalized and (some might say) semi-cartoonish form of paddling into which it later evolved. These stylized forms, IMO, overemphasize low-speed heeled turns in competitions. One former national champion calls the current narrow emphasis of freestyle “drilling holes in the water.” The current embodiment of freestyle has in a sense become the opposite of free; it has become rigidified.

Boats evolved, too, to facilitate this stylized form of paddling, by becoming shallower, more chine-rockered and easier to heel.

The positive result of all this formal evolution and stylistic development is that modern “freestyle” canoeing is the best current repository of historical single-bladed flatwater canoeing technique. It is the best place to learn the ancient discipline of the North American Indians and Canadian voyageurs.

Having said all that, I don’t know why cross and cross-reverse moves couldn’t be done in a canoe with a small foam pedestal by flexible paddlers. You could still pitch the boat by coming up on your knees, and, with some dexterity of the gams, could still turn transversely in front of the pedestal, particularly if the saddle was a sliding saddle.

Anything that would bring more power, speed, ambidexterity and high-risk maneuvers back into sport canoeing would be an improvement, in my opinion. Not sure that would include saddles, however.

Where is their clinic, Marshall?
At your place?

When Bob Foote started FS

– Last Updated: Jun-01-10 2:11 PM EST –

(as a student!) in the late nineties he never had a saddle or pedestal. Later as an instructor he never used either moreover.

But did design some kind of quirky boats like the Whisper.

In the 80s FS was done in touring boats that for the most part were rather non rockered. It was a testament to a paddlers skill that they could get a full 180 out of a non rockered boat like the Dandy.

Now we have more specialized boats and I would prefer to bring back minimally rockered boats such as Wenonahs and Hemlocks etc. and bring back bouy courses and get rid of the posing..but I drift off.

The Reason I Asked
I’m pretty frustrated with my attempts at Posts.

I prefer to kneel with one knee in each chine and by the time I get the boat heeled I need six foot arms to get the paddle in the water.

Every time I look to see someone doing a decent post they’re kneeling sideways. A lovely move on quiet water but nothing I care to emulate.

It occured to me that with a saddle and some means to secure my knees I could lift the high side rather than just weight the low.

Based on the picture in the Hemlock Canoe history page I’d say there was no attempt to secure the knees.

Still it would be quite interesting to me to see what Pat Moore and Co. were doing.

Anybody got a wayback machine?

You just have not seen enough
paddlers doing something other than transverse. Many can excellent ones with knees in the chines. Marc Ornstein does lots of posts with knees in the chines. Mark Molina does some pretty slick ones also. Longer, rather than shorter paddle length also helps a lot. Another aspect that helps (and I don’t recall how you do this)is to have the paddle perpendicular in the water as opposed to ab angle, as the angle placement dramatically diminishes the amount of blade area that can be put in the water. I think you just need to keep working on it; am not sure the pedestal or saddle will improve things that much.


I have one
I have a Moore Reverie I with the pedistal,a unique boat. Too bad you are so far away-Tommy-you could paddle it. Even though it is too small for me(my grandaughter paddles it minus pedistel),but I have tried freestyle in it with the pedistel-I swam a lot. I would have liked to see Pat do it.


boat too big?
I can get a decent post with both knees in the chines of my RapidFire (rigged for kneeling). The RapidFire is 28 inches wide and maybe 11 inches high at the center (smallish for my 220 pounds), and my impression is that most FreeStyle-designed boats are small for their paddlers, at least when compared to whitewater or tripping canoes. So maybe your boat is too wide or has sides too high, relative to your body size and paddle size, for a comfortable paddle placement over the high side.


Tommy I do posts with both knees in the
outside heeled chine.

I think that because the spin tends to pull the boat away from the paddle your blade angle could be improved on as well as choking up on the shaft.

At the onset after the initiation I put the paddle actually UNDER the canoe then heel the boat…That keeps the blade close to the bottom so that it looks like on its side the blade is against the bottom. It is actually at the start too.

For many years
all FS paddlers did the Post with knees in bilge. Karen Knight started what I call the Hinnie Post, which is turned sideways with both feet in the bilge. This was quite simply done because she weighs 85 pounds and could not get even a Flashfire heeled over with just one knee. It was a very stylized and elegant move and so most folks (who after all, want to be Karen) adopted it, especially in comps. I personally do and teach a post with one knee in the bilge.

BTW a pedestal is round and a saddle linear. Pat Moore was the only one I knew who advocated “Sport Canoeing” and pedestals. He started a clinic at Hilton Head around 2003(?) that was discontinued a couple of years later. The Steckers presented an exhibition using pedestals at La Louisiane about 2004(?).

Currently I consider FS Canoe to be two distinct disciplines. One is the Competition School, the other Advanced Quietwater Technique. The Comp school has become very stylized (I would not use the word rigid). Make no mistake, FS is still the best way to learn hull, paddle, and body mechanics in a controlled environment. It changed my abilities radically in all types of canoeing.

Tommy, I promise you can learn the Post without a pedestal and knees in bilge. It can take time and a few swims but it can be done.

Keep the Open Side Up,


I agree with much
of what you say John.

Advanced Quietwater Technique is what FS started out to be and still is unless you want to compete in Interpretive paddling. I’ll say right here I never was much of an interpretive paddler because I disagreed and still do, with the requirement that you need to get a 180 degree turn for a manuveur to count. It kills all forward momentum and leads to boring, slow routines. It is the opposite of “Free"Style and I agree it’s too rigid.

I was there from very nearly the beginning and helped develop the ACA program, which really teaches good paddling skill. The problem, as I see it, is that many in the sport still emphasize the 180 turn and students feel they are not doing things “correctly” if they can’t get it. I say a beautifully executed 100 degree turn is just as pretty and a correctly done christie, which is only 90 is still one of the most graceful moves.

I learned and taught myself most of the FS stuff in a Curtis Nomad…15’7” of minimally rockered touring hull. The original kick of FS was to get your touring boat to turn better. Then came the “if you can do it going forward, you can do it going backward” stuff and then the “if you can do it onside…” stuff.

It’s all good. Having fun is what I paddle for and after years of haggling over terminology, competitive rules, etc., it’s what I have gone back to. But FS truly made me a better paddler and in all my years teaching I have yet to see it not improve every paddler that has truly learned and used it.

Hardly ever do cross strokes anymore as only the cross forward is necessary…the rest is just for show, and I usually paddle where no one is watching. To be able to move the hull in any direction without crossing sides is, I think, very elegant boat control that is practical and aesthetically pleasing. 'nuff said.