Freestyle Manuever Help

As Karen Knight couldn’t make it to ECCKF in Charleston I stopped by to visit her in MD on my way back north to The River Connection.

She showed me a maneuver where after you initiate a turn either heeling into or out of the turn you place the paddle perpendicular to the water ahead of you and angle the leading edge of the blade toward the hull. In kayaking I know this is sometimes regarded as a jam or a static bow pry but she used some other term for this but I can’t recall what it was.

I’m going to practice this and try to have it look good for when she comes up here to do the Freestyle Canoe sessions at the PowerUP Symposium but I’m trying not to look senile in forgetting what it was called.


See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Freestyle maneuver

– Last Updated: Apr-23-11 7:00 AM EST –

It sounds like you're describing a wedge. To be considered as such you must heel toward you paddle side. In theory, you could heel away from the paddle. It wouldn't technically be called a wedge any longer. Also the risk of swimming would be enhanced.

A few pointers are helpful.

After your initiation, which would typically be simply an uncorrected forward stroke, perhaps with a bit of sweep thrown in, slice forward into the placement. The placement can be anywhere forward of the center of rotation (anywhere forward of your knees). The further forward, the greater the turning force on the boat. If you bring your weight up onto your knees a bit, the bow will pitch down and further enhance the turn.

Avoid letting the paddle contact the hull, at least until you feel some force build against the paddle. If you allow the paddle to contact the boat "harshly", you and the canoe may abruptly part company.

Keep your head inside of the gunnels. In other words, don't lean you head out over the paddle side. If you do, you and the canoe may abruptly part company.

The wedge is a powerful maneuver. Used in moderation, it is great on a twisting stream to nudge the bow tightly around a corner. Be careful with it in shallow water. If the blade tip contacts the river bottom you and the canoe may abruptly part company.

If you've noticed a theme here (you and the canoe may abruptly part company) it is because there is no good way to immediately brace when doing a wedge and because the tendency of the boat is to slide out from beneath you. The good news is that most of the time, the boat remains upright and dry, allowing the paddler who is anything but upright and dry to climb back in without needing to bail. With practice, it can become a very useful maneuver, particularly on narrow, twisting streams.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Canoe Paddles and Woodstrip Canoes

Don't miss the Adirondack Freestyle Symposium this July in Ray Brook NY. Details at . 4-5 days of excellent instruction, good food and great people.

The move utilizes an on-side paddle placement-jam, or an inverted jam (control thumb pointed forward).

Once you’re comfortable
you can place the paddle against the hull (if you’re not heeling very much), or the rail if you are heeling quite a bit.

The turn will be more effective if you contact the boat with the paddle as it transfers the force without the loss of force which occurs when it is transfered through your arms. If heeled sufficiently you can contact the rail while maintaining a vertical shaft, which is desirable.

start practicing at Slow speed
rather than getting up to full speed.

Its quite beneficial to start with free spins…in other words start with a strong sweep and heel the boat. That gives you an idea how fast the boat will veer . After you are used to that motion,add the paddle placement.Gentle does it on the angle of the leading edge against the boat.

Too big an angle and you are more likely to find yourself counting fish while your boat floats merrily away. Dont ask how I know this!

Leading edge of the paddle points the way you want to go.

Yep, definitely the
Wedge. This is the only offside turn executed from the onside. It is always heeled to the onside which in this instance is away from the turn. Two things about the Wedge. Timing is huge. Knowing exactly when to execute the jam is critical. Second, there always exists a sweet spot along the hull for the optimum balde placement. It is not always the same spot but can vary depending on speed, hull type, blade size, payload, wind, etc. Developing this skill is a function of practice and eventually should become intuitive, as is the case for all advanced canoe maneuvers.


Bow jam and Karen Knight
As others have stated, this is the re-naming of Yuleeman’s 30,000 year old bow jam, and it can be done with either face of the paddle. Some paddlers like to do it holding the paddle one-handed for effect or affect.

I like doing it (inverted) with a bent shaft paddle, the original Galtian tool. The bow jam, like most other canoe maneuvers, can also be done elegantly and more ambidextrously with a Greenland paddle.

Not sure why Marshall is being so subtle, as other canoe instructional classes are highly promoted on this site. Karen Knight, apparently with some assistance from Bob Foote, is scheduled to teach three freestyle canoe classes, along with an exhibition, at the River Connection in the mid-Hudson valley on May 13-15.

I saw her exhibition there two years ago, and she is still the most athletic and skilled purveyor of the art, IMO.

Video of Karen Knight
Here’s a lovely video of a lovely paddler. She does an elegant reverse jam turn at around 1:37 of the video.

Thank you all! I had “Tangent” stuck in my head but that I’m sure is something else entirely. One thing at a time.

My wife who is far more practiced, and with me patient, spent some on water time at the Boathouse to bring me a bit more back up to speed on this along with lots of other fine points I was flubbing.

Glen, my being subtle about promoting Karen Knight at our upcoming PowerUP Symposium is due to my being under the impression that this is a discussion board not a place for blatant advertising. Thank you for posting Karen’s video link. IMHO she and her other half Bob Foote are two of the best instructors, paddlers and obviously performers.

Now off to do a little yoga to stretch out the kinks in the legs from yesterday’s play on the water.

See you on the water (perhaps at the Freestyle Class)


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Not exactly something else entirely…It does utilize a bow jam. However it is placed on the non-heeled side of the hull. One of few "cross’ moves that is done in Canadien style paddling. Also used tandem FS. Infrequently seen in solo FS, but is not part of the core FS curriculum.

Probably another terminology issue
"Wedge. This is the only offside turn executed from the onside."

Pag, I’m probably confused by this statement because, as you have emphasized more than once, I didn’t attend certain ACA committee meetings in the 90’s.

But let’s take me and committees out of the paddling picture here.

Let’s assume a righty paddler. He wants to do something with his paddle on the right side to make the canoe turn left. Are you saying that the wedge is the only paddle maneuver that can turn the canoe left?

I should stop here.

But, really, everyone knows a canoe can naturally be turned left by a simple uncorrected forward stroke on the right. Most paddlers would probably turn hard left by using a sweep stroke on the right. More experienced paddlers might turn left with one good stiff bow pry on the right or a stern draw on the right. These are all ways to turn a canoe off-side with a paddle maneuver “executed from the onside.” I may be getting out of my terminological league here, but I don’t think any of these paddle maneuvers is the “wedge”.

I probably don’t understand the technical term “turn”, just as I don’t understand the term “stroke”.

You needn’t respond. I mainly just wanted to even up the condescending post score between us a little bit. That would take further efforts on my part, but I’d rather go off on tangents than drive wedges, so I’ll forget the rest.

not done in Canadian Style Paddling
ALL moves are done from the paddler side. Canadian style is derived from having to handle very large boats unloaded and solo, where the paddler is small in relation to the craft.

Tangent can be done solo. It gives the same direction of movement as the wedge. However it is a slower turn, as it lacks the carve of the wedge. Carves help acceleration in skiing as in paddling.

Tangent is not in the solo repertory though far from illegal. Its part of the formal tandem curriculum.

I have certainly seen Rolph Kraiker do that move in a tandem numerous times, and had a class with him teaching me how to do it. Perhaps I was mistaken thinking it was a Canadien style thing.

Rolf might have been paddling the Pal
and been sneaking in some FreeStyle! We ought to be flattered! We have had some effect on Canadians! LOL

Those of us who took the Lakewater Instructors course years ago got our paddles batted by the Canadian IT’s if we ever even tried a cross…

Folks the hallmark of FreeStyle (Or American FreeStyle …I hate that word…reminds me of American Cheese which is tasteless) is the ability for people to reach across the boat and do cross maneuvers no matter where in the hull the knees are.

Now I have seen Becky Mason do “Hiding Harold” too in a Prospector…

They are watching!

Rolf was indeed paddling a Pal.
The class I was taking was his Canadien Style class. I know they are watching and borrowing frequently. I recall that I chided him for using a cross forward stroke, after he stated that everything is done from the onside. I suspect he thought no one was looking when he did that cross forward!

Too bad Karen Knight can’t "canoe"
She paddles a vessel without thwarts or seats. She turns around repeatedly in different directions. She moves all over the craft, from front to back. Tangentially, she may even do a cross bow jam heeled away from the paddle.

The vessel appears to move by the power of her mere thoughts: effortlessly, efficiently, elegantly.

Unfortunately for Karen, she is not, by someone’s arbitrary definition, engaging in “American freestyle” canoeing or “Canadian style” canoeing. Her moves are not in the “curricula” or “course materials” of the official academies of “advanced quiet water canoeing” anywhere in North America. What Karen Knight does in that vessel is largely “illegal”.

Poor girl. A felon. And all she wanted to do, according to her beautiful song, was engage in the motion and pleasure of paddling this old canoe.

What this means, of course, is that Karen Knight in that video is NOT CANOEING. If it ain’t American freestyle and it ain’t Canadian style, then it can’t be, by definition, canoeing.

Therefore, what the heck is Karen doing? I mean, what is she doing in that vessel with that stick, according to the official rulebooks, dictionaries, committees, jargonists and modernists? Is she kayaking, playing hockey, pole vaulting?

I think she thinks she IS CANOEING. So do I.

To me, canoeing is a simple and unified thing: how to move a canoe in different directions in all kinds of waters by using various maneuvers with a single blade paddle.

For writers, especially on the impatient internet, there is always the risk that opaque terminology, arbitrary definitions or a fixed curriculum mindset – especially when silently assumed and not clearly stated – is often likely to confuse the simple canoeing thing or even lead to seemingly absurd statements.

Effective and even elegant canoeing can be learned without any terminology, definitions or names of any sort. It’s often easier to show than to describe.

Therefore, I strongly urge anyone who wants to improve their canoeing skills to attend a course taught by masterful canoeists such as Karen Knight and Bob Foote, who I consider to be the best all-discipline paddler I have ever known.

The course next month at the River Connection should be very convenient to any canoeist in the NY, NJ and CT areas. There are outstanding courses given every year at the Adirondack Freestyle Symposium in July, the Midwest Freestyle Symposium in September, and the Florida Freestyle Symposium in March.

You, too, can aspire to be Karen Knight. Not me, but you. I’m just a poor felon … who occasionally tries to make a serious point about communication by arguing “reductio ad absurdum style”.

I see now…
Marshall responded to Glen in a previous post: “Glen, my being subtle about promoting Karen Knight at our upcoming symposium is due to my being under the impression that this is a discussion board not a place for blatant advertising.” Really, Marshall and Glen, you have not been blatantly touting your symposium and star instructor while also putting down all the other FS events? Marshall did you just accidently use the name of your symposium (which I omitted) in the sentence above? It is obvious now that your O.P. contained a hidden agenda trying to draw those of us who would offer advice into a obvious promotion of your own event. The old shameless promoters trick of “bait and switch”. I am sure that you aren’t but by all rights should be, ashamed to have used our willingness to help to, as you state, to blatantly advertise your own event. You might notice that none of us have ever put down on other events as a device to hype their own. Glen you appear to be attempting to bait us into a new and ugly chapter in canoe symposia by introducing this negativism about other events. I have full faith that my fellow event organizers will not put themselves on this low road. Glen you are more than welcomed to have it all to yourself.

I would question the credibility any instructor or event organizer who could not accept the universal ageless and simple idea that some type of nomenclature is necessary to communicate ideas. My god that’s been around since men first started speaking.


easy there everyone

– Last Updated: Apr-25-11 7:06 PM EST –

Its instructive to know the history of what you speak of.

And to attend some symposia and go up the ladder so to speak.

There is a history of FreeStyle and Canadian Style both and a reason that there is a difference.

For some one discipline works better than the other. Its all about paddling..

As an observance, its odd to ask a question about what an instructor has shown you on a message board. It would make more sense to ask the instructor.

I for sure have not invented any "jargon".

Wow. Let’s get a few things straight.
Pag, I believe you and I share a common love, open canoeing, and a common goal, the passing along of the technical skills of open canoeing.

I have some different opinions on how the FS community should be pursuing the goals. My primary way of communicating my opinions with members of that community is through my public posts, under my real name, on several canoe forums.

I have absolutely no affiliation with Marshall or his company, or with Bob Foote or Karen Knight. Or with anyone else on the planet Earth who teaches canoeing. None. Zero.

I met Marshall once briefly two years ago when I attended a Karen Knight paddling exhibition on the Hudson River. I paddled whitewater with Foote in California 30 years ago, hadn’t seen him until that exhibition, and haven’t communicated with him since.

One of the things that bothers me about the current state of FS is that I think it is sometimes presented in ways that are off-putting to other paddlers, especially potential new paddlers. This includes how the sport is presented terminologically and how it is discussed on the internet sites that are important to me.

With all due respect, Pag, I think you are sometimes sloppy in the way you use terminology and end up saying things that, out of context, can sound wrong or misleading to readers who may be new to the sport. I think that kind of thing can put FS in a poor light, or at least confuse people about FS. So, sometimes, I will push back against the way something is presented or how it is being discussed.

With further due respect, you have done a poor job reading the actual lines written in this thread, preferring instead to read some sort of conspiracy between the lines. I think you should apologize to Marshall and me for your baseless assumptions and childish accusations.

Let’s be accurate and honest. The organizers of AFS and FFS are active internet posters, and they make appropriate mentions of their events on internet sites. I see nothing wrong with that and completely support it. I feel the same about Marhall’s event, though I won’t be attending it, and was just sort of amused that he was presenting it in such a modest manner. Since his event is consistent with my love and goals for canoeing, I took it upon myself to directly link his event page.

In fact, I’ve never done anything other than promote and encourage attendance at every Freestyle event of which I am aware. That includes anyone’s event. I’ve done that in this very thread: encouraging people not to be put off by terminological quibbles, but to take actual instruction from quality instructors wherever it is convenient for them. I specifically recommended AFS, MFS and FFS – two of which I’ve personally attended as a student – and I will continue to recommend those events strongly.

That doesn’t mean I will always agree with other canoeists on the internet.

I will end by saying that it displeases me to have unpleasant words with you, John. I know and admire your reputation and what you have contributed to my sport. However, you are the only poster on any canoe forum who has ever tried to defend a position against me by ad hominem argumentation bordering on personal insult, and you’ve done it more than once. I would like to assume that kind of thing won’t continue.

That answers my questions about thwart
placement for my Flashfire (which was modified by the original owner), as well as how large my kneeling pad should be.

Until I saw the thwarts and seat were missing, I thought someone had filmed my in my Flashfire, which is the same color.