How do you do a J stroke?

got a link to some instructions on basic paddling techinques?

Most of my experience has been in tandem canoes…now I have a canoe worth soloing and I need some help.



Have fun, Joe…
…I made the transition a few years ago and never looked back. My wife and I have much more fun in two solos (hers a yak) than in a tandem.

Basically a J looks like a J. Straight forward stroke, but it curves out at the end, by turning the

handle with your upper hand, in order to push the stern straight(er). You may want to look at the C stroke, which is more applicable to soloing I think.

It’s basically a draw at the front melting into a forward melting into a J. Better descriptions will soon be added here, I’m sure, and there may be something in “Guidelines”, over on the left of your screen. Actually, I now use a double paddle 90% of the time.

Just as in a tandem, strive to keep the open side up.

Something like this
Assuming you are paddling on the left, do a normal stroke, but as you are finishing up the stroke turn the blade to the left so that is vertical like a rudder. Then depending how much turn you want, move the blade, (while keeping it vertical) out away from the canoe.

If you are just doing it for straight ahead correction, just a slight movement with every stroke is sufficient.

All the movements should be blended into each other, so some newbie watching you wonders how the heck you can keep that canoe straight by just paddling on one side.

In my other life, it was my favorite stroke.



Beware the goon!!
In order for the above descriptions to be considered a proper J stroke, your top hand should be rotating the shaft so that your thumb ends up pointing down toward the water during the “J” portion of the stroke. If your thumb is rotating to point up, then you are performing a “goon” or pry stroke. Nothing inherently wrong with a goon stroke, but understanding the differences will make you a more knowledgeable paddler.

Ps. To a beginner, the J stroke may feel counter intuitive at first, but with practice has been proven to be more efficient.

Part of the problem…
Part of the problem with paddlers making the transition from tandem to solo canoeing, is that they have developed bad habits paddling tandem. Specifically; paddling strokes have gotten sloppy, and their partners have been helping with the needed course corrections.

Now that you’re going solo; it’s all your problem! Do some practice to assure that you are fully planting your paddle in the water(the catch), “before” you apply power. Watch that paddle angle on the plant; keep it vertical). Both hands should be out over the water during the power phase. During the power phase; keep the paddle vertical. Any angling of the paddle blade will turn your power stroke into part powerstroke/part forward sweep. Make sure you are rotating your upper body & maintaining good posture; lean forward at hips for a longer reach. If you are leaning your body to port or starboard, or if you are applying different amount of pressure on your knees(if you’re kneeling), this will affect the trim of the boat. Don’t watch your paddle, or the bow of your boat; watch where you’re going; or where you “want” to go.

“You can dance with the water, but you have to know the steps”.


Thumbs Up on Thumb Down
The thing that makes the J-stroke feel awkward is the paddle grip. Be it a T-grip or pear grip, it forces your hand into an unnatural position when doing the J. To discover “why” the thumb should be pointed down, try this:

Grab a paddle, but pretend you grabbed a very old fashioned one. A paddle that is simply a blade & a stick, with no handle. Your lower hand holds the shaft normally, and your upper hand grips the stick palm forward. Now paddle a few strokes. You’ll do a natural J.

Path of the Paddle

– Last Updated: Mar-18-04 12:41 AM EST –

Books by Bill Mason make excellent guides. Path of the Paddle is a good one, giving excellent discriptions of all strokes for either solo or tandem. The book "Song of the Paddle" also gives good stroke descriptions, plus a bunch of canoe tripping tips.

If you're paddling solo, you might find a "C" stroked to be helpful, where the path of the paddle cuts a kind of backwards "C" (paddling on my left). In other words, you start the stroke by reaching out and drawing a bit to you, and then continuing the stroke alongside the canoe, and then as you finish you complete with a bit of a pry at the end of the stroke. An out of water recovery and then you're ready for the next stroke.

When you do the "J", keep your thumb down (as mentioned) at the pry portion. Feels awkward at first, but you get a much more efficient recovery this way rather than with the thumb up. (THe goon or river stroke)

Get out an experiment. There are tons of strokes. Have fun experimenting. Once you get the basics then you can play with an underwater recovery.


If You Want, Joe…

– Last Updated: Mar-17-04 12:35 PM EST –

...I can bring by my Bill Mason Book and one of the videos that will help. I can't EXPLAIN it, I just DO it! Hope you're enjoying that Suwanee, already miss her! WW

Another good book
Paddle your own canoe by Gary and Joannie McGuffin. Nice illustrations and easy to follow narratives.

some more ideas
A couple of cues that help me:

“Stack your hands” – To keep a vertical shaft position

“Stick your paddle in a bucket of mud” – to get a solid plant and remind me that I’m moving the canoe and not the water

“Face your work” and “Hands over the gunwale” — to remind me to rotate my upper body

“Hip to paddle” — to remind me to ‘unwind’ and bring the boat to the paddle and not just pull the paddle past the boat

“Breathe and Smile!” – to remind me to relax and enjoy

I find that keeping the stroke close to the boat and doing the ‘J’ part at the hip is more effective. Rotate the grip hand more than you think you need to and keep the grip hand over the gunwale. Also, hold the paddle farther up the shaft. Placing the shaft hand too close to the throat makes it harder to keep the paddle vertical and close to the boat.

The books and videos mentioned have been a lot of help to us. Lessons help us progress even faster. What theBOB said about getting sloppy when paddling tandem is so true. Solo paddling is making me a better paddler.

Have fun and paddle safe!