I want to learn how to paddle slower

At times when paddling, I find myself paddling too fast. I am trying to learn how to slow down and listen to birds, look for that mink I missed along the bank last time I was out. There are even times when I have missed parts of a sunrise and didn’t truly appreciate the broad spectrum of colors reflected off the waves lapping gently against the shore. If I work at it, I am pretty sure I could actually stop paddling and tie a fly on a tippet more carefully so that the next trout I am lucky enough to trick doesn’t break it off. I am sure there are slow eddies I should have slipped into, but missed as I was focused on the perfect J-stroke. I am sure there are those on this site that could help me with my technique so I feel the water and wood work against each other with slower strokes. I think this would make it easier to let go of the stress that life inevitably brings, and help me forget about a world that seems too focused on things rather than experiences. Is there a way to slow my paddling down so that I appreciate the subtleties in life that I have been missing? Maybe I need to turn upstream more and paddle against the current for a while to see what I have missed. Any help with my conundrum would be greatly appreciated.

Adirondack FreeStyle Symposium!
FS has a slow cadence where EVERY stroke has a job. Its canoeing for the lazy that wish to be incredibly efficient in turns and going ahead straight.

Combine that with Tommy C1s go fast paddling and you have the best of both worlds.

Tommy is an AFS’er too!

Come paddle with me
Last one on the water wins.

Don’t even have to go far.

Will it go round in circles?

Against the current?

Against the wind?

Going slow I can do.

Try bringing a camera
I find whenever i have my camera with me, i look around at stuff more, focus on paddling less, and have to put the paddle down from time to time to snap a few pictures before continuing on.

I notice it too, as i feel i have to paddle faster, like into the wind or just want to get home, the number of pictures i take goes way down. You’ll also end up with a few nice shots of that sunset, the mink and the strange eddies you find to remember them or show people.

Find something to prop your back against and just lean back. Sometimes I try to paddle with just one arm and just do corrective strokes, or just rudder only. This advice is just for rivers class 1.

turn around
and go upriver.

I recall one trip where I paddled for 14 hrs to go just about 20 miles. (upriver) thats slow.

Coming back was a different story, but by then I had seen enough.

Try the backwaters and shallow shore areas. Paddle through the reeds. Lots of interesting things to stop and see.

To slow myself down and see more on trips I go pretend hunting. I usually pick a bird or animal I want to see and look for signs of it. I notice everything else better this way. I bring a single blade so I can sneak right up to my prey without flagging off with a spare paddle blade in the air. I focus on paddling as silently as possible.

It is a lot of fun but it works a lot better if you go alone.

Good attitude, don’t hurry, be happy
There are several devices to employ in order to enjoy relaxed, endorphin paddling. My number 1 is, by far, the most important.

  1. You must have excellent paddling technique. Sorry, but the more you know how to do it right, the easier it is to forget about concentrating on it. You can then paddle unconsciously, letting your mind do other things. This includes knowing how to paddle reasonably fast when nature dictates, even for the slowmo paddler–viz, when going upstream or into the wind.

  2. Use a bigger bladed paddle, such as a Lutra, at a slow tempo. This requires some anaerobic musculature, but not much aerobic fitness.

  3. As suggested, bring a camera or binoculars and look at things.

  4. Bring a real chair and book. Stop at a nice spot and just sit and read.

  5. Play maneuverability games at low speed: go under that arched branch, side slip between those two stumps or rocks, go around the next corner with a post and the next one with a wedge.

  6. Don’t go anywhere. Just practice circling, heeling, drawing and prying.

  7. Just watch your paddle planing up shavings of crystal spray.

proper rotation
rotate your head to look 1)up at the sky 2)tree and mountaintops 3)eyelevel scenery…rotate for at least 180 degrees 4) head downward, look into the water and along the banks 5) one stroke and repeat as above.

The temptation to go fast is powerful.
I hiked with a group for years who never saw a thing as we almost ran through the mountains.They are still doing it and probably still have no idea what they are missing.

Why not just run around your neighborhood?

sea anchor/drogue
that should slow you down a bit

you must be using the wrong end of the paddle if you are going too fast - reverse it and put the little end in the water

Oh, for goodness’ sake.
Smoke a joint already. Don’t forget to bring the Doritos.

Beat me to it tktoo


(non-smoker, but has a brain like one who does)

On a narrow canoe
You can lean back in the padded seat you layed on top of those ugly cane things and dangle your feet over the side. It usually creates enough drag to slow you down even if you have trouble paddling slowly. And it is refreshing. Also, only stroke when absolutely neccessary to keep from being swept out of your boat by obstacles. Put my wife in the front of your canoe, she likes the drag stroke. She can plant an awesome bow brake.

Taught me by the Bantam Bard of…
…Penacook (Well, sorta):

Muckle-up for pleasure,


Muckle-up, it’s leisure,

everybody muckle-up!

Round each bend you go,

Eddy awaits you could get to know,

muckle-up your paddle pleasure,

everybody muckle-up!

As a fast paddler…
and a lousy group paddler, my advice is probably worthless. Although I paddle fast, my eyes are constantly darting around, looking for something interesting that invariably will slow me down. I seem to have a knack at spotting wildlife, and when I do, one of the camera’s comes out. I usually carry a point and shoot and a DSLR with a long lens. Hard to paddle fast abd take photo’s with a DSLR (have to put the paddle down).

I tend to paddle fast for fitness reasons, and because my long skinny boats demand it of me. After a good work out, I no longer paddle fast, but will doodle along.

Get the fast paddling out of your system early, the slow paddling will happen.


There’s nothing you need to do.
Doing nothing is a skill that is difficult for some to master. Read the subject line over until it takes on the other meaning. Do nothing. Stop doing anything and do nothing. Study Zen or yoga to initially slow down. When you master Zen you will find that you could have been doing nothing all along.

Anerobic paddling

– Last Updated: May-27-10 2:17 PM EST –

That's the ticket. (But spelled anaerobic)
Ask yourself, "What would a racer do?" Then do the opposite.
If you notice your breathing at all, you're paddling too hard.
Some type A personalities have difficulty with that. If you're one who can't become unaware of your breathing, go the other way. Count to five as you breath in, hold for five, exhale for five. Take a paddle stroke. Repeat ten times.
Then continue but instead of counting say to yourself, "Breathing in I see myself as a flower. (Two, Three, Four, Five) Breathing out I feel fresh."
If you can do that and keep a straight face, THEN you really do need that aforementioned joint. Its OK, you have a medical condition. (I did too in the 60's. I'm feeling much better now.) No need get into hand wringing or bemoan your fate. Just smoke your medicine. Watch for birds, shoreline eddies, and mink.