Kevin Callan’s recent video about the J-sroke and Canadian stroke prompts me to respond that neither of these strokes is necessary when paddling tandem except in two situations.
First the mechanics of the forward stroke:
There are two ways to do a forward stroke in the bow. One is the typical beginner’s method, where the paddle follows the contour of the hull, usually with the blade perpendicular to the gunwale. This induces an offside yaw (away from the bow’s paddling side) because the paddle is offset from the center of the canoe, and because of the slight sweeping action of the angled paddle blade. The other way is more advanced, placing the blade perpendicular to the line of travel and the catch a foot or so away from the gunwale. This enables the bow paddler to pull the paddle straight back. It still contributes a bit of yawing because the propulsion is off-center, but it eliminates the sweep effect. This method is thought to be more efficient.
If the stern paddler’s stroke matches that of the bow paddler, there is no need for a steering correction when traveling straight. But does this happen?
In the stern, doing a straight forward stroke consistently is exhausting. I’m an ACA certified instructor with decades of paddling under my various hulls, and I feel confident that every stern paddler I’ve seen, and nearly every forward stroke I’ve taken, follows the gunwale, usually also angling the blade perpendicular to it. In this way, an offside yaw is induced by both the paddle offset and a slight sweeping effect.
The first method of doing a forward stroke in the bow matches the usual forward stroke in the stern, and they balance each other as long as the paddlers are exerting equal power. Doing a straight stroke, however, causes the bow paddler to produce less yawing, while the amount produced in the stern remains the same. Thus, the stern paddler creates the need for the correction. If the stern paddler coaches the bow to do the “beginner” type forward stroke, it will be immediately apparent that the J or Canadian isn’t needed.
The two situations where a J- or Canadian stroke is needed are:
- Turning to the offside, e.g., to follow the course of a river; and,
- In windy conditions where the bow paddler does not adjust the amount of sweep to compensate for wind-induced yaw.
Before calling for burning the heretic at the stake, please think through these paddling dynamics, and maybe even try it yourself.
But considering how likely this is, I’ll sit back and wait for the brickbats to fly.