J-Stroke Help

the C-stroke is actually what high kneel canoe sprint paddlers use, the ones we see in the Olympics. They start with a slight draw, then go under the boat in a long C, then a slight J at the end. Think of it as continuous, it is really a a pitch stroke is the middle to last part of the stroke, rather than a hard J.Sprint Canoe Technique with Olympic Champion Sebastian Brendel | Gillette World Sport - YouTube

I started with the stern pry/gooney stroke and it was hard to unlearn, though it does have its place in white water. The key is making small corrections every stroke, rather than a big correction at the end of every third stroke. Also keeping your paddle parallel to the line of travel, not the gunwale of your boat will help it go straighter. The long C, resists that and gets your paddle closer to the centerline under the boat, upper hand should be outside the gunwale, shaft vertical or slightly angle away from the boat. Both arms nearly straight, power from the torso twist.

I use a C’ stroke paddling solo with a straight blade, especially while kneeling. for making distance I sit and switch with bench shaft in a solo boat while sitting, I use the pitch stroke in the stern of a tandem canoe, only switching when I am tired paddling on one side, or if there is an obvious reason to, like setting up for a turn or battling a particular wave or wind direction.

– Andrew

1 Like

Really nice video here, though keep in mind that he is not sitting in the middle of the canoe, but at one end in a tandem canoe, so the front is out of the water: How to Paddle a Canoe: "J" Stroke vs. Canadian Stroke - YouTube Indian stroke is great with a long, narrow blade, northwoods paddle.

I like the C stroke for downstream paddling in a river full of obstacles since it makes it easy to point the boat in a new direction plus it’s natural to transition from a bow rudder to a C stroke.


I solo canoe in a big old town discovery 800, I do a lot of different types of water with a full or empty boat and I say there is no real right or wrong way.

In quiet water you’ll fall into rhythm pretty quick. when I was green I found my self over paddling before I got up to speed created a lot of “correction” problems.

In swift water I am more 40% J stroke and 60% pry/draw/ferry strokes

So that probably isn’t the answer you wanted but it’s my experience the time you get in the water the more natural it becomes. Have fun it will come to you.

The Gooney.
I hope this reaches all of the commenters here, all very skillful and learned. The nuance suggested by these comments is breath taking. But, the penny drops,
The J, the J, the J, I have been paddling canoes solo now for 60 years, and yes, there is a powerful case to be made for the J-stroke, and it IS an essential stroke to be skillful at.
But none of you is lazy enough to suit my tastes. I am lazy, I am also a few months shy of 70 years, and I LOVE long trips and flat water AND white water.

You are nearly all underestimating the Goony, or Gooney stroke. Yes, I use the J when I pull the paddle hard enough to bend the shaft on each stroke. I DO bend the shaft. When I snap to the J side, the shaft unloads and my power of bending the shaft snaps the residual of the stroke for my correction. At my age I can maintain that 5mph in a loaded 20 foot canoe for about 10 minutes. The Gooney, hmmmm first allow me to describe in excruciating detail, for give me. Ideally my arms are ALWAYS straight. The power comes from our backs and butts. Straight arms, I lean forward slip the tip in (I HATE splashing my tip in.) and pull long, parallel to line of travel, only a little catch angle, all the way to the stern exit, feather the paddle back, with the tip making a broad sweep and at touch or an inch or two above the water for the return, arms always straight. None of this lifting stuff, I am lazy. From the feather the tip slides smoothly into the water for the next stroke, no splash, silent. Now, every second, third, or fourth stroke, when the paddle is behind me, I go thumb up, wrist square, (if on the right side) left hand almost in right pocket and right arm straight and behind me. With a 62 inch paddle, 60 inches behind my right pocket, the force needed for a correction is in ounces, the pry is between thumb and fore finger, the hand between shaft and gunwale. Remember, I am lazy.

Yes, it does interrupt cadence, costs about 1/2 to 3/4ths of a stroke time. But I am also only doing it as required. At low speed, every other stroke, just a bit, at faster speeds every 3rd or 4th stroke.

Turning your wrist upside down and backwards for a J , 400 to 600 strokes to the mile, X 20 or 30 miles, 3,000 to 5,000 J-strokes in a day? 10 day trip? 3 month trip? You may as well amputate my arm to the elbow.

Flat water? I switch paddle. Save calories, wrists, and gains essential skills for white water. You must be able to, with complete confidence, switch paddle in white water in cadence. There is no time to miss a stroke. The reason for cross arm strokes is again, not lose time. A cross arm stroke is half or less the strength.

I normally use the Gooney, all day and every day. Done well, it is easier, very efficient, saves my 70 years old wrist from permanent damage, save calories on long trips. (Calories? Think about a 20 or 30 pound food difference for a long trip? i.e. Green River, Utah to Page, Arizona? the Green, the Colorado and Cataract Canyon, to Lake Powell to Page about 400 miles?) Switch paddle and learn the Gooney. Learn to be lazy.

1 Like

Bucket seats and bent shafts here…

This sums things up well for what works for me, C1,C2,C4 and beyond….


Not to argue with the good design and technique article by Wenonah or with darkstar (I’d never do that), but there is another school of thought on seats. Forget race designs for a moment, think recreational or freestyle paddling. A flat bench seat allows the paddler to shift position for efficient paddling by shifting position and weight to place their hip firmly against the gunwale. This allows for better paddle placement having strokes with a vertical shaft (the “stacked hands” concept), thereby keeping the blade and thus the delivered power closer to the canoe center line and in line with forward motion to minimize yaw, important whether racing or recreationally cruising. It also gives the paddler the option of heeling the canoe to whatever degree desired which is an advantage to steering and maneuver control. Believe it or not, sitting ofset on opposite sides makes canoes C2 and larger more stable and resisstant to roll in waves than centrally seated paddlers.

I started canoe racing in the 1990’s in 6 seat voyageur canoes (then called “war canoes”), of length 28 -34 feet with 6-7 paddlers sitting single file on center line. My first voyageur had flat bench seats. We did have foot braces installed, and also a small backrest on the back of the seat to push against. Center line seated paddlers in seats # 2-5 would have to reach far out over the gunwale with long shaft paddles, with much of their effort wasted by going into partial sweep type strokes. We needed to improve that by sliding side to side on each “hut” to get a vertiical shaft in the water. We discovered that we could cover the bench seats with a sheet of Teflon plastic. Turns out that nylon shorts are very slippery on Teflon, so that’s what we wore. It worked great and the mid seat paddlers could now quickly slide from side to side on each hut to efficiently and powerfully use their paddles. It takes some team practice and coordination so that each paddler slides at the same time to avoid a potential disaster if one paddler fails to slide. And it worked. Our efficiency and speed increased dramatically. Muscles were less sore. We won many of our races with that system.

Soon after we began to see voyageur canoes with much more advanced bucket seats mounted on flat benches gliding side to side effortlessly on roller wheels. Then the C4 revolution hit with other ideas of seats # 2-3 mounted on tubing sleeves sliding side to side with the help of liquid Teflon lubricant. All serious competitors now use that type of seat system.

Whether in a solo, a voyageur, a c2, or a C4, racing or not, I prefer a higher than average seat. Most times in a multi-seat canoe I am the bow paddler with my feet firmly against the forward bulkhead, or on a custom fitted foot brace to keep me in my fore/aft rail mounted seat in proper trim, ready to drop to one knee or the other to draw or post around a sharp turn. In whatever boat or seat I am in, I feel that my high seat gives me the option of much more control of my paddle and I am better able to paddle and maneuver my canoe as I command.

1 Like

Different strokes for different folks.

Freestylers generally want freedom to shift their body weight and move around freely in the boat.

Marathon racers generally want to be “locked in” to the canoe with a bucket seat and foot brace, and sometimes foot loops on the foot brace so as to most efficiently transfer the power of their strokes to the canoe.

Whitewater open boaters want to be even more locked in with a pedestal and knee/thigh straps or a bulkhead thigh brace, in addition to foot braces or pegs. This allows truncal movements to be more solidly coupled to the boat which is extremely important for bracing and rolling, and also for coupling trunk rotation to the boat to enhance eddy turns.

I have a Wenonah Advantage and Sawyer Summersong with sliding bucket seats which suit the design intent of those boats well. All my whitewater canoes have pedestals with either knee and thigh straps or a bulkhead. Most all of my touring and recreational canoes have either kneeling thwarts or a canted wood frame seat mounted high enough to permit kneeling while still affording easy extraction of my feet from under the seat.