J-stroke question


I have found that the best thing for me to do while paddling with my 13 year old daughter (who paddles for about 5 minutes and rests for the remaining 55 minutes of each hour paddled)is to put down the single blade and pick up a kayak paddle. I’ve found this to be a lot less work, and it enables me to keep the canoe on track with minimum effort. And in the wind it’s a godsend. Try it.


J- Stroke
Just get a kayak paddle and forget about it.


– Last Updated: Jun-11-07 9:08 PM EST –

Just microwave a TV dinner and forget abou it.


Perfect Simile !



A better answer than trying to “explain”.

Not using hit-and-switch for most…

– Last Updated: Jun-12-07 9:29 AM EST –

...canoes? That makes sense to me, based on how my boats handle. I don't hit/sit-and-switch, but if I need a brief burst of power or speed, I'll do uncorrected strokes balanced by cross strokes on my offside. In my Mowhawk Oddysey 14 and in my Supernova, I can only do ONE strong stroke per side or the boat wig-wags way too much to suit me. With one uncorrected stroke per side, these boats go very straight, but if I do two uncorrected strokes on one side before switching to the other side, the boat is probably off course by 15 degrees (Oddysey 14) or 30 degrees (Supernova) (yeah, that's a rough guess in both cases). I think of both these canoes as general-purpose boats, though the Supernova trends toward the more "turny" and of the spectrum for general-purpose boats. Based on this, I don't think sit-and-switch is suitable for these canoes except perhaps when paddling slowly enough that not much turning force is generated. The people I see doing sit-and-switch, and getting four or five strokes per side, are in canoes that are *much* straighter-tracking than anything I paddle. Granted, if you put two people in a tandem canoe, there would be much less need for extreme hard-tracking as what's needed to use that technique in a solo boat.

Try putting the heel of your hand
on the rail, place the paddle in between your thumb and index finger, and bascicaly pry off your hand rather than the boat. Once you do this for a while, you will realize that you don’t actually need to lever the paddle as much as just give it a little push out away from the boat (for the record I normally paddle with a much weaker bow paddler). As far as the sit and switch goes, are there any of you out there who S&S all day on a trip to the BWCA, or on a long cruise up a river? Maybe its a technique problem on my part, but over long periods of time, a nice easy J stroke seems more efficient to me.

…if you are…

– Last Updated: Jun-12-07 8:09 PM EST –

doing any substantial amount of paddling you might consider removing some, if not most, of the varnish on both the shaft and grip hand areas and simply treating the wood.......
Once any hard, varnished areas become wet, the tighter one tends to strangle the paddle. Do that for ~6hrs/day and see what your joints and tendons in your fingers & arms feel like at the end of the day.

Thought about this thread
on the lake tonight.

I found that the more I get to know my boat, the less I am prying heavy against the gunwale. In the beginning, I had to pry a lot and was probably overdoing the whole stroke for this boat. Maybe it is just my boat, but now, I am sort of doing a flowing J, thumb down at the end now, light rudder instead of the pry. I have noticed when I am easy on the start and even throughout I dont need to pry rather do a light rudder. It seems like this is what ^^ people above ^^ who know more than I, are saying, too.

I did realize that I am getting in the habit of running my paddle along the gunwale, which is probably not good long term. I was more worried about my wooden gunwale than the paddle though.

I tried to correct this tonight a little, but I was really getting into this rythmic habit with that. :).

There are lots of subtleties…

– Last Updated: Jun-13-07 12:27 AM EST –

... to the J-stroke. I'm in a similar situation, where my stroke is still improving with time, but I find there are many ways to do a J-stroke, depending on the needs at the moment. One thing I've that's happened with me is that I usually use less of a ruddering action than I used to. Dragging the paddle like a rudder seems to be what most people do with their J-stroke, pretty much the same as what people do who use the "goon stroke", but you can increase your stroke rate if the correction part of the stroke is just a little flip at the end, so the paddle comes out of the water "right now" instead of dragging for moment. This increase in stroke rate doesn't necessarily mean increasing your speed or your exertion level, as the stroke can be shortened at the same time. In the long run, this may be more efficient because a greater proportion of each stroke is near the optimum zone for creating forward thrust (as opposed to having an upward or downward component to the thrust).

Okay, I'm not saying "what to do" as much as I'm just giving some examples of how flexible this and other canoe strokes really are. There's no "one way" to do any stroke, and any stroke can be modified a lot of different ways to suit what's happening to your boat. That's really half the magic of canoeing.

That's just my two cents about something that's pretty hard to explain well.

I like this…

– Last Updated: Jun-13-07 12:34 AM EST –

"There's no "one way" to do any stroke, and any stroke can be modified a lot of different ways to suit what's happening to your boat. That's really half the magic of canoeing."

Half the fun for me is just getting to know this boat and how it acts or reacts or just misbehaves in the wind! You get attached to them like your children. When someone tried my boat and said it really misbehaves in the wind, it was like someone saying my son was sassy. Yeah, you know it is true but you love them anyway. ha ha ha

But, seriously, it is a lot fun to try new things and what works and what does not work. At the end of my lake paddles, I like to go in the middle of the lake, and sort of do some "dancing".

If you ever get a chance to see…
Karen Knight do a water ballet in her canoe, don’t pass up the opportunity.

I have seen her several times, and she, the canoe and the water make beautiful music together.



J stroke
I agree with guideboatguy and Mystical. No two strokes are ever exactly the same and each should be adjusted to fit canoe speed, yaw, and desired goal. Every J stroke is a bit different in that regard and you are well on your way when you can adjust by the feel of pressure on the blade and tweak automatically without thinking.

JackL, I understand what you are saying but just for the record, Karen Knight would be the first to tell anyone that she does not do ballet in a canoe but makes her canoe do ballet. This may seem trivial to some, but there is a big difference.


I also have a light bow paddler…
She’s 8. weighs almost 50 pounds and strong as an ox. For a long Mother’s Day weekend treat for myself I took her and her two younger siblings to the BWCA. All 3 kids together are still about 50 pounds lighter than me. Needless to say, I did NOT try to go light on the gear!

Paddling out, we faced wind all day in a Souris River Quetico 18.5. My daughter up front figured out how to do the “prying” against the gunwale in the bow. It was incredibly effective at getting the bow of that loaded beast of a boat back on track. She soon learned how to tell which side to pry on, and I would shout to her how many strokes I needed. Left me to set the general direction with respect to the waves and be the “power” or “motor” from the back with little effort wasted on correction. Occasionally, I used the sit and switch in particularly windy spots, but overall we made an effective team.

She paddled for 4 hours with only 2 breaks and the wind was rarely in our favor. The last lake was the toughest, and yet her little brother and sister slept soundly near the third seat all the way across. Even though I was constantly alert and aware of the rough water, we managed to steadily make progress against the wind. And in the Quetico, I wasn’t really worried about capsizing, just getting the thing to track decently in that wind.

Here’s to whatever style works for you!