Kneeling in Canoe?

I mostly paddle small lakes (there are something like 200 in my county) anyway I was out last Thursday and got caught on the far side of a lake when the wind picked up. Naturally it was against me all the way back. I was in my Grumman 17’ and paddling solo. I was having a time of it as I kept getting blown sideways. I decided to try kneeling in the center of the boat and it seemed to help immensely. When I go solo I sit in the front seat with the canoe turned backwards. I also have a 5 gal. jug of water I use to help level the boat. I noticed that while kneeling I was able to maintain course much easier and I seemed to get more glide on each stroke. My question is whether this comes from the more forward position, or the fact that moving forward put the bow farther into the water. Maybe I should move my jug forward to hold the bow down more? Anyone else noticed this?

same thing
You wrote:

“My question is whether this comes from the more forward position, or the fact that moving forward put the bow farther into the water.”

Same thing. Yes - when paddling into the wind (solo or tandem) it’ll be easier with the boat trimmed toward the bow. If you’re stern-trimmed (with your weight back of centre and your bow higher in the water), you’ll get “weather vaned” - the wind will push the unweighted end downwind.


I am quoting from “Path of the
Paddle” an illustrated guide of canoeing by Bill Mason: “Never use material that is heavier than water, for example, rocks to hold down the bow of your canoe. If you capsize, the rocks might lodge in the canoe and take it to the bottom of the lake. Weighing your canoe is a poor substitute for positioning yourself properly in the cener to cope with the wind”. Later in this same book it states, in wind; “It makes a lot more sense to slide forward into the centre of the canoe and turn around and face into the wind. In a strong wind you will have no difficulty controlling the canoe from this position.” The book later goes on to recommend a paddling postion. The same book adds; “now let’s assume that a gale begins to blow. THis is the time to make the wind work for you instead of against you. Move up just ahead of centre. The stern, which is now riding slightly higher in the water, will blow downwind. You are now pointing into the wind, the direction you presumably want to be in…Most of your effort can be used to propel the canoe forward against the wind. If the wind lets up a little you can move back to just behind the center thwart” The book continues recommending a postion for the boat…

Now, i am not even sure if this answerred your question… happy paddling…

Good Read

– Last Updated: Jul-18-05 2:44 PM EST –

Click on "Free Downloads", then scroll down to "Upwind in a Blow".

Nothing wrong with using ballast to help adjust trim, but do avoid rocks and such. The water jug shouldn't be a problem.

Have fun.

I paddle a Grumman tandem canoe solo

– Last Updated: Jul-17-05 6:51 PM EST –

but I don't paddle it sitting backwards. This throws the geometry way off, control is limited and creates a problem in the wind. Instead, I use a drop-in seat that I adapted to attach on the inside of the gunwales. I moved the thwarts and cut them down for a 29 inch beam. I need no additional ballast and I can easily paddle solo with a single bladed paddle. My big flatbed has some maneuverability and even a little speed when I use my double bladed canoe paddle.

The flat bed gives lots of room for my feet under the seat and I can paddle kneeling for an hour or more without any problem.

Solo in the wind
I paddle my Penobscot solo 90% of the time. Sitting in the bow seat backwards with a 5 gallon pail of water in the stern, now “bow” works pretty good. When the wind really gets kicking kneeling near the center makes a huge difference in how the boat is trimmed and how she handles. Part of the fun is getting the wind to do your work for you. I often paddle quartering into the wind and waves and allow them to push me down the shoreline while I paddle at a moderate pace.

Kneeling is better all around for
everything except your knees. I paddle creeks and rivers and, while I sit most of the time, anytime that I come upon a section that requires incresed control or effort I always drop to my knees. As I have gotten older I have lost the ability to spend a lot of time kneeling without paying for it in aches and pains. A few years ago I bought a good-quality pair of strap-on carpenter’s knee pads. These are quite comfortable, have lots of cushion, and I have modified them slightly by putting non-skid tape of the outside. Now, when I canoe, I where these all the time and kneel when I need/want to without any of the old pains.

Part of the fun of a new toy (like my canoe!) is learning to use it in different situations. Thanks for all the responses. I was actually amazed at the difference between kneeling in the center and sitting when I was in that wind. Now I can’t wait to go out and experiment some more!

BTW, I may have created a monster! One of the canals I went through was a bit rough between the wind a perhaps a bit of current. The canoe got to bouncing around a bit! That was COOL! I’ll have to find a bit more of that!

me as ballast
By the way, thinking about this has been good timing -

I’m trying to coax my girlfriend into doing more sterning and soloing… needing to paddle into a headwind when we might want to have my beef in the bow is a good, practical argument for her to be comfortable in the stern!

Being able to switch seats according to winds gives us more options, and therefore more potential for fun and safety.


I second using knee pads for kneeling
comfort. This meant I didn’t have to add padding to the floor of the canoe to pad the knees, so I don’t have anything squishy under my feet while sitting. I was ready to give up on kneeling before I got the knee pads.

Thee’s a downside to strap-on knee pads
Ever try walking in the water with them on? After a time or two of that, I glued regular knee pads into the bottom of my canoe and have been much happier. There were several rapids on the Guadalupe River in Texas that were fun enough to haul the boats back upriver to run again. The strap on knee pads create a lot of resistance and don’t stay in place when trying to walk against moving water. Another time, I turned over, and the knee pads created an obstacle to my swimming. The type of knee pad might make a difference, but I thought I’d pass on my experience. My suggestion is to go with the glued-in pads, and you’ll always have them in place when you need them…which might not be the case with the strap-ons.

River Goddess

Good points RiverGoddess.
Are you a dedicated kneeler? If so, you wouldn’t have the concern of putting your feet on squishy kneeling pads when sitting. I sit some and kneel some in my MR Slipper and a pad stuck to the floor messes with my footing while sitting. I haven’t had the experiences of trying to walk in the water or swim with knee pads on, though. That’s something to think about. Thanks for the heads up.

No, I actually dislike kneeling…
but will do so when approaching tricky water or rapids. I sit on the webbed seat most of the time (We-no-nah Sandpiper solo), and have installed a voyager adjustable footrest. The pads on the floor don’t bother me much. I don’t like kneeling any more than I have to because my feet go to sleep after a short while. I have found, though, that kneeling for rapids really gives me so much more stability.

River Goddess

My Slipper doesn’t have a footbrace.
I’m thinking about installing one. That would reduce the problems of installed knee pads adversely effecting footing while sitting. I also prefer sitting most of the time, but drop to my knees in dicey situations for better control (and, on occassion, to issue a quick prayer) and sometimes just to play around with boat handling on flat water, but not for long periods of time.

knee pads…
anyone use or try the softer knee pads used in atheletics such as volleyball or basketball?

Sports kneepads
I believe tend to be rather slippery in their covering. If you go down on a gym floor, you don’t want to “stick” but rather slide.

This might be a problem in a canoe. Way back in my Grumman days we used the industrial quality moulded rubber “plumbers” knee pads with a grippy surface. Still slid around a bit on the no-skid paint. When I graduated to Royalex boats, it seemed to make sense to glue pads into the boat.

RiverGoddess: The trick to making strap-on kneepads comfy is to CROSS THE STRAPS behind your knee. Makes walking and kneeling easier.


I also have non-slip step grips on the
floor of my Carbonlite 2000 hull Slipper to reduce foot slippage while sitting, but it’s more near the center of the boat than where I place my knees when I kneel. I think the Carbonlite 2000 is even slipperier than royalex when wet and I wasn’t able to brace at all in the Slipper when sitting when the floor or my shoes were a little wet, until I put some of the adhesive backed stair tread tape where I place my feet.

I haven’t had any problems with my rubber faced knee pads slipping yet, but it I did, I would put some of this tread grip tape on that portion of the floor also. It’s cheap, easy to install and is almost flush with the floor surface so it doesn’t get in the way of any other in-boat activities.

tried, but didn’t like
i used them, and didn’t slide all that much. my problem was that the knee pads cut off the circulation to my lower legs. it’s something i still need to work out because kneeling into the wind is the way to go, imo

Another take on knee pads
I’ve recently switched from mostly sitting to mostly kneeling (had to re-mount the seat first, hence the delay). I tried knee pads for a while, and learned not to like them. These knee pads were great for working on the floor, and stuff like that, but in a canoe they always felt a bit “wiggly”, and I usually had the sensation that I’d slide off of them. Also, the strap got pretty uncomfortable after long time periods (the amount of flex in the knee joint when kneeling in a canoe is greater than it is for at least part of the time when doing work on your hands and knees). The wiggly sensation was due partly to the upward slant of the hull on each side of the boat - just too unstable when in knee pads.

I switched to a foam pad that just lays on the floor of the canoe. It’s not big enough to interfere with foot placement when sitting or when getting in and out. Also, my knees feel “locked in place” on those upward-sloping outer edges of the floor, because the pad really sticks to wherever you put it. It’s that rounded, rolly-polly surface that’s form-fitted to your knee that causes knee pads to feel so wiggly on the floor of a canoe. A pad on the floor works much better, at least for me. Now that I’ve done it both ways, I’ll never go back to knee pads.

My knee pads not wiggly at all.
There are many types of knee pads. Here’s some things I like about knee pads:

  1. Keeps knees dry & clean.

  2. I can place my knees any place I want to in order to change position and there will be padding under them.

    What type of foam pad do you use? I tried some of the 1/2" closed cell foam camp sleeping pad foam and I didn’t like:

  3. A little breeze would blow it out of place (I didn’t have it glued down).

  4. It floated out of place if there was a little water in the boat (also could be cured by gluing it down.

  5. To allow for varied knee placement, some of the foam ended up where I place my feet.

  6. It was slick when wet.

    I’ll look into this option a little more. It’s been a few years since I tried it.