kneeling...pros and cons

From what I’ve read in my canoeing books so far, kneeling, as opposed to sitting in the canoe, appears to be effective in whitewater conditions. Apart from the fact that it looks so “classic,” is kneeling in the canoe superior to sitting on the seat? Lower center of gravity?

Easier to “lean” the canoe? I don’t paddle rapids, so would kneeling still be in my interests?

kneeling is the way
kneeling allows you to transfer the most energy into your paddle while maintaining the best balance in a canoe. aargh! all the rest is compromise

Kneeling is the best
I really believe that even though I don’t kneel any more due to bad knees. When I kneeled I felt much more in tune with my boat; I was truly connected. You can control your boat by movements of your body in addition to your paddle. Also it keeps your back in better shape; that may seem counter-intuitive, but a kneeling position keeps your spine in a really position. You can really tell the difference after a long day. Oh, and I’m a mostly flat-water paddler, but I’ve done white water in the past. I can’t even imagine doing white water from a sitting position! For WW, kneeling with a saddle and thigh straps is the way to go!

That being said, I know most people paddle from a sitting position. Even though I mostly paddle from a sitting position, I go down on my (sore) knees in heavy water or wind. The control I get is worth the pain.


They said it right…
Kneelin’ be good, and it be me’ opinion it be good ta git used to it right fro’ de beginnin’. Much more boat control. Ah’ paddle Canadian style so ah’ kneel all de time - matter o’ fact ah’s so used ta kneelin’ dat ah’ ain’t comfortable sittin’ anymore. Ankles git kind’er stiff after 6-7 hours but dats wat happens waan yer git older.

Fat Elmo

I’m mainly a kneeler, but the sitting
position in a canoe can be improved by adding foot supports, and also knee hooks coming from the sides of the boat. And the seat itself should have some degree of butt-centering.

Boats should also be set up properly to take full advantage of kneeling. This may mean some kind of knee-separating support, and perhaps knee cups. The seat height should be adjusted so that most of the weight, while one is relaxed, is on one’s butt, while allowing easy transfer of weight to the knees when one leans forward.

Kneeling is the best way to go.
in a down river run.

The only problem is the last time I did it was about ten years ago in a race, and at the finish they had to pry this old man with the “bone on bone” knee out of the boat.

It wasn’t worth the win, and it was the last time I knelt in a canoe.



Go with the Flow
As you point out, kneeling is the way to go in whitewater

On flatwater use whatever floats your boat. With a flat seat I like to switch back & forth from seated to a kneeling position to relieve pains that accumulate from staying in one postion for hours. (Goin’ both ways?) Seated (especially in a tractor seat) w/ a footbrace & bentshaft using sit & switch will provide the most speed. Kneeling allows one to move fwd to change the trim in big winds & is used by fans of J or Canadian stroke or the Bill Mason, heeled over, solo in a tandem boat style of paddling.

I’m a kneeler but…
Kneeling with your knees wide gives you three good contact points for stability and precise boat lean. Whitewater and freestyle techniques, developed for good healing and turning contol, are based on kneeling.

But you rarely see long distance canoe racers kneeling so I’ve got to believe that there is some advantage to sitting for that style of paddling.


What I do
Most of the time I do one knee down, butt on the edge of the seat, other leg out against the foot brace. That gives me 3 point stable contact with the boat and is very comfortable. I look at it as a compromise between kneeling and setting. It also allows you to have good power on the blade.

In rougher condition, tuck the other leg back and have both knees down.

I almost always kneel for optimum boat control. It lets me shift my weight to heel the boat as needed and helps me apply a lot more power to the stroke. Admittedly, kneeling is tough on my ankles and feet which pretty much go to sleep after a half hour or so. It usually takes me a while to pry myself out of the boat at rest stops or at the end of the day. I’ll occasionally sit while paddling flatwater, but I develop tightness between my shoulder blades if I paddle sitting for more than a couple of hours. Doesn’t matter whether I’m using a straight or a bent shaft paddle.

Use knee pads when kneeling
I kneel all the time when paddling. Like others have said it improves your control of the canoe. I use knee pads (like the carpet layer use) with velcro straps. I also use a double bladed paddle, longer than most kayak paddles because you are higher off the water. This combination makes paddling easy on the back and shoulders and you can still get powerfull strokes good control. I use this method for both solo and tandem paddling.


– Last Updated: Dec-09-06 10:08 PM EST –

I sit for the sake of my knees (mostly just one that is onery and pads don't help )unless the waves are up. Then I need a lower center of gravity.

I kneel most of the time while canoeing. I paddle both flatwater and mild moving water, my preference is for paddling small rivers and creeks. I’m not into heavy-duty WW – I’ve had all the extreme adrenaline rushes I need at this point in my life. I also canoe trip every summer up in Canada where I primarily paddle lakes and connecting rivers.

I find it interesting that there are so many different variations on kneeling as expressed at this thread. I agree with many who have posted to this thread that for maximum control of a canoe kneeling is important.

I think if I used a double blade I’d probably want to sit low and use a foot-brace and back band/canoe chair – but then again that style of paddling doesn’t appeal to me, so I don’t know from personal experience. My body might force me into that someday… meanwhile I do my “canoe dance” thing… For now I can still kneel and can use a single blade so I do.

I typically kneel with my legs spread (one knee in each chine) and my butt leaning against the edge of an angled seat. I also occasionally use a three point position similar to “sloopsailor’s” except I don’t tuck a toe under a footbrace. The one knee down/one up position is known as a “traveler’s position” in the North Country and among “style” paddlers. It allows one knee to rest (from kneeling) while allowing for a quick transition to a regular kneeling position very quickly as needed. Nice for a break.

Personally I like a nice cushy kneeling mat that gives me a pleasantly soft place for my knees, shins and ankles. I don’t like construction type knee-pads, the behind-the-knee straps cuts off my circulation. I have to wear them on occasion in my line of work and find every moment in them almost torture. But they don’t bother some folks, so to each his/her own. I also don’t like glued-in-place WW style knee pads since they limit where I can place my knees. I move my body around a lot while paddling and I need to be able to place my knees where they will help me control my boat. For instance, I often kneel with my knees in the same chine while doing Freestyle maneuvers or while cruising along Canadian style. So I prefer large mats that completely cover the floor from the thwart in front of me (in a solo canoe) to a point well behind the seat. I like a pad that reaches from rail to rail (so it won’t slide around) and several inches longer than the length of my leg (from knee to extended toe). The extra length allows me to move forward or backward as needed to pitch the canoe and allows me to move my knees from side to side for added control. ½” thick yoga mats made of closed cell foam work well for canoe kneeling mats as to “puzzle-fit” workshop floor mats (also sold as kid’s play mats at toy stores in bright colors). There are sources on the internet for closed cell foam sheets that can be covered with nylon fabric (on the top side) for added comfort – the DIY approach is probably the best option.

One of the best ready-made kneeling mats is available from Grade IV – if you can find them… they’re expensive and very heavy, but nicely made. Bell “T-Pads” are a good choice as well, but they are a bit small and can slide around. The best ready-made mat of all was the old full-size “Kneeling Bed” formerly made by Bell for FreeStyle, but sadly it is no longer manufactured. I’m indebted to my friend Clarion for locating one for me a few years ago at BMO. Thank You Brian!

BTW, I’m 57 and yes, my knees and legs get stiff after some hours of kneeling. On calm water I sometimes sit in an upright position using a foot-brace for a break, sometimes I sit cross-legged. Looking down the road (at the aging process…) I’ll kneel as long as I’m able simply because I so thoroughly enjoy the control I get while kneeling – control that simply is not possible while sitting. In short – I like to dance a bit with my canoe. – My two cents. - Randall

What Arkay said…
I’m an older paddler.

Spend about 75% of my time in a kneeling position, my butt on the forward edge of the seat, which I have lowered.

I always use a single paddle.

I use a Bell T shaped kneeeling pad in all of my boats that don’t have knee pads permanently installed.

Kneeling gives me the feeling of stability I like in my solo canoes, which I use on moving water to “play” with the river.

If I hit long, flatwater sections; I may get into a sitting position for a short period of time to stretch my legs. On occasion, I will use the one knee up & one knee down position, or sit cross legged for awhile.

But, bottom line, I like the kneeling position on all classes of water.

Sittin makes my back hurt & I don’t like seatbacks.


I also switch between kneeling and
sitting. I have two of my three canoes setup with pads for kneeling. My 18 ft tripper has a tractor seat so kneeling isn’t practical on that canoe, but the seat is low and I use the foot braces to keep myself wedged firmly in the canoe in a chop. Kneeling will lower your center of gravity and give you a steady purchase in the canoe when you need it for paddling in wind and waves. It also gives you a change of position when your but goes numb. Even though I’m not a WW paddler, on moving water you still need to do eddy turns, and on lakes, it’s not always calm. Even if you only paddle on lakes, one time or another you will get caught in wind and waves. When that happens, you better have a way of keeping yourself glued in the canoe.

Try using a saddle
When paddling my 15 foot canoe solo, I will place a a peice closed cell foam (cut from camping pad) in the bottom closer to the center of the canoe to kneel on. I have also taken a couple of these old camping pads rolled them up and stradle the roll like a saddle, helping take pressue off the knees.

kneeling pros and cons
Thanks all of you for the thoughtful responses on kneeling. It’s so interesting to be able to get clued in on everyone’s personal styles and problem solving techniques! What a great forum!

kneeling or sitting?

– Last Updated: Dec-11-06 3:36 AM EST –

Most people who say they are kneeling are in fact sitting with their knees braced against the hull under their seats... If they really had to kneel, they wouldn't like it for more than a very short time. I know only a few people who really kneel for a long time. In fact I know few people who really kneel for short moments too (including myself). I myself do it only for very short moments, when 'FreeStyling' and when paddling tandem in a touring canoe a rapid; when I position myself more forward (just behind the stern thwart) to get a better trim for paddling backwards. BUT, people I know who say they prefer kneeling, never kneel that way -- at all. Kneeling (or semi-kneeling) is easier on the back because a good paddling position comes more natural, and balancing the canoe while making a paddle stroke is easier. When paddling sitting, back problems can indeed be a problem, especially with a low seating position. But often this is for a large part because the body posture is bad, the knees are too high, the feet are not braced (well), the leg muscles are too short, and last but not least the lower body (stomach) muscles are too weak (doing sit-ups every day is a must!).
Contrary to what a lot of people think, sitting is a more powerful position for paddling forward hard for a long time. That is why marathon and (most) downriver open canoeists and kayakers paddle sitting! If kneeling was a stronger paddling position, racers sure would kneel, even the kayakers! Sprint canoeists do kneel, but only on one leg. Their other leg is extended forward with the feet firmly braced. Practically, this can be seen as a very similar position as sitting (on one leg), only then very high. Which indeed is the strongest position for paddling forward (except for standing) but also the most unstable and, in the long run, very tiring. For the back perhaps paddling standing, as so many 'primitive' paddlers do, is the best...

knee hooks?
Neversaw them. Do you have any pictures, a link or a description. Can’t pass on a potential way to connect with the boat without asking the question. thanks.

Kneeling, kneeling and sitting

– Last Updated: Dec-11-06 9:06 AM EST –

Yeah but kneeling, putting my weight roughly equally on my knees and my rear end which is either on a saddle or the front of a seat, gives the best boat control.

While both marathon and downriver racers sit, whitewater slalom canoe racers kneel.

For some reason I have the idea that in whitewater slalom, C1 racers (kneeling) have faster times than kayak racers (sitting). Anybody care to confirm or deny?
Edit: It appears that I am wrong and the slalom kayaks are generaly faster. DOH!