Please forgive me if this sounds like a stupid question but I believe the only stupid question is the one that wasn’t asked. I’m new to paddling but have taken a few trips in canoes ten plus years ago. I have a “basics” video I bought with my canoe and I’ve seen tons of “technique” pictures on the net and it seems like all the paddlers are kneeling. I have yet to find a source that explains why though. My guess is that it brings your center of gravity that much lower in the canoe. Am I headed in the right direction? Theres no whay in hell that I’ll be able to paddle on my knees for long even with padding. Can someone point me to some more information about ways to sit/kneel in a canoe? Thanks.
Kneeling takes getting used to
By kneeling, not only are you lowering the center of gravity, you also gain control over the boat.
Generally you have the your butt setting on the front edge of a seat or on a kneeling thwart–that takes some of the load off your knees.
There is also the half-kneel. Sit on the seat, one leg stretched out infront of you, the other curled under the seat with some of your weight on that knee.
I know paddlers that kneel, that sit or switch between the two. Some paddlers that don’t kneel add foot braces to help lock them into the boat.
I find it a lot harder to do now that I'm no longer 18. You're on the right track, though. It lowers your center of gravity, giving the boat a little more stability, and you have more control over the canoe by simply shifting your hips. These days I only do it in rapids or rough water. Try buying a closed-cell foam pad (you can buy them at Galyans) to put under your knees or go to Home Depot or Lowes and get the strap-on rubber knee pads with the foam built in. IMO, There's no reason to be on your knees 100% of the time, but you should be practiced at it. And you should definitely do it in rougher waters.
Got the pads covered.
I’m gonna use an old foam lounger we have from our pool. Speaking of pools… I finally have a reason to go in it besides just to clean it. We can practice dumping and things of that nature.
In the kneeling position, you can make subtle, or dramatic changes in how your boat will handle by simply applying pressure on either knee.
Try this while in the kneeling position in your boat(Keep your body upright; do not lean!)
Get some forward momentum going,(keep both knees in contact with your boat), now apply light pressure on your left knee........watch what happens to the bow of your boat. Get forward momentum going again, (keep both knees in contact with your boat), now apply light pressure on your right knee.......watch what happens to the bow of your boat. The more pressure you apply; the more dramatic the change. Imagine what will happen if you apply pressure with the left knee while slightly raising the right knee. Hint: the change will occur a little faster! Start out slow & easy. If you're not the slow & easy type; practice this on a warm day!
Do a little research on the J-lean, and the Bell Buoy lean............
P.S. Voyageur make a decent kneeling pad. Bell
makes a great kneeling pad. Or you can
buy, and mount some knee pads very
Kneeling Knot Kneccesary
Im many respects, kneeling is a holdover from the old days of canoeing, before they sarted putting in seats. There was simply a thwart to lean against. Today, most seats are dropped so low in the canoe you cannot get your feet under them in order to kneel. With the low seat the change in the center of gravity is minimal.
However, kneeling will provide you with better stability within the canoe, since you can “anchor” yourself at three points…your butt and knees, especially if your knees are pressed up against the sides of the boat. You become “The Human Tripod!”
I send most of my time in the seat…until conditions really spook me. Then I get down on my knees and make promises about what I’ll do…or never do again, if only I get out of this alive.
kneeling is best, but…
Kneeling is best because it gives you a tripod connection. Your knees are in the chines and butt against a thwart or seat. This connects the top and bottom of the boat to you.(as other posts have explained)Some of us can’t kneel due to injuries,etc. I can get down on one knee for very short periods of time and I can’t count on being able to do that. So we tried a lot of boats before we bought one for me. In my experience, the fit of the boat is critical if you have to sit because you can’t make as many adjustments ‘on the fly’. If you get the seat too low in a canoe it can be difficult to paddle effectively because your rotation and reach will be limited. If the seat is too high in some boats the stability is compromised. It is an individual fit and what works for one person may not fit another. So, if you have no injuries, work on kneeling. It gives you more options and better control.
We like to canoe camp and paddle classI-II rivers. And I weigh a lot. So I needed a boat that would handle well and still carry a load. My left leg doesn’t completely straighten or completely bend. And I have a few other physical/structural issues. I’ve had people recommend kayaks, but getting in and out is a project and painful. And SOTs are wetter and heavier than I like. So if you are dealing with a situation similar to mine and need to sit here’s some ideas that have helped me:
Buy as narrow a canoe as stability will allow or one with gunnels that are ‘pulled in’. My Mohawk Odyssey 14 is narrow enough to reach over the gunnels and wide and long enough in the hull to be stable. The right canoe can make all the difference.
Buy a canoe that is the right depth to get the seat low enough for stability and still have room to tuck a leg under if you can get down on one or both knees. If you have to get up and down quickly, you do better with more clearance.
Leave your chair cushion at home and get a piece of 1/2-3/4" closed cell foam. The chair cushion will compress, get soggy and inhibit getting in and out of the boat. It will also stick up enough to be a catching/tripping danger. If you rent or move from boat to boat, use a pad that goes across the width of the hull and chines and don’t glue the pad down. I keep my pad under my seat until I need it so that I don’t get wet, muddy feet on it.
Install adjustable footbraces. These are part of your connection with the boat and will affect performance.
Install knee blocks (closed cell foam) at the gunnels. This is also part of your connection with the boat and will save your knees from creases. I use pipe insulation when I have to paddle different canoes, but they tend to get knocked off when paddling. Glued in blocks are better. I’m going to try kayak thigh/knee blocks to see if I can get a snug fit without getting locked in too much.
I’m going to try installing a backband. It will be another connection to the boat and will affect performance, but may help keep me from leaning back too far. Still not sure about this idea. I don’t like the way canoe seat backs interfere with movement, so I don’t know if I will like a backband.
Try different length paddles. Generally, you should be able to paddle without leaning your upper body. Also, a paddle that is too long will tend to make you get your arm above your head which is inefficient and prone to shoulder injuries.
Learn to isolate body part movements/control. With practice, you can weight the canoe with your seatbones,legs/knees, and feet. You need to learn this when kneeling as well.
Get formal instruction. It is well worth the initial investment. If you can also find experienced paddlers to hang with you will learn a lot and enjoy the sport even more.
I’m just getting started with my solo boat and don’t know how much I’ll be able to do, but these are some of the things that have helped so far.
Have fun and paddle safe!
Great info. Thanks from a reader
versus a contributor.