Lean fwd during forward stroke?

One of my canoeing books recommends to lean a little forward during a Fwd/J stroke to get a longer reach forward for the power phase. On the other hand, Bob Foote’s web page


strictly forbids any kind of lean forward.

I’m still trying to improve my forward propulsion after incorporating a lot of advice from an excellent discussion here about the J-stroke correction phase. I’m mostly paddling a tandem from a kneeling thwart, but also stern.

Regardless of what Bob Foote says on his website, if you watch him paddle on the video “Drill Time” he leans forward a fair bit when doing the forward stroke. He also uses a quite exaggerated forward reach at the plant with a great deal of bend in the elbow of his grip hand.

I often lean forward to plant the paddle when a lot of power is called for, as in starting from a dead stop to eddy out of a small eddy, during an attainment in stronger current, or to try to jump onto a surf wave. Leaning forward (along with a lot of torso rotation) allows one to plant the paddle as far forward as possible. Following this up with a pelvic thrust to the paddle during the power phase gives the maximum amount of forward propulsion per stroke.

Leaning forward does weight the bow, however, especially in shorter boats, and this will tend to cause some bobble or pitch of the hull so it may not be the most efficient way to paddle once the boat is up to speed.

Ditto what Pete said…
It works okay if you need a burst of power. However, most paddlers who try and lean forward also are not keeping the power phase of the stroke vertical and pull the boat down rather than forward. That, in addition to the weight shift, can create some very inefficient paddling. I would suggest that you try and develop your technique without the lean. Adding it for specific cases is always an option.

Bob doesn’t always adhere to his own
advice. But for all day cruising, with his (and my) cab forward stroke, it’s better not to lean forward.

When I’m accelerating from rest, or trying to paddle fast for a short distance on the flat, I lean forward somewhat. This helps the bow stay in line rather than rising up and plowing.

If you watch decked c-1 slalom racers, and at least some of the OC-1 slalom racers, you’ll see some forward lean.

I think what Bob Foote is wanting us to avoid is the practice of leaning forward, taking the catch, and then hauling the entire upper body back, while twisting and arm levering. This puts the hull in a rocking horse motion, and may mean more J or ruddering.

If I lean forward somewhat and take short, hard strokes without throwing my torso backwards, I get good acceleration with fairly smooth hull behavior.

Lean Forward To Utilize GPE
Or Gravitational Potential Energy, like C-1, outrigger, SUP and dragon boat racers do. Putting your body weight into the stroke results in almost effortless “explosive” power at the catch and rockets your canoe forward.

Clyde, speaking as a lousy c-1 slalom
racer, that is exaggerated horse puckey. Any reason for leaning forward is purely technical and not to be equated with explosive anything.

not pulling back
if you’re not suppposed to be hauling the entire upper body back, how do you get it back?

I assume you’d return to an erect torso position while unwinding your body during the power phase. Surely you don’t remain in the lean position for several strokes, or do you?

I tried to visualize if I lean forward .
or not.

I paddle stern in a tandem.

If I do it all, it is very little, but with that said, if I am doing a sweep, I definately lean as far forward as I can.

Jack L

Blade Body Boat

– Last Updated: Jun-07-13 9:54 PM EST –

We need to keep the blade +/- 15dg to square to the stroke to acquire efficiency and the shaft as vertical as possible to minimize yaw.

We want to utilize larger torso muscles to increase power, reduce fatigue. Torso rotation with ~ fixed arms does that and increases forward reach to the catch.

We want to keep the hull quiet in the water, minimizing roll by not rocking sideways and minimizing pitching by not lunging for and aft.

There are situations when we will do contra-indicated actions, but not commonly. When our water bottle falls out of our thwart bag, yeah, we'll lean forward to pick it up when we get thirsty.

1 Like

90%+ of your Stroke is Up Front
So you got to “explode” there at the catch, like some high kneelers do. And GPE helps a lot.

Lot of hooey is written about …
… forward stroke, torso rotation and vertical paddle.

Here are videos of champion Olympic sprint canoeists, marathon canoe racers (Serge Corbin), and whitewater downriver racers. You will see they all lean forward on the catch of the forward stroke and, moreover, most of them don’t even come back to a vertical torso at the end of the stroke.




With That, I Leave You With This:
Check out this group of paddlers racing in Tahiti:


Notice how they jell on the second day?

You might be surprised how high
kneelers don’t explode at the catch.

This was a hard thing to learn in competition rowing and sculling. A “hard catch” did not, and could not, mean an explosion of fast twitch muscle fibers and brain cells.

Ideally, the blade has to drop all the way into the water without throwing water off the front or back face of the blade.

It’s like speed climbing. You reach up and quickly get your hand set before applying effort. Otherwise, you’ll be clawing at the wall.

seems that the farther one leans forward
… (what I call reaching) for the catch … the longer the stroke will be , meaning the paddle is in the water longer , not meaning the paddle is moving through the water farther .

If this be the case , seems unavoidable that the cadence will be slower than with shorter minimal reach strokes , where the paddle is in the water a shorter time per stroke and the cadence can be increased more easily if desired .

In my mind the paddle doesn’t move through the water very much with either style stroke (although it appears it does because the canoe is moving forward ) , the canoe is thing doing say what , about 90% of the moving , which is forward , not the paddle moving backwards .

It’s too late at night for me to think
through your reasoning. All I know is that slalom c-1 paddlers who are really hammering on flatter, easier sections will lean forward somewhat and paddle at a high cadence, with short strokes. Their upper hand is well above their head, and the lower hand is close to the water.

In a rockered, swedeform slalom boat, leaning forward helps keep the most water-dynamic part of the boat, the bow, down in the water. The short strokes eliminate most correction by pulling the hull forward by the nose.

There is still disagreement about how much fore-and-aft torso humping is consistent with efficiency. I have plenty of torso to “hump”, but my opinion is that the torso should not move forward and back at all. One should choose one’s lean based on conditions, and get power from short torso rotations, the shoulder girdle system, and (least of all) from the arms.

Paddle Moving Backwards?
No way! I try to push or move it forwards as far as I can, so it exits way ahead of where it entered.

Two different worlds

– Last Updated: Jun-09-13 8:42 AM EST –

Glenn, you can't compare high-kneeling on a racing canoe with the kind of regular sit-down or kneeling recreational paddling the OT is talking about.

not necessarily
One can lean forward and still keep the stroke as short and the cadence as high as when one does not. You just end the power phase further forward.

I agree that the mechanics of paddling in the high kneel position are completely different from paddling in a low kneel or seated position.

I think it is important to realize that competitors in a sprint event, especially at the Olympic level, do not necessarily do what is “efficient” in terms of maximal propulsion per unit of energy expended. It is all able driving the boat forward as fast as possible and if one can reach the finish line a fraction of a second sooner by being “inefficient” that is what is required to be competitive.

If you watch the clip posted by Glenn of the Olympic high kneel flat water OC-1 racers you will see their canoes pitching significantly as they pull the bows down into the water with their exaggerated forward lean. I don’t see this as something the average boater wants to emulate during a four hour paddle, however.

I agree, sort of

– Last Updated: Jun-09-13 10:07 AM EST –

When recreational canoeing at a cruising speed, I agree that you don't have to engage in the exact form of a canoe racer. Or the cadence.

And I agree the high kneel posture lends itself to somewhat different biomechanics than other postures. That's why I included a second video of seated sit-n-switchers and a third video of a WW downriver racer, who could be sitting or kneeling (I'm not sure).

Therefore, I agree that a recreational canoeist doesn't have to lean as far forward on a stroke as a racer to engage in a satisfactory cruising pace.

However, much of these form discussions use what I would call didactic terminology. They don't describe what top paddlers actually do. Rather, they are trying to describe certain paddling forms to avoid or prevent common mistakes.

For example, I don't think any top paddler does, or should, paddle with a vertical paddle or with so-called stacked hands. All cruisers and, as you can see from the videos, all racers hold the paddle at what I call the "comfort angle", which can vary with the paddler's height, arm length, boat width and boat depth.

It is of little consequence to have the paddle shaft vertical (pointing at 12 o'clock) to get proper boat forward movement. What is necessary is to draw the paddle back parallel to the keel line with the paddle face perpendicular and flush to this line of pull. This can be accomplished with the paddle shaft pointing at 10 or 11 o'clock (or 1 o'clock), and this angle is naturally determined by the paddler and boat size factors I listed above.

Nor does any top racing canoeist engage in what I would call torso "rotation". Indeed, unless one is a contortionist, the mid and lower torso can't rotate much; only the shoulders and top spine can. Hence, I observe most top single blade paddlers in all racing and posture disciplines -- Olympic, marathon, outrigger, whitewater -- applying power with the shoulders, upper arms and back, and with more of a stomach crunch than anything I would call torso rotation.

(Double blade paddlers seem to use the term "torso rotation" mainly to describe the leg pumping and related pivoting on their sitzbones.)

Nonetheless, terms such as vertical paddle, torso rotation and not leaning forward are commonly used as didactic teaching mantras to point out common form defects such as unwanted turning components in the power stroke, weak arm-only paddling, and a poor catch and follow-through -- even though these teaching mantras are not, literally, what top paddlers do in actual paddling.

In short, and as to the OP, I think it's proper form to lean forward and extend arms for the catch when you want to apply maximum power to your stroke. You can maintain a high cadence when doing this by removing your paddle before it travels very far and by never really allowing your torso to become vertical. Since racers want high power on every stroke, they maintain this kind of form for every stroke. Recreational cruisers don't need to do this except when they want to apply power for accelerations or to combat wind, wave or current forces. Otherwise, they can maintain a mostly erect posture for a recreational cruising pace.

Yes, you do remain leaning forward
for some strokes. The disagreement among paddlers is whether to hump back and forth with each stroke.

One problem with horsing the torso back is that when you go forward for the next catch, it checks the momentum of the boat. The transfer of momentum is in the wrong direction.