Less Suited for Kneeling

I keep reading here that some canoes are less suited for kneeling. I guess I don’t quite understand what that means. I keel mainly because I’m most comfortable that way. But I also feel I get better control and stability in almost every bot I’ve paddled.

The only canoe I ever paddled that I thought was better suited for sitting was the Clipper Sea 1. And that was only because I couldn’t figure out how to operate the rudder while kneeling.

So besides seating, which can be modified fairly easily, what makes a boat less suited for kneeling?


Some of those wood & canvas boats can be pretty uncomfortable, what with all the ribs. Padding might help, but a thicker pad with other associated problems might be needed.

And you ever kneel in an aluminum canoe after it’s been sitting in the sun? Ouch! Again, pads may help.

Don’t even ask me about kneeling in a Coleman.


Good question

– Last Updated: Jul-01-09 1:59 PM EST –

I think it needs approval from certain paddlers/builders in order to be a qualified kneeling canoe.

Some say a boat that can't be drawn at the bow is not a kneeling boat. I can bow draw a marathon C1 without too much effort.

Hell, I can stand-up paddle my Rob Roy.

Someone posted here recently that "all canoes are good for kneeling."

I like their thought pattern.

some seat mechanisms that attatch the seat to the floor make for unfriendly kneeling.

Some boats are definitely not meant for heeling and with kneeling heeling often follows.

Boats that are delta shaped or have the wide point of the boat down low are less forgiving for kneeling and heeling.

Most people do not want to sit and heel in a canoe.

The only reason
I can think of, aside the obvious mechanical ones, is a canoe which high speed potential can only be hold when paddled sitting?

Looking at my two boats…
(Wenonah Voyager and GRB Classic XL) which are designed to go straight and fast I think you’re right. To maximize their designed speed, sitting using a foot brace is the best position. I don’t think this means that you couldn’t kneel, outfitting aside, and that they wouldn’t be capable boats from the kneeling position, you just wouldn’t use the full potential in their predominant feature (speed).

Also, I disagree with the other poster about heeling boats from the sitting position. Both of these boats heel very well from the sitting position especially outfitted with a foot brace and straps.

Interesting thought
“All canoes are good for kneeling”. It’s a thought… but not well-informed. See Kim’s various coherent reasons below.

There’s heeling a touch
And then there’s heeling to the rail like one does in Canadian style or Freestyle. A moderate heel can be accomplished seated with a foot-brace – a significant heel – to the rail - requires kneeling. At least from what I’ve seen… I’ve never seen anyone spin a canoe in a 180 degree (or more) turn on its rail while seated. If someone can do it I’d love to hear about it, or better yet see it.

thats what I was talking about
Heeling a deltaish shape over is going to get you wet and sitting (unless you have practiced this) is going to give you less chance to regain your balance.

Of course if you are skilled with footbraces and balance you might be able to…but that hull shape was not meant to be heeled over.

Most paddlers anyway have a definite preference, to kneel and heel or to sit and switch and heel a little to get the boat to turn.

I too would love to see a skilled sitting heeler get a Prism for example to the rail. Probably not necessary in most touring situations though I for one use extreme heel for maneuvering nasty portage approaches at slow speed.

Maybe we should pay attention to the seat height which is usually higher for a kneeling paddler than a sitting paddler. Your boat may be designed to have a lower CG and not have enough stability if the seat were raised.

I misunderstood your previous post. I thought you were talking about heeling for turning. Neither the Classic XL or Voyager will spin on a dime even heeled, however both respond quite well within their design limitations to a leaned turn.

I would be interested to hear from someone who has paddled these boats from a kneeling position. The seats and my bad knees prevent me from doing it.

My Wenonah Whisper and Advantage not
bad for me to kneel. Both have the smaller kevlar seat and I have size 8.5 shoes. I had more room in the Whisper than the Advantage. I preferred to sit most of the time in both boats.

heeling Prism
I have a Prism, and heel it to the gunwale (kneeling) sometimes. It doesn’t add much taking it that far. I always thought that you could trim an inch and a half or so off the top and it wouldn’t matter.

agree kneeling always equal or better
I tend to think you’re right, any boat can be favorably kneeled in (with the seat removed, if necessary) - although to be sure I’d like to test the theory on an extreme low COG boat like something in the wee lassie line, where you’re intended to sit on the floor. You would think that the higher COG when kneeling would rule out the low COG boats, but in my existing boats I feel so much more in control that I really think it would work.

As for fast boats with foot braces, if you kneel and put your knees in cups that don’t move, then haven’t you achieved the same thing? And you have more of your body available to put into the strokes so it should be easier/faster to achieve max hull speed and maintain it.

Not an expert, and I’m still learning
but the way I understand it, the seating position with foot braces allows full rotation and leg drive in the stroke providing more power. Just guessing, but I don’t think kneeling even with cups would provide that.

more power
more muscles are involved.

you get more power, just not the quick tempo.

take a 84-inch paddle in a tandem or semi-stable solo, there’s some serious, serious power then.


don’t think so
I don’t know how to measure it or prove my assertion, but I’ve paddled both ways, and I’m quite sure I have more power - MUCH more power - available when kneeling than when seated with foot braces.

Think about it - for that not to be true, you would have to be claiming that you were getting more power from the part of your leg below the knee than you were gaining from being able to lean down on your stroke with the weight of your upper body.

Or take another analogy - think of using the two positions mentioned, only have a shovel in your hands instead of a paddle, and let us insert the canoe into the side of a huge sand pile with 45-degree sides, so that the task is shovelling sand from beside you to behind you. (As you push back each shovel full of sand, more sand from above trickles into its place.) The kneeling man is going to have a huge advantage over the seated man. The only reason this full advantage doesn’t transfer to the water is that once the canoe reaches hull speed, there is no more gain to be had. But the positional advantage itself is huge, and at least translates in paddling terms into reaching hull speed faster and maintaining it more easily.

if kneeling was better for speed
marathon canoeist and sprint/downriver/marathon/surfski kayakers would be kneeling too…

In fact the so called high kneel position of the Sprint canoeist, is a way of combining the advantages of kneeling and sitting to get the best of both.

me too
I feel as if I can generate considerably more power per stroke from a kneeling postition than I can sitting. But I feel I can maintain a higher stroke cadence over distance in a sitting poition.

kneeling in canoes
Although I often paddle sitting I like to have the option to kneel in any canoe. I don’t much care for tractor seats, for that reason, not because they are uncomfortable but because they are not well-suited for kneeling. Canoes with seats suspended very low may not allow enough foot clearance for kneeling.

I don’t neccesarily kneel just because I want to heel the boat over. I feel I can generate more power per stroke kneeling than sitting. If the water conditions get rough, I feel I have a good deal more stability in that position. And when paddling into a very stiff headwind, it allows me to reduce surface area.

When paddling out of a bay around a point into a headwind, for example, I like to have the option to drop down onto my knees to clear the headland.

Interesting… I went looking for pictures - is this an example of high kneel (on one knee and one foot)?