paddle technique

Me and wife are picking up an OT Disco 16’ this Saturday.

Any suggestion on link/videoes/writeups for begineer paddlers trying to figure out exactly how to paddle? ie…Jstroke etc?


All our books are probably outdated,…
so I won’t list them, but if you don’t mind a few suggestions and hints, here are some:

  1. Keep the paddle blade at 90 degrees to the canoe during your forward stroke. (don’t have one side of the blade or the other at an angle to the canoe).

    Also keep it as close to the canoe as possible.

  2. On the forward stroke, bring the blade in the air until you are approximately a foot+/- in front of your knees, and then keeping it vertical chop it down into the water.

  3. As you draw it back in the water, it should come out of the water just about opposite your hip. Much farther back, and you are wasting energy.

    The best way for tandem paddlers is what they call “sit and switch” and the reason being it requires the least corrective strokes to keep the boat going straight and also gives each arm a break.

    It is accomplished as follows:
  4. the bow paddler and stern paddler are each paddling on opposite sides of the canoe

  5. both paddlers should be in sync, (planting their paddle at the same time).

  6. since the front paddler cannot see the stern paddler it is up to the stern paddler to keep in sync.

  7. try to maintain a cadence that is comfortable for both paddlers, and make sure to speak up if one of you is too fast for the other, (it should be a pleasurable experience for both of you)

  8. One of you will be a stronger paddler than the other, which is going to cause the canoe to turn. As soon as you sense it turning, one paddler calls a “hut” and you both switch sides on the next stroke.

    Practice calling the “hut” so you will do it simultaneously.

  9. If for some reason you can keep the boat going straight, then just call a “hut” on about every eight to ten strokes, and this will give each arm a break.

  10. If there is a strong quartering wind, and it wants to constantly turn you in one direction, both of you paddling on the opposite side to combat it.

  11. If you still can’t combat it, or if for some reason you want to turn quickly, You both do “sweeps” on the opposite side from the wind or the opposite side from the direction you want to turn.

  12. A “sweep” is nothing more than what it says. Instead of keeping your blade close to the canoe, you are going to reach out with it.

    The bow paddler reaches as far forward as possible and then sweeps out and back as far away from the boat as possible. they still take the paddle out of the water opposite their hips.

    At the same time and still in sync., the stern paddler reaches out and plants the paddle opposite their hips, (not forward like the bow paddler). Then sweeps as far out and backwards as far as they can.

  13. If the wind is still controlling you or if you want to turn some more here is a good place for the “J” stroke which will be done by the stern paddler.

  14. Lets assume that you want to turn right. the bow paddler will do sweeps on the left, while the Stern paddler does “J’s” on the right.

    The “J” is nothing more than planting the paddle as in the forward stroke, but instead of bringing it straight back and out of the water, as you come back beside your hip you form a J or a rudder by simulataneously letting the paddle go out away from the boat and turning the blade 90 degrees to the water surface before bringing it out of the water.

    I can’t believe I have writtenj all this. I was just going to give a couple of hints.

    there are many more strokes that the bow paddler can learn as you progress, but hopefully this will get you guys started

    Correct tandem paddling doesn’t come overnight, but when it does gel, and it awesome.

    Have patience with each other. It took my wife and I several years before we got to be a team

    good luck



How strong is your marriage?
You may be about to find out.

Red Rock’s basic instruction

– Last Updated: Jun-06-08 8:18 AM EST –

Here is the link to some basic paddling instruction for J stroke, draw, and sweep to help get you going.

My advice: Jacks advice is one way to paddle a canoe; is a fast forceful way to paddle, and is probably a good one for beginners to hold a straight line. But also try to paddle the traditional way with bow and stern person paddling on opposite sides for extended time period and the stern person using J's, sweeps, or brief rudders to control direction. Avoid windy conditions for your first few attempts - the calmer the better. The first attempt should be just the stern person paddling, with the bow person in the bow, but not paddling. Pick a landmark on the shore about a block or two away and the stern person does their best to paddle straight for it. Do this until the stern person begins to have a feel for what to do to keep the canoe going straight on each stroke. Then start the bow person paddling at half throttle. When the stern person can hold a straight line with the extra paddling power, have the bow person paddle harder. Then try to follow the contours of a shore line around bays and points, turning the canoe inward and out to hold it a constant distance from the shore. As skill develops go out in moderate wind and waves and hone your skills to every type of paddling condition. Have fun!

First time out…
you should go someplace with others nearby and wear your pfd’s. Have fun. Bad habits are easy to develop and hard to unlearn so, sign up for lessons, join a paddling club or get instruction somehow. Although my wife and I had each spent time in canoes before we met, niether of us owned one. We learned the hard way and loved every minute of it. Our teenage girls have professed a preference for kayaks, but they’ll come around eventually. Welcome to canoeing!

Iffin’ yer want a video…
Ah’d try de ‘Path Of The Paddle’ DVD by Bill Mason.

Fat Elmo

Path Of the Paddle
I especialy like the video but the book is not bad.

They focus on traditional techniques rather than sit and switch and do a good job of showing what the paddle is doing under the surface.

Most books have aged remarkably well
A couple of years ago I re-read Bill Mason’s “Path of the Paddle” and I was amazed at both how much information was in there and at how little it had changed. At least for flatwater paddling I think most of the books are still pretty good resources.

There has been more drift in moving water technique, but I was also impressed how much of the moving water content in “Path of the Paddle” matched current techniques.