Paddling power mismatch question

Trim and Boat Control
I just thought I’d add that moving seats is usually not something recreational paddlers need to consider when adjusting trim. People with an interest in racing tend to be obsessive about degrees of trim that most people can’t even detect (a speed advantage of 0.0001 mph is more than enough to win a race, but who’d be aware of such a tiny difference if not going as fast as they can while alongside other paddlers who are working just as hard to win?). A 30-pound weight difference is not huge, and much of that can be offset simply by choosing where to place whatever gear you carry along. Just remember that at slow or moderate speeds, a boat that’s a little heavy in the stern is predictable and easy to control compared to a boat that’s a little heavy at the bow.

You didn’t say what kind of boat you have, but it’s worth noting that different canoe styles respond differently to steering forces, whether those forces are intentional or accidental. For example, a Prospector style of canoe, which usually has a fair amount of rocker, is so easy to turn that beginners often have trouble making it go a straight line. On the other hand, a fast, hard-tracking boat will be easy to paddle straight, but beginners are likely to be unable to make it turn nearly as sharply as a pair of experience paddlers could do. Perhaps you are in a boat that is easy to turn.

Its a great way to start
by getting some pointers. I have a funny story to relate.

Once upon a time a big guy stern paddler and a petite lady bow paddler finally got some instruction. But the first demand from the guy was for the instructor to watch them and tell them what she was doing wrong.

The instructor watched them and declared that she was doing fine however he had problems. And the guy accepted that and corrected his stroke after learning what was wrong and why canoe physics did not favor him and they learned to make beautiful canoe music.

They both advanced to become ACA Instructor Trainer Educators.

There is hope…None of us was born knowing how to paddle… (at least I think)

lessons well worth it

– Last Updated: May-07-12 2:36 PM EST –

My wife and I started paddling together in a tandem canoe, first rentals, and then our own Wenonah. One of the most helpful things for us was a short 1/2 hour video shown us by one of the rental liveries demonstrating entry/exit from the canoe, paddling strokes, and steering. That little bit of instruction made a HUGE difference in our paddling together effectively and enjoyably. I also found reading Bill Mason's "Path of the Paddle" very helpful in learning about more advanced strokes and canoecraft -- highly recommended. To get to the point.... a mere hour or two of lessons will dramatically improve your paddling and enjoyment. There is no reason for a tandem to be a "divorce" boat; rather it should be a source of pride and teamwork for the couple.

Get An OC2 with Rudder

– Last Updated: May-07-12 6:50 PM EST –

If you have access to a large deep water lake and lots of wind and chop. This way you'll get up to speed real fast and enjoy the paddling experience with the help of a rudder and being able to fully immerse the blade w/o damaging it in shallow water. With time, as both of you get into paddling condition; where all your joints, muscles, and other soft tissue gain familiarity with the movement; then it's time to seek out an accomplished paddler to learn more intermediate or advance techniques, like some of those fancy whirling swirling strokes, that will have both of you handling any rudderless double or single canoe like a pro.

My boat
My boat is a Wenonah Jensen 17’ I just got 2 weeks ago. So no rocker, thin boat. Still learning the ropes… Ill invest in a good paddling book too

Of note
all the FreeStyle Symposia teach basic canoeing so that efficiency in paddling comes from the get go. Not at some later point. FS is not about fancy. Its about getting your boat to go where you want to go without undue work and stress on your body.

For that reason FS gatherings are starting to market as canoe symposia… there is too much speculation about what FS is from those who have never been. But everyone has a pretty good idea of what a canoe instruction meet is.

Plus its a whole lot of fun playing with other canoeheads.

What does he do with the rudder when
he’s in the shallows, or on a shallow river? I took the rudder off my touring kayak, because for the lakes and rivers I travel, it’s useless.

There’s a reason tandem canoes almost never have rudders, even after a century or more where their benefits might have become obvious. Rudders are a drag and don’t contribute anything one can’t manage with paddles.

And, in the case of a strong paddler who is “humping” his strokes, a rudder only costs him some of the effort he puts in.

I’m a strong paddler, and my wife is relatively weak. When paddling long distances on lakes, I get the boat up to speed, and then I shorten my stroke to maintain an efficient cruise. When I was a “green” paddler, I kept humping even when the boat was just stuffing itself into its bow wave. No point in that. A firm catch, a short stroke, and a quick J that does not drag, and that’s cruising.

Amen to that !
Jack L

Thank you,
for I’ve edited out “freestyle.”

Thank you too!
For I understand what you’re saying about rudders, since I’m a rudderless outrigger paddler and a very long time “Sport Canoeist.”

First, it will get better. With time and experience you will learn to paddle together as a team. That’s if you don’t throw each other out of the boat first! One excersize that helped us (Me stern, wife bow) was telling her to relax and take a break once in a while. That allowed me to cool down and quit feeling like her strokes were in competition with mine. It also gave me an opportunity to see the effect of my steering and correction strokes on the course of the boat without interference from the bow.

Another thing really seemed to help was much later. Our kids were eventually big enough that we needed another canoe, and it was her turn to get in the stern and steer with our son paddling in the bow. After some tears and one full blown breakdown on a particularly windy day, she stuck with it and got the hang of it. It also allowed her to get a very different perspective on how a canoe handles.

Now that our son is starting to take an interest in the back seat, it amused me on a recent trip to overhear her telling him to be patient and take his

time, “steering a canoe isn’t something you can learn to do well in a half day.”


– Last Updated: May-14-12 10:05 AM EST –

We finally got some nice weather up here in MN and I took the boat out for its first extended paddling. We went down the St Croix departing from interstate state park and traveling a couple miles down stream, hanging out for a while then paddling back upstream.

We brought 80-100 lbs of stuff (we pack heavy, bring a table, grill, cooler, blankets ect) putting our total weight around 410-430lbs. I have to say I liked how the boat paddles either solo or loaded around 400lbs. Once we get going this boat moves! I really like how fast the Jensen is. It felt very stable with the extra weight too. Ive decided I love tumblehome on canoes.

I spent some time working on my stroke and got things down well enough that I could paddle on one side as long as I felt like. This was easier on my dominant side so Ill still have to work on my off stroke.

I still have to work on the J stroke as it didnt provide as much correction as I would like. I ended up angling the paddle towards the outside during the stroke combined with a small J move. Is angling the paddle an "acceptable" or "correct" method of paddling? Im going to the U of M's canoe racing class today so that should help my skills too.

Paddling back upstream really wasnt too bad either. I was really glad to have an efficient hull under me. Making it through the areas of strong current was a bit interesting but we made it alright. The river was fairly high too from the 4" or rain we got in the last 2 weeks. I almost like paddling upstream as I can go ape S#&% paddling and I get no crap from my lady =)

Overall it was very fun and I cant wait to get some more semi professional instruction

Sounds like you are doing a Canadian
stroke which swings wider and catches just the corner for correction.

It takes time to get the pull of extension along the top of your arm to be less bothersome. During that time, "air J’s are common. That can be corrected by better top arm extension. Both hands over the rail and torso rotation used to help with this. If you are seated torso rotation is harder to do.

The recers of course will have a completely different method of keeping course. Most likely they will be using hit and switch

And your education continues… there is more than one way to keep a boat going straight.


Stern Pry

Hit and switch




funny experience yesterday
So i just had a funny and awesome experience yesterday. I was super excited to try out my new Zaveral WW 11oz paddle so we decided to go down the st croix a little ways.

For those of you not in the mid west we’ve gotten 2 months of rain in the last week. Its median flow is about 5500 cubic feet per second. It was 14000 yesterday.

We got there and were slightly iffy about going down the mile or so to our usual spot. The current was substantial. We decided to do it anyways and got there no problem. I used my new paddle on the way down stream and loved it. I wanted my wife to use it on the way back and something magical happened. I occasionally had a hard time keeping up with her! I will be ordering another Zav for her this weekend. I was using her usual paddle, a Wenonah Quetico. I like the wenonah a lot but it is night and day between ~10oz paddles and >20 oz paddles.

We were able to keep a higher cadence with no trouble. Going back upstream in the strong current it made a lot of difference. Ive decided I definitely like a skinnier paddle too. Im selling my Kailoa outrigger 9.5" paddle that I got with my boat to put the money towards another 8" Zav. A lighter but faster pull suits my style and shoulders well.

Well thats my ramble about paddles. I love zav and highly recommend them to anyone who paddles regularly or for long distances. you wont regret it.

In case it’s not obvious yet …
… there are two efficient ways for tandem paddlers to keep the canoe going straight.

  1. No one does a correction stroke, but both paddlers switch sides frequently and on cue (“hut”). This is the most efficient way to paddle tandem, but may not be aesthetically appealing to some paddlers.

  2. The stern paddler does a correction stroke.

    The stern paddler should also master the sweep, dynamic (pulling) draw stroke, and low brace. Not much else is necessary for forward paddling.

    Although the bow paddler need not do forward correction strokes, she has the more sophisticated job when it comes to maneuvering strokes, especially in current and whitewater. The bow paddler should learn the static (hanging, ruddering) draw and the dynamic draw, both on-side and off-side without switching hands. It’s also helpful in some situations for her to have a perfected bow pry (jam, wedge) and a cross-forward stroke.

    Then, both paddlers should learn how to coordinate and combine these basic strokes in order to turn the canoe with efficiency and elan in flatwater obstacle courses, currents and whitewater. Lessons help.

    This is all just basic canoeing. (Adding phrases such as “North American touring technique” or “freestyle” adds nothing except unnecessary and confusing terminology.)

Its interesting
that you omit a key point. Cadence. Together…there have been studies by Shawn Burke that show the importance of paddling in unison. Shawn is an accomplished canoe racer.

FreeStyle is a non term. Its basic to advance quietwater technique. You will note that of late all the symposia are canoe symposia. Plain and simple.

Cadence and some other things
Yes, I agree paddling in cadence increases power and efficiency. It’s especially important for switch paddling divorce boaters. Recreational correction stroke DB’s frequently ignore it, however.

In my experience teaching whitewater canoeing, which I did for many years, accomplished bow paddlers usually transition into solo technique more readily than stern-only paddlers, mainly because they have more experience with off-side strokes and draws.

Glad to hear “freestyle” is being de-emphasized as a canoeing adjective and noun. Having paddled through the 70’s and 80’s and having talked in recent years to many of the participants, “NATT” was in significant part a marketing phrase popularized by Harry Roberts to market Sawyer canoes, and “freestyle” was in significant part a word popularized by Mike Galt to market Lotus canoes.

However, the word “freestyle” is not the substantive problem, though it clearly causes misapprehensions about canoeing. The core curriculum also should be changed, in my opinion, to de-emphasize the excessive focus on sit spins and triple toe loops. That focus, also in my humble opinion, drives away more potential ice skaters than it attracts. And open canoeing, to my great dismay, is on very thin ice.

I told you
that it would be the first paddle of many. :slight_smile:

Glad you’re enjoying it.