Paddling with a pole

I purchased a pole for canoeing the shallows in Topock Marsh. I need to practice my balance, but I have no consistent shallow water in my area. I have been practicing my balance using stand-up kayak strokes with only the pole. I can effectively use the sweep strokes effectively with pole; however, it is slow going with the forward strokes. I am considering detachable blades on each end of the pole. I am thinking a Greenland shape would be best for balance. To those of you that paddle your canoe standing up - what size blade works for you?

How much of the pole is in the water?
When I’m using the pole as a paddle, I’m usually crouching so I can get a good 2 to 3 feet of the pole in the water. I also have some luck simply allowing the pole to shift from side to side as I’m paddling, so that the pole goes in the water a little deeper. I have yet to have any difficulty in keeping up with anyone using an actual paddle, although I’ve never raced anyone.


Is your pole verticle in the water?

– Last Updated: Nov-25-08 4:08 PM EST –

Or close to it? Do you rotate your torso forward for the catch and pull the pole back to you as your torso unwinds, with the pole near vertical and as much of it as possible in the water?

I also find it fairly easy to keep up with (average) paddlers while I'm using a "modified kayak stroke" with a pole. No blade needed.

Oh - where are you standing in the canoe?

what strider said
let the pole slide down a couple feet as you switch sides, and crouch a bit.I’m 6’2" and easily keep up with my yakkin buds in the flat deep pools. I pole with a few people who don’t even carry a paddle, even those skinny 1.125" poles move a canoe fine, and my 1.5" monsters allow me to tow water skiiers ;-). If all else fails, just get a long paddle. You’ll be able to practice balance and won’t be mucking up your pole.

Agree with RS
I’m sure there is a mathematical equation out there that would explain this. Bottom line is the more pole that is placed in the water for a stroke the more surface area of the pole you are using which means more speed and if done right control. I am about 5’9" and do squat when standing and doing the kayak paddle stroke. This assures that I get more of the pole in the water and I try to finish with a little correction before swinging back to the other side. Does that make any sense to ya? With practice you will find that you can make good headway with this.

I have always liked the idea of small paddle blades on the edge of a pole but here in NE I think they would end up getting caught in rocks which to me spells a nasty spill.


The mathematical formula
is A=W X L. The area of a paddle is the product of its length and its width so that a paddle blade 8" wide that is dipped 1.5’ into the water has an effective surface area of 144 sq.". A pole of 1" in diameter dipped 4’ into the water has an effective surface area of 48 Sq.".

So when you are kayak-paddling with your setting pole, you have the equivalent of about 1/3 the area of a paddle to propel you forward. This is not an inconsequential number and it does allow you to maintain control and thrust in flat or slightly moving water. But I doubt that anyone would be competitive in a race with someone using a blade.

However, if you were to use a wider pole and a dipping motion that put more pole into the water as you stroked, your A would increase considerably. Since many polers carry more than one pole, you may wish to take a wider pole out of your quiver for that partricular application and still be able to use it for “setting”. A pole of 1.5" diameter would increase the area by 50% more than a 1" pole!

The mathmatical formula

– Last Updated: Nov-25-08 11:57 PM EST –

Oops. My formula was for the wrong surface. Thanks RapidTransit.

Pole vertical in the water ?
I am new at this and am practicing for balance. So I am not yet using my torso for power and do not remember how vertical my pole is to the water; at this point I am just trying to stay balanced. I am standing just aft of the center thwart in my Hemlock Eagle (16’5").

Looks like paddle blade not necessary
I am also thinking the torque of a paddle may give me balance issues while standing. It looks like from all the responses, folks do just fine with just the pole fairly deep in the water.

pole vs. paddle
What is the advantage of using a pole? I have been standing and paddling my canoe for over 15 years with a 110" Mohawk paddle (the same one). This summer I switched to a pole and all I got was a back ache. Any thing the pole can do, the paddle can do better.

The real formula
would be 1/2 the area of a cylander- that would be the surface acting against the resistance of the water to produce the thrust.

But for purposes of comparing a paddle with a pole, treating the hemisphere of the pole like a flat surface is close enough. In fact, the area of the hemisphere is a bit greater that a flat surface of equal width and length, but because of the curvature, it doesn’t act evenly- it’s more aerodynamic, or in this case fluid-dynamic!

You can go upstream
over a 2’ ledge in a Class III rapid with that paddle?

Apples & oranges…

– Last Updated: Nov-26-08 12:05 AM EST –

A simple comparison of surface area doesn't quite tell the whole story. Standing with the pole and using torso rotation gives you more time in the water (a longer reach) with the pole nearly vertical. Compared to a paddler sitting in a kayak, or even kneeling in a canoe, the amount of leverage with that 12' pole can give favorable results.

Stick a long double blade in your hands while standing and it should outdo the pole for leverage against water, but the stroke rate will go down I think. Maybe there's an advantage there anyway - I don't know. But with a blade, you would lose a considerable amount of control when poling off the bottom or the bank.

Probably standing in the right place
…for flat water. Playing around with trim, you will notice it effects speed and glide, as well as bow control. Once your legs get used to the balancing act, it will start to come together.

When I started poling…
…my back ached too - until I figured out some things I was doing wrong. I’m still just a beginner with all things canoe, but I do better with a pole than a paddle, under almost all conditions (when solo, anyway).

torque standing with a paddle?
How much spinach do you eat?? Try it out, I don’t think you’ll have any problems, not with torque affecting balance anyway. An advantage I’ve found paddling over poling (in the pools) is the “hand dryness factor.” I’m not going end over end with a paddle and the waters not running down the shaft.

pole vs paddle
Yes, I can paddle up stream in the rapids. The paddle work just like a pole if you turn the blade so it cuts the water. And yes, I can paddle down stream through the rapids, and use it to pole through 2" deep swamps. So, why use a pole?

This, I gotta see.
Can you and say, Matt or Riverstrider, arrange a race? Pole only vs paddle only…and someone to video?

What about using Lithuanians?

Not Enough Surface Area
See yer typical Lithuanian only got about e=mc2 whereas yer Croats gots at least Pi cubed an yer Poles got Cherry Pie to the tenth.

No Lithuanians won’t do. Tsk

Now a Lutheran… hmm if ya bound a Lutheran in carbon fiber an a bit o string theory ya might have somthing.