solo canoe forward stroke

-- Last Updated: Jul-31-07 6:56 PM EST --

I wanted to post under a different topic and not hijack one in progress with my question. Recently purchased a straight shaft and some more videos to try and get the technique right. I am kneeling in a solo canoe not sitting. This advice was given in another post by Charlie:

"The top hand must be across the gunwale to maintain a vertical paddleshaft when viewed from the front. Keeping the top hand in front of your body changed a forward stroke into a sweep, which turns the boat.

You didn't mention bent or straight paddle, but with either, isolate the stroke forward on the boat; the 15 inches where the blade is square to thye stroke. Carrying the blade behind your body results in a sweep, which turns the boat.

Take a straight blade out of the water when it reaches you knee; a bent when the blade comes to mid thigh."

Is the upper hand not turning the grip so the thumb ends in down position when blade reaches knee? It sounds like this stroke is similar to sit and switch but using a straight shaft? What is most efficient forward stroke using the straight shaft paddle?

Pitch stroke most efficient
In my opinion the Pitch stroke is most efficient under a range of circumstances. Bill Mason features the Pitch in his films. White water paddlers use it to keep their boat on line during hard driving strokes. Single blade racers use it for hard driving strokes. It only takes a little bit to master the stroke. I’m not sure why it isn’t taught more in canoeing classes. Many paddlers I meet never heard of it. Even canoe dealers who’ve been in the business nearly 40 years are amazed when they try it out.

most efficient forward stroke
is one that keeps the paddle shaft vertical and the power face parallel to the keel line and perpendicular to the surface of the water as long as possible. As soon as the power face is tilted off of perpendicular you are either lifting or pushing down the hull which is contradictory to your desire to move forward at max efficiency. Body mechanics (comfort) require some tilting at the beginning and end of the stroke but try to minimize it at both spots, and apply the power only when the blade is perpendicular to the surface, and fully submerged.

You can move forward without much “correction” (turning the thumb down) in your stroke, but, although CEW and I have argued this in the past, I still say some is necessary–just minimize it by keeping the blade close to the hull and applying power in the area CEW described.

You may eliminate correction yet still hold direction by paddling what is called the “inside circle”, but by causing the stern to skid, I think you decrease efficiency. Is that loss of efficiency offset by not correcting?..good fodder for discussion.

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Straight shaft forward stroke in a solo

– Last Updated: Jul-31-07 11:14 PM EST –

My $.02 for northwoods style solo paddling with a straight shaft paddle: Use a C stroke to start the canoe moving forward. When the canoe is at moderate speed you should be able to drop the C on the front end of your strokes, and just go to forward strokes with a little J adjustment at the end of the stroke as needed for correction. What Charlie was saying if your paddle blade isn't vertical in the water, the net force effect of each stroke becomes a sweep turning the canoe toward the off side. This requires just as much J stroke force to off set this tendency in order to move forward in a straight line. Any amount of correction is lost efficiency. Any time you are holding your paddle grip within the gunnels while you are paddling, you are doing a sweep and losing forward efficiency. The further out over the gunnel your top hand is, the more vertical your paddle is being held, the less correction you have to give to keep going straight, and therefore the more forward force is in your stroke. Charlie also said carrying the blade behind your body also results in a slight sweep force which is true. And its best if you don't have to carry your stroke past your body. However the "past your body" part of a stroke is where you may purposely want to add a J correction. On these J strokes the thumb on your grip hand will end up pointing down as you asked if you are executing correctly. Also in a solo be sure you are trimmed level to minimize the correction needed in your stroke. If your bow is too light, your bow will swing noticeably to the off side on every stroke. As you bring a boat into trim you should notice less side to side bow wobble on your strokes, but there will always be some. If you are paddling lakes, be sure to give a beavertail paddle a try. I think it helps make solo paddling concepts easier to grasp than starting out with the typical 8 x 20 inch blade.

Just get out there, get the canoe moving, learn to control your canoe with a variety of strokes, and have fun. As you gain experience you can then decide whether efficiency and speed are that hugely important to you and then work on technique; or go to sit and switch. Or maybe they aren't...

Skidding stern and loss of efficiency
I’m sure it depends to some degree on the boat, but I’m convinced that at least with my boats, combining skidding form of straight-line travel with an uncorrected stroke is much less efficient than making non-skidding forward progress with a bit of correction applied by the paddle on each stroke.

That’s my two cents.

thats not northwoods paddling
or to be more specific the northwoods stroke…but to discuss that would be a total hijack.

It does depend on the boat and load.
In my lightly loaded MR Synergy, a 15’ tandem paddled solo from the center, short strokes starting well forward and finishing at the knee, without correction, will keep the boat moving fast and true. If for some reason the boat starts to get out of line, I “C” a little at the start of the stroke, or keep the blade in a little longer to J or rudder.

This technique would NOT work well if I were paddling a fast canoe with sharp ends, loaded so the ends are fully in the water. My Synergy is almost skimming the surface, loaded as lightly as it is. I can also paddle my MR Guide with short, uncorrected strokes, as long as I am the only load the boat is carrying. Lightly loaded, the Guide’s ends are not fully engaged in the water, and the flattish underside is almost skimming.

A possible explanation is that a pitch stroke only works (well) when your forward stroke is done well. Otherwise you cannot do a pitch stroke and just need a J-stroke (or even a stern pry, rudder, or whatever) to go ‘straight’.

permission to hijack
please feel free to do so. I am interested in hearing NW style as well.

solo forward again and again and again…
As has been pointed out so many times here, absolute statements are difficult to make due to the presence of so many variables, such as hull type, paddle type, paddler ability, payload, water conditions, and ad nauseum. My opinion is that under ideal conditions, with a very proficient paddler, the more efficient solo canoe forward stroke is sit and switch with a bent shaft. For those correction style paddlers I prefer the pitch stroke with an in water recovery. Just my .02.

BTW, as to the original post here, I think CEW’s response was addressing the sit and switch style.


I agree
I agree with your assessment. Must be a northern MN thing. :slight_smile:

With a suitable fast boat, I’m sure you
are correct. The only competition for bent shaft would be double blades.

I don’t know the meaning of “pitch stroke,” but an underwater recovery would not work with my short, forward, no-correction whitewater stroke.

pitch stroke – please describe
Can somebody who knows how to do a pitch stroke please describe it?

– Mark

difficult to describe but

– Last Updated: Aug-01-07 11:06 AM EST –
shows my view on how several correction strokes can be made
draaislag = pitch stroke
roerslag = rudder stroke/stern pry/goon stroke...

My understanding of the pitch…
is the same correct short forward stroke described above, with the addition of angling the pitch of the blade (perp. to hull direction) so as to generate lateral force to offset the off centerline thrust coming from the paddle.

That was as clear as mud, eh?

Here’s what he means
Duluthmoose didn’t say “northwoods stroke”. “Northwoods-style paddling” as the term is used in this case refers to paddling on just one side of the boat, using all manner of strokes to make the canoe do what you want it to.

He has done his forward stroke clinics at AFS for a number of years. As the original post in this thread indicates it does not matter if its straight or bent shaft.

Inside circle is a great practice for both forward and cross forward strokes but it does need to be done often!

Like practicing the piano.

never heard of northwoods style

– Last Updated: Aug-01-07 1:57 PM EST –

Must be a Midwest thing like all kinds of jello recipes.
I found some other sites that use this as pertaining to Canadian style solo and not simply paddling on one side.
Here it refers to our native state stroke the Northwoods stroke which is a horizontal stroke with both hands in the bounds of the rails.

Here is a useful link

that’s the stroke I’ve been doing with the straight shaft paddle. It’s very relaxing but slow. It’s a nice stroke to use in a beam wind I would think. Haven’t had the opportunity to use it in any kind of wind over 15 knots. Would love to use a more traditional paddle but water level where I paddle is pretty shallow.

After I had read CEW’s advice I figured I was doing something wrong because I do turn my thumb down when blade starts to travel from initial catch towards thigh. Then the paddle pitch changes to almost become a rudder and either J or draw at end before recovery. I had read that this stroke takes advantage of the canoes glide to make it efficient.

Duluth Moose suggested having fun while you paddle. Fun is NOT an option. This is a serious undertaking, and you shall comply with the “Accepted Technique” or you will be discharged from the boards!

If you do not believe the seriousness of paddling style, please consult the “BCU “Correct” Bow Rudder Technique???” thread. Over 100 posts now.


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