Solo canoe paddelists - help!

-- Last Updated: May-01-04 10:11 PM EST --

I tried using my bent shaft paddle today in dead calm water. A few strokes on the right, my power side, and the boat is headed that way , almost like it is pivoting. When I paddle on the left , it goes straight. What am I doing wrong? I suspect I am leaning to the right , but I can't see it in the boat.
I switched back to the double paddle and had no trouble at all.

bent shaft
Try keeping your shaft as close to the gunnel as possible and with the shaft perpendicular to the water. The bent shaft stroke is short,starting just in front of your knees and ending at your hips. Hit and switch 3-6 strokes per side.


– Last Updated: May-02-04 12:12 AM EST –

It's hard to say, but it sounds like you are failing to adjust for the coriolis effect.

If that isn't the problem, you'll want to check the power phase of your stroke and also the tail end of the stroke where you are slicing the paddle out of the water. Make sure that your paddle shaft is vertical (when viewed from behind the paddler). If the grip of the paddle is too far out, it can cause you to do a bit of a c-stroke during the power phase. That will turn you a little bit toward the side you are paddling on.

Less likely is that you are doing something at the tail end of the stroke that is causing the problem. I doubt the problem is that you are leaning to the right side. That should cause the boat to veer left.

If the problem is the way you are sitting, it should be that you are heeling the boat slightly to the left. That assumes that your stroke mechanics are sound. If you are heeling the boat slightly to the right and doing a slight c-stroke instead of driving straight back, it might turn you slightly to the right.

sounds weird
on flat water with little wind, you should paddle six strokes or so without leaning to either side and then the boat will start to turn to the opposite side. if you paddle right for several strokes, it turns left. paddle left, it turns right. i’d suggest you really examine your foward stroke and make sure you’re keeping the shaft close to the hull and verticle as possible. as to the leaning, you should be able to tell if you’re sitting in the center or not very easily. you may have some type of wrist flick that’s going on at the end of the stroke. it’s really hard to say what the problem is.

but don’t give up. I had a similar problem with a J-200. 8 strokes on one side 2 on the other. Now several years later and in a shorter boat the problem seems to have gone away.

Hey Hoz
I finished my Merlin and it paddles great. But for shear beauty your Osprey is tops in my book!

A little info…
Glad to hear you’re trying out a single blade.

What boat are you paddling? If it’s beamy you’re paddle has to be farther from the centerline to reach the water and this can create turning force. If it’s got much rocker it will react more quickly to unintentional turning force. If it’s got both like say a prospector then it’s probably not well suited to the kind of paddling you’re trying to do.

As has been pointed out the shaft should be as near vertical as possible. This means the top hand has to be all the way across you’re body. Being a little slack here shouldn’t cause major problems AS LONG AS THE POWERFACE IS PERPINDICULAR TO THE CENTERLINE OF THE BOAT. If the paddle is feathered you’re applying a turning force.

The stroke should be parallel to the CENTERLINE of the boat. If you’re following the gunnel you’re applying a turning force.

As far as healing the boat goes…sit centered in the boat and visualize where you’re head is. It should be centered over the CENTERLINE of the boat. Rolling the boat down to initiate a turn is done with the hips while the body stays centered.

As should be obvious by now you’re reference in all axis (SP?) powerface, stroke line, and body position, is the CENTERLINE of the boat. Now all of the above assumes still water. There are times in practice when I break every principle above…

Hope this helps.


if it goes straight when you paddle on the left…just keep paddling on the left

Paddling right, going right??

– Last Updated: May-02-04 4:12 PM EST –

Am I understanding you correctly that your boat is swinging TOWARDS your paddling side? If so, then your probably either flicking your paddle face before recovering or are pushing the paddle away from the gunnel on your power stroke. Leaning could account for some turning, but if you cannot tell if the canoe is leaning then it probably has little, if any, effect.

This is opposite of the problem most people have with paddling solo. The majority of solo paddlers have a hard time keeping the canoe from turning OPPOSITE their paddling side.

Good luck,

Bent Shafts
Paddling with a bent shaft paddle is like dating. You’ll need to spend some time learning about your paddle and what strokes work with it and what ones don’t.

Although many people use a bent shaft paddle when tripping that was not the original use they were intended for.

Check out this link for more info on bent shaft paddles.


My guess is that there is a rightward
vector to your stroke force which is pushing the middle of the boat leftward during the stroke. We WW open boaters use this effect deliberately to utilize the “sweet spot” effect, so as to get the boat to run straight without j-stroke or ruddering. You may be doing it accidentally.

See whether the water seems to be piling up against the left side of the bow and center of your boat as you take your right-side strokes. This is a clue that your paddle is pushing a bit off to the right, pushing the bow and center to the left, so that the boat turns right.

C2G - coriolis effect? Is that a moon
phase or something? The boat is a Wenonah Voyager . I appreciate all the responses and advice and I’ll keep working at it , but with my paddling time being very limited right now, I’m glad I have a double paddle.

Just out of curiosity…
Have you tried a straight shaft single blade? If so…how’s your j-stroke?? A strong J with a bent shaft could concievably have you overcorrecting on your on side.

In any case…don;t give up on the single blade…Once you figure it out…I think you’ll find it much more effective. If you haven’t tried a straight shaft…you might consider giving one a try.

Hey Bald!
Soundsgreat, got any pics on the net??

moon phases
Dang, I forgot to factor those in. I was so proud of myself for being able to spell that other word that I completely forgot!

What waterwalker said…

– Last Updated: May-03-04 9:24 AM EST –

that's a good link posted too.

give yourself time
I dont think there is a symmetrical paddler out there. Most likely even with a double blade your strokes arent the same on each side but you have figured out (maybe unconsciously) how to compensate so that you go straight.

You have a draw component somewhere on the right side and now in order to go straight you have to think about the power phase of your stroke. Go slow, think and in time your muscles will figure out what they need to do and eventually the mind can get out of the process.

It takes time to do things right, nobody was born knowing how to be a perfect paddler.

I teach on the right and when I have to teach on the left its harder for me to do the proper things with my arms. I gotta think. So I have forced myself to tandem this spring with people who paddle on my “normal” side forcing me to use my off side.

I’ve had this happen…
Hi String! I’m glad you’re experimenting. This happened (to me)occasionally with a straight shaft. I was not rotated enough and didn’t have a vertical paddle shaft position. Instead of a clean slice out of the water, I was prying up and out as I finished the stroke. It was a fatigue thing that made me sloppy. Also slowed me down and made me more tired. A bent shaft might acentuate the pry since the blade can be closer to the centerline if you rotate it parallel to the gunwale. This puts it in the optimum pry position, so it doesn’t take much to turn the boat…or dump you.

So remember to rotate the torso even moreso. Range of motion for rotation is less when sitting than kneeling, but you can get your shoulders parallel to the gunwale with some pratice. This will let you get your grip hand at least over the gunwale so you can ‘stack your hands’ and get the vertical shaft position. If you can’t get out to paddle, do paddle strokes in a chair. If you have somebody that can video you (in the boat :)), you can pinpoint the problem. Don’t get discouraged. It takes a while to learn the new habits.

Have fun and paddle safe!

good point Pam!
The plaid paddler had also suggested the same thing to me. String should have someone video tape him. We can let some of the wiser heads like the Plaid one,hookhum, C2G and Mcwood, all of the “old time, low life pond scum, bent shaft sit and switch paddlers” critique it and give string a definitive answer!

don’t need no videotape

– Last Updated: May-04-04 10:28 PM EST –

It's actually pretty easy to critique String's paddling without a videotape. Here's my recommended approach:

1. Make sure you have a good seat near the campfire. It's even better if it's String's chair.
2. Look like the mere thought of critiquing his paddling is tremendously painful.
3. #2 can be enhanced by taking off your glasses, rubbing your forehead, and saying something like, "Jeez, I'm not sure where to start."
4. Take a deep breath, look thoughtful, then shake your head and ask if someone has a cold beer. It should be one of String's, since he will be the beneficiary of your advice.
5. Pop the top, take a good swallow, cock your head to one side, take a deep breath, exhale, give String your most serious look, then take another drink.
6. If no one else has started telling stories by this time, you are screwed and will have to come up with something to say. However, I'd bet String's next paycheck that if you are slow enough, everyone will have long since tired of waiting. The stories will be flying, you'll be sitting in String's chair in front of the campfire and drinking his ice cold beer, and his paddling won't be any worse than it was before.

String, you're welcome for whatever advice I would have not given you, and thanks for the good seat and the beer :-)