Solo canoe

Is a solo canoe a bad idea for a beginner?

My first canoe was a solo.
I had paddled about 15 years in kayaks previously, but had only been a canoe (a tandem) once. It did seem a little tippy at first with the highest seating positon (the one used for kneeling) but I got use to it pretty fast. The solo canoe at 27" max width might seem narrow for those used to tandem canoes, but coming from my 20.5" and 21" max width kayaks it seemed really wide and stable when I lowered the seat down to the lowest position for double blade paddling.

It certainly makes a difference if you can get some seat time in a demo before buying. I spent about 2hrs alternating between 3 possible choices before deciding on the one that had the combination of stability, speed, and manuverability that best suited me.

Good luck in finding one that suits you.


It depends on the person. I was able
to get started self-instructing from books. Some folks I’ve known have needed formal instruction. The solo canoe strokes are trickier in detail than the double blade kayak stroke.

Probably it would help for a beginner to try both bow and stern in a tandem, just to get the basic feel of the stroke, and the J-stroke needed in the stern. The challenge for someone who climbs directly from nothing to solo canoe is to both get enough force on to move the boat, and to quickly develop a correction stroke without switching sides. People I’ve taught (mainly my wife and son) started on a smallish lake and just practiced moving the boat forward. Once that is achieved, most people can enter a basic solo canoeing course and move along well.

We have a bunch of folks on this forum who have taught many people, and they’ll have good suggestions.

Get signed up for the next Texas Water Safari.

I think you’ll be a better paddler
starting in a solo.

Jack L

Yes -
solo is the way to go I think. Especially as you move into some moving water and mild white water. Tandem is much more difficult because you have to coordinate with another person. When you paddle solo you get instant feedback from every stroke you put in the water and that helps you learn.

Get in a solo and learn as you go. A tandom alone is a lot of work untill you have some time on the paddle.

As is stated above, You will become a better paddler sooner.

Solo made me a better paddler
In a tandem, when the boat doesn’t do what you think you’re trying to make it do there is a tendancy to blame the other person. In a solo it’s all you. Now I can paddle tandem and it doesn’t matter what the other paddler does, I can correct for it.

Depends …
Do you like to have someone else to blame?

Just kidding … ok, not really.

A solo is a great way to start. Getting a book like Path of the Paddle is a big help too.

Alot of good info, thanks guys. I have heard of/seen people in solos use double blade kayak paddles, is this recommended?

Double-blade paddle

– Last Updated: May-31-12 9:36 AM EST –

I often used a double-blade paddle when I started out in a solo canoe because at first, it was the only way I could have fun and travel long distances. Becoming proficient with single-blade paddling (unless you simply switch sides for correction, which with the exception of advanced cruisers and racers, usually does NOT lead to proficiency) takes quite a bit of practice, and for me, being able to fall back on the easy method of double-blade paddling allowed me to be in the boat more without getting frustrated. My initial practice sessions with the single blade were only good for slow speeds and short distances.

In the end, learning to be good with a single blade in a solo canoe is well worth the frustration of dealing with the long learning curve.

Double blades work well in a solo canoe except for the dripping. They were standard when small pack canoes(Rushton, etc.) were popular, and can be a useful option for any solo. I often carry one. But for me, single-blade skills are a big part of the beauty of canoeing, and should not be ignored just because the double blade is easier to learn.

Single blade in canoe
I think if you use the double you’re just a kayaker.

But that’s my opinion. There are more than a few folks who are quite happy double blading canoes.

I would suggest that you start with the single and either instruction or some good books/video.

If you get frustrated trying to control the boat then a double is worth considering. Even then I would reserve the double for those times when the single is causing you agravation.

In my opinion mastering the single is a worthy endevor.

It will make you a better paddler. I started in a tandem, paddled solo. Purchased a true solo boat. Occasionally I will paddle a big tandem I have rigged with a solo seat on light rivers and lakes. Its nice and easy to paddle but I don’t feel as connected to the river as I do in my true solo boat.

It’s a very good idea

– Last Updated: May-31-12 9:50 AM EST –

Most folks paddle tandem canoes, and most folks never actually learn how to paddle. They get by with crude methods and think they know what they need to know. If you start out in a solo, you will be forced to learn good methods, at least if you have any desire to do it right. Then, you will develop much more understanding of boat control so that when you find yourself paddling a tandem with a partner, you will become a better tandem paddler as well.

You can learn boat control in a tandem too, but for most people, the motivation isn't there. Go for the solo. If you are halfway serious about learning to paddle, you won't regret it.

Path of the Paddle (Mason) – videos are also good

Paddle Your Own Canoe (McGuffin)

a good start to your library…

Not if the solo canoe chosen is a compatible size and design for what the beginner paddler will be using it for.

What was your 27" max width solo canoe?
Very few were made that narrow.

No more drips than in rec kayak.
Large cockpit kayaks suffer about the same paddle drips in the boat as a canoe, unless the user has a skirt installed.

Drips are a main reason I rarely even try a double blade paddle in open boats.

had to
I had to jump in on this one. When I started paddling with my local group the ratio of tandems/kayaks to my solo canoe was 10 to 1. Now it’s reversed. My advise if you don’t enjoy buying,selling and trading boats is; buy the most “tender” you can stand-you will quickly get used to it,start with a dubble paddle,but transition to a single asap. Try to get used to “kneeling”,If you can do it that is best,but you can sit part of the time. Once you get setteled into a solo,kneeling,single paddle situation you will be very happy!


Only if you don’t want to learn…
the proper single paddle strokes.

Jack L