Tuning Up my Other Forward Stroke ?

I was raised in the Tom Foster school of paddling. My right hand never left the T grip. My left hand never left the shaft. I paddled on the left side of the boat. If I needed to be on the right I used cross forward strokes. I still use that technique (mostly) for whitewater.

A few years ago I decided to try to learn to paddle on both sides. I soon discovered that my inexperienced right side forward was not nearly as effective as my well used left side. Now my right is better but still not even close to my left.

So I’m looking for suggestions as to how I can improve my right side without neglecting my left.



if you’re doing it right
on your left side all that is necessary is to spend more time paddling on your right side. No more info necessary…it’s simply training of the muscles.

Work on speed using
sit and switch, and don’t stay on one side.

Five or six strokes then switch.

You probably will still end up with one side a tad stronger, but you will build up that weak side.



I’m a righty…
who, like you, has paddled almost exclusively to port for 20+ yrs. I’m trying to refine my flatwater stroke and I’m even thinking about buying a bendie and trying the seated switch thing, something I thought’d never happen. Interestingly, the first time I tried switch-hitting a softball (a handicap in a co-ed game), it felt totally unnatural and impossible. A couple of deep line drives later, I discovered that having to actually think about the mechanics of something new freed me from the mistakes inherent in my ‘favored’ swing. A similar phenomenon is helping my paddling on both sides! Who said old dogs can’t? Good luck, Tom.

Well ah, how about kneel and switch?

Anyway doing that is when my right sides failings are most obviuos(sp?). I can get almost twice as many strokes on the left as on the right and I’m not really sure why. I’m thinking of finding someone to video me in hopes that I’ll see what I’m doing wrong.

Same problem on the same side.
Always felt weaker on my off (right) side. This year I built a thwart to use as a sail step mount, and affixed a cheapo Silva Starter compass to it. I had dropped the compass, and had unknowingly cracked the case, creating a bubble.

Darned if I wasn’t actually leaning toward my strong side! When I tried to trim teh boat level I felt as though I was leaning to the right. I believe I need to paddle more on my off side, using a level for reference.


what Jack said…

– Last Updated: May-21-08 8:30 AM EST –

I've got a different problem. My dominant side is the right side, but I started as a sit and switch, moved into kneel and switch, and now make attempts towards having an on and offside. Problem is my cross stroke on the left is not good at all, so now when doing that Tom Foster thing my left has become the on side. I practice my offside (on the right) in the flats between rapids or below small holes. When I really need to get something done though I just end up switching sides, and as long as I don't throw my paddle away I'm okay with that.
I like to paddle backwards in the flats too, exercise different muscles and think about that next front/side into a rear surfing opportunity.Those Encores can play so well :-).

Yeah Tommy, couple years back I bought that Foster DVD ya' recommended...first thing he says is "you must have an on and offside". I decided then and there I was going to remain a "git ur dun" paddler. Even my son Aaron, who has an unbelievable off-side back paddle now(!!!) reverts to the "git ur dun" philosophy quite often. Sometimes pretty don't cut it.(at least for us "non-beautiful" paddlers.)

Kneel & switch is fine.
I do it when I kneel, sometimes.

I never paddle on one side all the time - never have. I want balanced muscle & skill development.

Same problem, other side
I had my flatwater boat out last night with the local paddle club. We did a round trip up a shallow, twisty stream. It would have been much easier to pole, but that’s a different story. Not only is my left side much stronger than my right, I also found myself doing a stern pry instead of a J stroke - muscle memory kicking in. Like Tom (tktoo), when I paid attention to technique, I did much better. I guess the question is how many paddling styles can you have in your head at once.

Strength will come with training…
technique will too but, for me, I’ll probably always favor port as my ‘onside’. I got a long-bladed Kettlewell Special last year to use on the local pond. With its skinny little tip way down there, it’s not very forgiving of inattention. At first, having never before used a paddle like it, I found its skittery nature annoying. Now, I think using it has really helped me to develop more of that ‘second nature’ feel to ‘offside’ paddling.

same start
When I went to sit and switch style it took a couple of seasons before I became proficient.

If you try to do any task with your non dominant muscles the task will seem impossible.

I would give up switching and go back to constant one side paddling because it was psychologically and physically difficult. Through persistence, after several surrenders, I finally got it. But it took a long time.

You have to believe that one style has a desirable advantage over the other. It is your motivation that will carry you to success.

No trick, just persistence…

Desirable advantage…
to the ‘Minnesota hut" stroke? To me, sit n’ switch has a racing advantage and, perhaps, helps with balanced workouts. Otherwise, it’s just plain boring to practice and ugly to watch. I plan to start soon! Good to hear from you JJ. I did your thwart mods on my MRC and always think of you when I see cows.