Weight shifting & solo sit & switch

I was paddling my Mad River Slipper in the Carbonlite 2000 layup and adjustable tractor seat for the first time in about six weeks after paddling my Sawyer Summersong with rudder a couple times a week during that time. I was also trying out my new Sawyer Manta single bend bent shaft paddles for the first time solo. My wife & I tried them out tandem in the Solo Plus Sunday and really liked them.

Here’s my observations:

  1. Even though I’m only 5’6", both the 50" and 52" Mantas felt good both sitting & kneeling. I had expected them to feel too long and awkward as my other 52" bent shaft does. I could probably even comfortably use a 54" Manta when leaning the boat up on the paddling side to improve tracking. I was sitting in an erect posture instead of leaning forward or hunching, so maybe that’s why the longer paddles felt just fine. I really like the feel of the Manta paddles. I’m sure that having good paddles aids in all aspects of boat control and paddling comfort and pleasure.

  2. The Slipper tracks better if I lean it up on the side that I’m paddling and it’s much less work to keep it straight. I prefer not to use corrective strokes when I want to maintain speed. When I would switch paddling sides, I would shift weight so that the paddling side was up and I could get more strokes on each side with less effort to keep it on track. Is this a common behavior in solo canoes? Until about two months ago, I was using a kayak paddle in my canoes, so I’m still learning canoe paddle tecniques. This is the first time that the relatively small tractor seat in the Slipper seemed to be beneficial - it kept my butt solid in the center of the boat. A slight lean toward the paddling side and the Slipper turns quickly away from the paddle.

    I’ll try this technique in my Summersong next. I’ll probably have to raise it’s seat to it’s highest position to allow easier leans. It’s alot more work to lean it with the seat in the lower two positions.

    Does anybody else use this technique of shifting weight away from the paddling side to aid tracking? I’ve usually only used leans to help turn the boat. Or is this unique to me, my equipment and my boat?

don’t think so
most people who paddle dedicated solos with bentshafts sit in the middle and just switch sides. they may “load” the handle with shoulder and/or torso rotation, but i don’t know of any serious solo paddlers who paddle skinny boats by moving from port to stern to switch sides with the paddle. but hey, if it works for you…

Side to side, not port to stern.
Maybe my original post was unclear or I used the wrong terminology. I lean toward the paddle side to turn faster and lean away from the paddle side to track better. If I keep the Slipper flat and just switch sides, without using corrective strokes, the boat tracks much worse than if raise the side that the paddle is on after switching.

Not really

Generally not!! Whether you heel the boat toward the side you are paddling on (onside) or to the opposite side (offside) the boat increases rocker with heel and will become easier to turn. So for sit and switch the hull should be left as level as possible.

Now what were you two talking about port and stern… Port is the left side of a boat, and stern is the rear of the boat… what do they have to do with anything???


How do I explaing my experience in
my Slipper? Maybe my results are peculiar to the Slipper’s hull design? I was surprised by the results. Maybe paddling on the high side of the boat effects my stroke in such a way to aid in tracking, but doesn’t feel like more effort or more awkward.

Whatever the cause for these phenomena, the end result was that I didn’t have to rush to get my three to five strokes per side and didn’t have to use control strokes. With the boat level, I either had to rush to get three strokes per side or use control strokes to keep it straight because it started turning with the first stroke. When paddling on the high side after a switch, the boat actually resists turning away from the stroke initially and then slowly starts to turn away from the paddling side.

I can’t explain it, I just experienced it.

my bad
meant port to starboard.

Offside heals…
I know exactly what you are talking about, and it is not peculiar to your Slipper. My Merlin II and Flashfire both respond to an offside lean. When you lean, it causes the hull to carve into the turn. The “post” freestyle move is a great example of an offside lean causing a quick turn. Usually, you have to already be turning a little, and the offside heel will speed up the turn. My son and I used to do a couple of races a year in a 17’ Jensen and it really responded to the offside lean. It probably slows you down a little when you are sitting and switching. I paddled a J190 once at a demo day and asked the Wenonah rep if I should lean it to turn and he said “no”. Gene Jensen says just power it around if you need to turn.

Pat #2

Actually rpd…
I was using the off-side lean (paddling on the high side of the boat instead of the lower side when leaning) to slow the turning and aid tracking, not to speed up the turn. I initiated the lean just after switching and before the first stroke.

I don’t know why it worked, but it did. I applied it going both directions on the lake, so wind wasn’t a factor. I’ll try to reproduce it the next time I’m out.

Thanks for all the input.

It works to turn and to help hold a heading. Your Summersong will respond in a similar way.

Pat #2

Thanks rpd.
I have a whole lot to learn about paddling solo canoes.

You’re pretty close to my neighborhood. I’m in Urbana, IL. Maybe we’ll cross paddles sometime.

Nice selection of boats listed in your profile.


Hope to meet
Come up to the Wisconsin river trip in August. Lots of great people and a lot of different boats to test paddle.

Pat #2

heeling and steering
yanoer asked:


Does anybody else use this technique of shifting weight away from

the paddling side to aid tracking? I’ve usually only used leans to

help turn the boat. Or is this unique to me, my equipment and my


Many thing are already said, but even so here’s my take.

If you have forward speed, and you heel the canoe a bit, most

hulls will have a tendency to go to the opposite side of that heel,

or you enhance a turn into that direction: if you heel to the right,

the canoe tends to turn to the left and vice versa.

Some hull forms will do this very noticeably,

some will do it hardly if at all.

A few designs, however, want to turn into the direction of

the heel (hard chined hulls with very strong V-bottoms?).

So when you are paddling on the right as a solo (or stern) paddler,

heeling a bit to the left can indeed help with going straight

(and vice versa). I certainly DO use it too in my solo boats.

However, this method also detracts from speed as the

resistance of the canoe at high speeds gets higher too. So my

advice would be to use this technique as little as possible/necessary.

For strong maneuvers, extensive heeling is used to make a canoe as

maneuverable as possible. Especially straight keeled designs benefit

from this technique, as they are not easy to turn quickly when

paddled level, especially when at high speeds. However, this is

mainly a flatwater technique, as waves and current can make that a

wet experience… In currents and waves heeling is mostly done for

stability reasons, and in a few cases to try to keep water of a very

steep wave outside the canoe.

Also the designs that respond especially well to heeling, can also

not be the most easy to paddle (straight) in significant waves where

the profile of the hull can change a lot and differ its behavior

too. Heeling a canoe is a valuable technique, sure, but it has its

limitations and you should know what you are doing when using this

technique, certainly when suggesting this technique to others, that

may not be aware of the limitations and possible (negative)

consequences of using it. I see too many paddlers that have learned

about this technique but apply it in the wrong way and place, that I

have become very cautious to even mention it to other paddlers.

It seems more efficient to keep a this
boat straight with an off side heel than it does to slow the boat with j strokes which reduce cadence and cause drag. Maybe my control stroke technique is just really bad. That wouldn’t surprise me, since I am relatively new to using the canoe paddle. I don’t heel the boat much, just so it’s on edge a little.

It just seems like so much less work to keep this boat straight using the off side heel than using control strokes. I need more lessons and more seat time.

Thanks everybody.

you’ll get it

– Last Updated: Jul-21-05 11:37 AM EST –

i spent about a year concentrating on just my forward stroke for about 30 minutes to an hour, twice a week. it still took time after that to really feel comfortable with the boat, the bentshaft and the stroke itself. it just takes time. foot brace definitely help. It also help, imo, to have a tractor-style seat that you can push your hips against to gain leverage.

i can't see, though, how leaning a boat would make it easier to keep on track, at least for a solo boat. maybe there's a trim factor there. if you have too much weight forward, the boat will tend to go offcourse. if that's the case, healing may help. but the real solution is proper trim, paddling technique and time in the boat.

If trim is the problem, I’ll have to add
ballast, because this tractor seat assembly can’t easily be moved forward or backward because it’s attatched to both the rear thwart and the floor.

Before I’d add ballast, I’d designate this boat for river usage and stick to my Summersong for lakes, or I’d just do what I used to do in the Slipper and use a kayak paddle. Maybe I’ll rig a small skeg to aid tracking because I could still just lean the boat to turn quickly. I have alot of options.

I don’t mind healing the Slipper to aid tracking because it’s easy to do and it’s less work than control strokes. I’ll be exploring more as I learn more about single blade paddling.

Thanks again for your insights.

I paddle my MR Explorer solo, usually only on the left side.

I have never detected a preferred heading change left or right with roll (lean) in the Explorer. The dominant effect is that whatever angular velocity the boat might have at the onset of lean increases manyfold.

Except in current or high winds, I rarely have to make a special steering or J-stroke. Whatever correction is required comes with an in-cadence thumb-down pry as the paddle blade exits the water.

To get the MRE to track at all, it has to be level, so to set up for a stroke, I’ll drop my hip slightly off the saddle on the off side as I reach out over the gunnel with the paddle. This keeps my center of gravity over the boat centerline, and we stay level. I think horse people use the term ‘collected.’ I like to keep the horse-and-rider image in mind.

As far as I can tell, whoever invented or now promotes the Canadian style roll-up-onto-the-gunnel-on-the-on-side paddling posture just didn’t have an Explorer. On edge, it handles just like a washtub.

Just my take.


Different hulls do different things
Not to over state the obvious but…

Standard whitewater slalom technique uses an paddle side heal to limit the need for control strokes. Most of those C1s and OC1s will carve into the direction of the heal. Works great in my Outrage, Slasher and Foreplay but not in my Explorer or Osprey.

The CD Carribou SK I used to paddle would carve away from the heal much as Yanoer describes. With a kayak paddle that only gets used to turn but it makes sense to me that some canoe hulls would behave like that and if it works why not take advantage of it?

The Sea-1 doesn’t seem to be affected much at all by healing. That sucker just wants to go straight. Gotta switch, pry or use the rudder for corrections.

Different hulls, different responses, different techniques to get where you want to go.

Imagine that.


canadian style
i’m certainly no expert, but it seems the canadian style paddling solo works best with a tandem. you look back at bill mason, etc. and those guys were in wide boats that seemed to almost have a keel-type effect when leaned over with the paddler sitting almost on the inside of the chine. for “dedicated” solos, i don’t see how the canadian style has all that much to offer, unless, of course, you just enjoy paddling like that. :slight_smile:

I wasn’t paddling canadian style.
I was switching sides every 3-5 strokes and changing the lean of the boat with every switch. Please re-read my earlier posts for clafification. I think you’re thinking that I was doing something I wasn’t. I like to paddle on both sides, not on one side all the time. I just don’t like to have to rush to get at least three strokes per side in before having to switch because the boat is turning away from the paddle side so quickly.

I was paddling on the high side of the Slipper, not the low side as is my understanding of canadian style. If I paddle on the low side of the boat, it turns very quickly as everyone would expect it to. If I paddle on the high side, it seems to help counter the lean and keep the Slipper going straight longer than if the boat was flat on the water. This seemed to maintain the forward speed and direction of the boat and be less effort than using control strokes.

Thanks for your suggestions and attempst to understand my poor descriptions of what I experienced.

Off side heal still works today to aid
tracking in the Slipper. It wasn’t a fluke Tuesday. A longer than usual paddle may assist with this technique. I was using a 50" and 52" Sawyer Manta bent shaft and both worked well enough, but I can reach a little farther forward with the 52". I’m 5’6" tall with a 32" inseem. It seems that reaching a little farther forward also reduces zig zag (Andy Lee’s words) a little. I’m having alot of fun investigating this. The Slipper is fun to play around in. It’s very responsive to a lean. The Manta paddle has a nice feel to it also.

I hope to get out on a river this weekend. The flows should be up since we’ve had some pretty good rains in the last couple days. We’d been pretty dry for about the last 6 weeks.