Freestyle Paddling

Palm roll, christie, axle, post, heel, C-stroke. Did you know that these were terms referring to canoe strokes? Well don't feel bad, neither did I. This is part of the lingo of an increasingly popular branch of canoeing known as freestyle. The concept is quite interesting and very different from my usual "HELL BENT FOR LEATHER" approach. Rather then put the hammer down and blast from point A to B you kind of just "FREESTYLE". You do not necessarily have to go anywhere at all. In fact just doing a series of pirouettes off shore would be just fine. All I really know about it is what I have read which is not much, however I intend to do some investigating. In fact I may even take a formal course next summer. Now that would be a first. I have never had a formal canoeing lesson in my life. Everything I have learned has been using the trial and error method.

The reason I find freestyle so interesting is that it reminds me of paddling in my childhood days. I would spend hours playing around in a canoe just a few yards from shore going absolutely nowhere. Lets see if I can paddle around the dock without making a sound or taking my paddle out of the water. How about spinning in circles until you're to tired to continue. Or maybe lean the boat over on its side as far as possible without tipping over. What I did not know then was the time spent fooling around taught me a great deal about handling a canoe. It was only a short time ago when I read an article on freestyle that I learned some of the strokes I picked up as a kid actually had names to them. Now you are probably asking yourself, where is he going with this article. My point is, what a great way to learn to paddle your canoe and/or improve your skills. That is one nice thing about the sport of canoeing, there is always room for improvement. I could spend hours and pages of type describing in detail all of the different strokes. Or, on the other hand, you could find a nice shallow sandy shoreline somewhere and go fool around in your canoe. You might try Lake Tarleton. Just off shore from the public launch area is nice if its not too busy. An even nicer spot is directly across from there on the opposite shoreline.

Kneel down in your canoe just behind the center thwart. Spread those knees out and wedge them against the sides of the hull. Now put your paddle in the water and experiment. Push it away from you then pull it back. Turn it edgewise and slice it though the water forwards or backwards then turn its face to slam on the brakes. Lean out over the side of the canoe laying your paddle blade flat on the water as a brace. Sweep it from side to side and see how long you can hold yourself in this position. When you have had enough, drive the blade into the water and pull it towards you with some authority, snap your hips towards the blade and at the same time push the grip away from you. With a bit of practice you will right your canoe quickly and easily. The more you push, pull, sweep, twist and lean the more you will learn about how to control your canoe. Who knows, someday one of the little maneuvers you pick up "FOOLING AROUND" may make the difference in a tight spot.

As all of you are aware the weather this spring has been a bit wet. This is great news if you are a paddler, in some respects. Unfortunately due to the weather and high water level the Newbury Conservation Commission was forced to cancel the canoe float scheduled for May 13. I have been informed by the organizer that it will be rescheduled sometime this fall.

Many people have asked if we could schedule something similar for mid summer. Please let me know if you might be interested and if enough people are involved I will see what I can arrange.

There is also a big river event coming up on June 3, down at the Wilder picnic area in Wilder, VT. The "Big Splash" sponsored by the Ct. Riverfest. This is a day long event with educational displays, workshops, and lots of canoes/kayaks and related equipment. There will be a float trip after lunch from Hanover down to Wilder. Sounds like a good one. I will definitely be there. If you have nothing planned, put your canoe on your car and come down. If you do not have a canoe, let me know and I will see what we can arrange. For more info contact Bonna Wieler 802-333-3549 or Deb Williams 802-333-3405

Until next time, HAPPY PADDLING!!

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