The Art/Science of Paddling

The sport of canoeing is both a science and an art form. To truly become a proficient paddler takes time and experience and like anything else, the more you do it the better you will become.

Picture yourself paddling your canoe on your favorite body of water. You are cruising along at a nice crisp pace when all of a sudden a canoe comes up from behind. You exchange pleasantries and then they're off, literally walking away from you as if you were standing still. Has this ever happened to you? Why does one canoe seem to move so effortlessly through the water while another does not? My guess would be proper technique.

Using the proper technique when paddling is very important. Whether you are a beginner or an old pro learning and using the proper form and muscles will greatly increase you enjoyment of the sport. For most strokes use your arms only as an extension of your more powerful back, stomach, and shoulder muscles. Remember that you are the power source not a 175 hp mercury outboard, and you fuel supply is limited so you want to use it in the most efficient way possible.

When you paddle a canoe through the water what you are actually doing is pulling it. Look at it this way. Picture your canoe on the ground with a set of wheels under it and instead of a paddle you have a stick with a point on it. To move the canoe across the ground you would hold the stick just like a paddle. From here you would reach forward and plant the point of the stick firmly in the ground and then pull you and your canoe up to that location. When your canoe is in the water you do the same thing except that you have replaced your stick with a paddle. Now you plant your paddle blade in the water ahead of you and pull the canoe and you up to it. Unlike the stick though, the paddle will slide back through the water a little bit as you pull on it.

The stroke we just described is called the "Forward Stroke" and the first one we need to master. It is the most basic of all and probably the least properly performed. Lets assume you are paddling on the right side of the canoe. Place your left hand on the grip at the top of the shaft and your right hand on the shaft just above the blade. Sitting up straight reach forward and place your paddle blade completely in the water ahead of you. If your paddle is sized properly your left hand should be about even with your chin. Push forward with your top hand just like you were going to punch somebody in the nose. Keep your bottom arm straight using your hand as a pivot point. As you push forward and down with the top hand use your back, stomach, and shoulder muscles to apply the power. Rotate your shoulders so that they are parallel with the side of the canoe when the blade reaches your hip. That's it. Now slice your paddle out of the water, reach forward and do it again.

The reason you stop the stroke at your hip is because this is where the "Power Phase" ends. think back to the stick on dry land and how difficult it would be to pull on the stick once it was past your hip. If you want a longer "Power Phase" reach farther forward. Another thing to keep in mind is to keep the paddle perpendicular in the water by having your top hand directly over the bottom one and not angled off to either side. Also paddle parallel to the direction of travel, not the sides of the canoe. This will help you go in a straight line.

Work on this one, it is important. I promise you will improve the performance of your canoe along with your endurance. If you are having trouble with it drop me a note and maybe we can arrange to get on the water together and practice. Happy Paddling!

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Welcome Paddlers! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or expert paddler, Hemlock Pete's Ultralight Canoes can help you chose the right equipment so you are ready to achieve your goals - be they for quiet water, rapids, racing, day trips, or camping.

We specialize in ultralight solutions and offer expertise in canoes and Wee Lassie boats, as well as all the related equipment. Our favorites are Wenonah canoes and Wee Lassie boats. Although we will work with any material we like to get folks set up with lightweight canoes so you can dedicate your time to the joy of being out on the lakes and rivers instead of struggling to move your boat between car and water.

Scott Edwards, "Hemlock Pete" himself, offers you decades of paddling expertise. He is friendly, down-to-earth, and provides superior customer service. You won't find a better, or more pleasant, deal elsewhere.

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