General Canoeing Technique Advice

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CanoeCalifornia
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General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by CanoeCalifornia »

I've been whitewater canoeing for 2 summer seasons here in sunny, dry California. I paddled canoes all my life but just really got into whitewater in the past 2 years. As you may or may not know canoeist are in shorter supply than water out here in California. I think over the past 2 summers I have see two different canoeist on the water and heard from a handful of others that they do in fact have whitewater canoes that they paddle sometimes. Nonetheless, if you are looking for an ego boost and want everyone to think what you are doing is crazy and awesome, paddle your canoe down any river in California!

The drawback to that shortage however is that everything I have learned so far has either been self-taught, come from a YouTube videos on how to roll, or been absorbed by simply watching videos of other paddlers from WeStroke or where ever I can find. I am starting to feel like I am hitting a ceiling. I have become a fairly comfortable class 4 boater, and have finally started to be able to pull of combat rolls when needed (mostly...). Any technique advice or links to good technical videos would be very helpful!

Just this past weekend I got a piece of advice from a kind young woman who suggested I shorten my stroke and make it quicker. Her reasoning is that each stroke would require less of a corrective rutter at the end which would result in more speed. Can anyone elaborate?

I'll just quickly list a few things I see as weaknesses in my paddling.

-I'm paddling a Blackfly Option now and am having a hard time with speed, especially when it comes to building speed for a boof.

-I find myself switching hand positions far more often than I see in videos of some of the better paddlers. Any advice on cross-stroke technique? I sometimes feel as if my paddle could be a little shorter allowing my to have a lower center of gravity when I make cross strokes so don't feel as unstable. I am 6'1" paddling with a 58" paddle. Does that seem right?

On a final note. If anyone who open boats, and reads this, finds themselves in Northern California paddling I would love to have an open boater to paddle with!

Thanks for the advice!
-Peter
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by jchilders »

try a 54 inch paddle.
Bob P
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by Bob P »

What is your seat height?
Bob P
Wodza
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by Wodza »

I am by no means a great paddler, however this video by Tom Foster helped me immensely.

http://whitewatervideo.com/TomFoster.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It really helped me with my speed while paddling my L'edge. Instead Of constant speed killing rear correction stroke I paddle now on either my inside edge or outside edge while driving from the front.

hope this helps.
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by milkman »

I think your paddle length is fine and perhaps could even go to 59 or 60 inches. You want reach without bending forward for that short stroke, which should end about the knees. Look for a 45-degree angle at the point where you start your stroke (the placement for the catch phase). That will help you determine paddle length. Be sure to drop your offside shoulder back when going for the paddle placement, driving your shaft hand forward as if reaching for the last beer in the refrigerator. This will help wind your torso so you get get power from it when you unwind.

One way to determine paddle length is to put the grip in your armpit and mark where your extended thumb reaches on the shaft. That's the spot where you shaft hand should be below, towards the blade. Get in the boat in water and hold your hand there and rest your hand on the gunnel. Have someone else look and see if the throat of your blade covered with water. Water should be just at the top of the throat.
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yarnellboat
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by yarnellboat »

I can relate in that here in the West we pockets of canoeists tend to be pretty isolated from the leading paddlers and instructors - we have nobody "famous" to learn from and few people above class III, and few people generally.

However, most resources I know of are for people trying to make the jump from floating through class IIs to playing confidently in class III. As a self-taught person who's solid in grade IV and has a good combat roll, you're in a bit a unique situation - congratulations! On the other hand, if you're looking for instruction on short strokes, not switching hands and paddle size, there's still some basics to learn.

Here's what some people here have done:
  • Paddle often, flatwater, pool, whitewater, alone, with kayakers, whoever, wherever, whenever
    Do drills - find an easy place to do circuits with attainments and on- and off-side moves and practice your stuff (short, forward strokes and not switching)
    Take risks - err on the side of pushing your limits (not for me, but works for some, don't get hurt or worse)
    Travel to paddle - if you're not finding anyone where you are, make a date in Oregon or Utah or wherever, go to ALF
    Travel for instruction - ditto re: Oregon etc., or Ontario or Mexico or Costa Rica
    Or, arrange to bring an instructor out your way
    Try slalom gates
    Try C-1
    Try a different canoe
    The forum & YouTube stuff I guess you're on top of
For what it's worth, it's geared more at class II-III paddlers, but I put together a few resources and discussions on our local forum here in BC, there's separate threads for on-line resources and discussions for class II and Class III:

http://paddlenet.myfastforum.org/forum3 ... 471a6bd922" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I'd say "good luck", but it sounds like you're already a better paddler than me and many others who don't do much class IV!

Pat.

p.s. 58" isn't a big deal as far paddle length, pretty normal, could be longer, could be shorter, depending on preference, nothing significant.
CanoeCalifornia
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by CanoeCalifornia »

Bob P wrote:What is your seat height?
The height of my saddle is 7 3/4", the height that the typical Blackfly outfitting comes. Do people go lower than that?

As for all the other comments, thanks for all the input! I would really love to take a trip to ALF. The trick will be convincing a kayaker friend that they are safe to come with me so I don't have to drive across country alone... Maybe Oregon would be a closer option in the meantime. I just recently came across the Lower Columbia Canoe Club. Looks like they could be a good group to get in touch with.
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Out west

Post by Einar »

LCCC is a good contact for you. Very active, good skills, long season. Portland has local paddling as good as it gets.

Laying down the miles is just how it is in the West. A good vehicle and a cell phone and never passing by a fellow canoeist without saying hello eventually builds a contact list of like minded road warriors.

Email, text, "a phone roaming package' and a car gps to help find obscure never been there before put ins is pretty much a tool package.

The good news is there are lots of good canoe rivers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho & Montana.
I'm thinking of "chasing the melt" next spring starting in California and working north. Maybe we'll meet up.
Paddling is easy, organizing shuttles is hard.
Not misplacing all your crap in somebody else's car seems to be even harder
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by Paddle Power »

For offside strokes try this.

Gain momentum and then initiate an off side carve. Once the carve is established, paddle offside forward strokes, allowing your canoe to carve a circle. If you start to over power the carve, slow down or re initiate the carve.

As one instructor told me, you can practice offside forward strokes until the cows come home.
Brian
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by John Coraor »

Regarding shorter strokes, it is hard to comment definitively without seeing you paddle, either in person of in a video. However, it may indeed be sound advice.

Any stroke shortening that might be needed should be taken off the end of your stroke, NOT by limiting the amount of forward reach/torso rotation preceding the catch. You typically don't want to bring forward strokes back any further than your hip. Lazy, trailing "J" strokes behind your hip aren't helpful if keeping the boat straight and up to speed is your goal. If you need correction, you can either add a quick light "J" element right at your hip (just a quick flick/twist of your grip hand before recovery), add a slight diagonal draw at the start of your forward stroke, edge/lean the canoe slightly to your off-side as you paddle, or combinations of these techniques. Try to use slight, frequent corrections to keep steadily on course as compared to infrequent, large corrections, which slow the canoe much more.

Another technique that some C-boat paddlers use is the "perk" - inserting an occasional cross-forward in-between a group of regular forward strokes, instead of using other correction methods. How frequently you need to insert the "perk" to stay straight will vary with different boats and paddlers, ratios varying from 2:1, 3:1 or even 5:1 are not uncommon.

As to cross-stroke technique and feelings of instability, if I find myself feeling unstable on cross-strokes it's almost always because I'm being too tentative on their execution and not really committing myself aggressively to the stroke. This can often become a self-stoking cycle, when we're feeling unstable, we're often more hesitant in our strokes and we keep our bodies more rigidly upright over the canoe to keep in balance. For me the antidote is to lean forward into the cross-stroke - NOT by throwing my weight forward, but by rotating my lower shoulder forward while pulling up with knees and abs to keep the bow up as I reach for the catch, making sure that I bury the blade completely in the water. With my torso extended and leaning forward, my center of mass is actually lowered and I feel MORE stable, while also being in a better position to exert more power in execution of the cross-stroke. Admittedly, focusing on a strong forward lean on cross-strokes is a little easier in C-1, where I can allow my lower arm to extend just above the deck, than in OC-1 where the higher sides are more limiting, but I find the basic principle the same in both.

I hope you find these techniques to be of some help.

John
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yarnellboat
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by yarnellboat »

Good point that confident offside strokes are something that almost everyone could practice until the cows come home.

A very basic principle is that when putting your boat into a turn, your blade should be paddling on the inside of the turn. So, when catching an eddy on your offside, use an offside stroke - in your case, don't allow yourself to switch hands.

People build confidence in this by practicing "insdie circles" (or "paddling against an arc"), as Paddle Power suggests (and, I think the Tom Foster video is all about this?). A drill I like is the figure 8: get going, initiate a turn to your offside, and go to cross-strokes and a lean to your offside, paddle the circle. When completing the circle on your offside, flatten your tilt, initiate to your onside, and now tilt and paddle an onside circle. Repeat. Helps build comfort with tilts and change overs, which sounds like what you're after.

And yeah, definitely get involved with LCCC if you're able to go a bit north or when they're coming south!

Pat.
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by CanoeCalifornia »

This all seems very promising. I'm gonna have to get on some flat water to practice all this. Another question though... Do you all paddle exclusively one one side of the other in all situations? I tend to try choose a side to paddle on as I enter a rapid based on if it looks more likely to need a brace on one side or the other.
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by yarnellboat »

You can again consider yourself lucky! Not everyone has the ability to paddle on either side.

I can paddle on both sides, but when push comes to shove, I prefer to be on my left. However, I can only roll righty. Doesn't bother me OC-1, but for flippier C-1ing I don't like having to choose between my strong paddling side and my strong brace/roll side!

Although I can paddle on both sides, I paddle on one or other and use offsides - I don't switch hands mid-rapid. Of course I'm sure there are some very good paddlers who do switch hands often.

If I do look at a rapid and decide on a particular side, I'd say I choose my side more on the most difficult moves, or the number of moves/eddies on one side, not really the need to brace - maybe it's the same thing, but bracing doesn't enter my mind, catching eddies does.

Pat.
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by Wodza »

I paddle only on my right side and carve for control. Cross forward strokes when I need power on the left side of the canoe. Learning how to carve circles while holding a steady edge is probably the most important technique to master when paddling a short boat like an Option. I spent and still spend a lot of time practicing carving circles on flat-water, whether it be on a lake, in a pool or between rapids.
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Re: General Canoeing Technique Advice

Post by Shep »

Hi Peter,
I am a WW canoe instructor, and just moved to Santa Barbara with my family. What part of the state are you in? I would be very happy to try to get togehter for either formal instruction or just some paddling with a few pointers thrown in here and there. I paddled an Option for 2 years before I had to leave it behind when we moved. Planning on getting another one, and I have a Spark that we can swap back and forth if you want.

PM me if you are interested in trying to get together.

Thanks,
Paul
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