Canoe Strokes That You Should Learn

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To become a great canoer, you have to practice your paddling skills. Whether you’re switching directions, navigating into a tight spot, or moving backwards, you need to know the right canoe stroke for the job. Here are the basic canoe strokes every canoer should learn.

Canoe on a lake

Forward Canoe Stroke

This is the most basic canoe stroke that you are probably familiar with even if you haven’t researched different stroke options. As you’d expect, this is a stroke that’s intended to simply move your canoe forward. It’s always a good idea to try to master this stroke first before you move on to other, more-complex paddle strokes.

To execute one of these strokes, you’ll want to hold your paddle as vertically as possible. Your hand that is at the top of the paddle shaft should be at eye level. Rotate your shoulder forward as you plant the paddle in the water before bringing your shoulder back again. It’s that simple!

Man in a Canoe

Draw Stroke: The Canoe Stroke for Going Sideways

Of course, you’re not always going to want to be moving forward. If you want to start going to the side and change direction, you can use what’s known as the “draw stroke.” To perform this stroke, you’ll want to be facing your paddle. Move your paddle as if you are reaching out across the water and pull the boat toward your paddle. To finish the stroke, rotate the blade so it’s perpendicular to the boat. You can either slice the paddle away from you or pull the paddle from the water to do the stroke over again.

Backwards Canoe Stroke

There also may be times when you want to move your canoe in reverse. Perhaps you’re backing up to snap the perfect shot of an eagle flying over the water, or maybe you’re making room for another canoer to pass you! As you might have guessed, to execute this stroke you need to try to do the opposite of your forward stroke. While keeping your paddle horizontal, plant it as far back as you can. You’ll need to rotate your torso while you prepare for the stroke and then unwind your torso while you complete a wide arc with your paddle. The arc should be about 180 degrees.

Woman in a canoe

J Stroke: The Essential Canoe Stroke for Solo Paddlers

If you’re paddling with someone else, the J stroke is an essential part of the process. This will help to correct the canoe’s path and avoid turning too much toward the stern paddler’s offside. When you have two people in the canoe, it’s the stern paddler’s responsibility to perform the J stroke. This process begins like a forward stroke would, but when your arms start to come back, you need to rotate your hand at the top of the paddle shaft forward and down.

Man paddling a canoe

When you finish the stroke, your thumb should be facing down. Your lower arm should make a subtle “j” shape in the water. This will help you start moving your boat with the paddle.


Sweep Stroke: The Canoe Stroke for Straight Navigation

This is a simple paddle stroke to move your canoe in a straight line. With this stroke, you make an arc with the paddle, moving the water toward your boat. Keep your paddle horizontal while you move it. You can either go forward or backward with your arc depending on which direction you want to travel.

Master Your Canoe Strokes with Practice

With these strokes, you will be able to have a successful canoeing experience! Although each stroke will take some practice, in time, you should be able to master each of them. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro!

For additional information on canoeing strokes, visit this Paddling Magazine article.

By OutdoorZ.Life Staff

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