How to Paddle a Canoe

How to Paddle a Canoe
Using the correct techniques to paddle a canoe increases your efficiency and helps you to maintain endurance, all while helping to prevent unnecessary injuries. The art of paddling a canoe takes practice to master. These instructions will help the beginner to learn the basic strokes and provide the experienced with a review of proper form and technique.


Difficulty: Easy


Step 1
Be mindful of posture. All of your upper body muscles are used when paddling a canoe. When paddling, keep your arms straight and maintain good posture while keeping your body relaxed, allowing your shoulders and waist to turn as you enter your stroke. Always keep your hands in front of you. If the blade of your paddle is behind you, your shoulders and waist should be turned towards the blade.
Step 2
Know hand placement. Your upper hand should grip the top of the paddle and controls the angle of the paddle. Your lower hand holds the shaft about a shoulder length down from the upper hand and guides the paddle through the stroke. If you are paddling on the left side, the right hand should grip the top of the paddle; if you are paddling on the right side, your left hand should grip the top of the paddle.
Step 3
Make the forward stroke. The forward stroke moves the canoe forward. Hold the paddle in a vertical position. Put the blade of the paddle in the water in front of you, keeping the blade close to the canoe. Pull the blade through the water ending the stroke when the blade is even with your hips. If you are canoeing solo, you will have to alternately paddle on opposite sides to maintain a forward motion. If more than one person is paddling, each person can paddle on opposite sides. To move backwards, reverse the stroke.
Step 4
Do the forward sweep. Use the forward sweep to turn the canoe in the same direction as the side you are paddling. To perform the forward sweep, extend the paddle out into the water in front of you, placing half of the blade into the water. Use your arms to extend the paddle without leaning your body. Sweep the blade through the water in a "C" motion, ending at the stern of the canoe.
Step 5
Perform the draw stroke. The draw stroke is used to move the canoe sideways. Turn the blade of the paddle so that the blade is facing the canoe. Extend your arms out to your side and place the blade of the paddle into the water and pull the blade toward the canoe. This stroke will pull the canoe towards the paddle. To continue moving in a forward motion while moving the canoe sideways, upon completion of the draw stroke, turn the paddle blade and pull the blade of the paddle towards the stern of the canoe.

Article Written By Rose Kivi

Rose is an outdoor enthusiast who has respect for the environment. She volunteers her spare time working to rehabilitate wildlife and their habitats. She also teaches survival skills and leads groups on nature explorations.

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