Canadian Canoe Routes

beginning of modern technique?
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Author:  D Burgess [ February 21st, 2008, 9:15 am ]
Post subject:  beginning of modern technique?

I would like to ask when the current "ferrying" type of whitewater canoeing was introduced.

Does any one know of a good written description of this development?

I have set up an item for scouts about "traditional" tripping (tumplines, beans and bannock, bough beds etc), and would like to mention this change in whitewater methods.

Author:  pknoerr [ February 21st, 2008, 12:19 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think I understand what you mean... but I'm not sure I'd use the phrase "ferrying" type of whitewater canoeing to describe it. As to when ferries began to be used in a canoe... I suspect it would be pretty vain to not assume that First Nation paddlers used atleast back ferries in canoeing, and given that some eastern Canadian First Nations had "crooked canoes" very similar to todays playboats, thy may have used front ferries in their paddling as well

You might want to pick up a copy of the River Chasers by Sue Taft. It's really written to chronicle whitewater paddling in the US, but describes how technique developed. In addition, it's interesting to note that canoe technique and kayak tecnique developed relatively concurrently, there were times in the early years that kayak technique was a little ahead, and during the 1970s and 1980s the canoes had taken the lead, and now kayaks are once again ahead (mainly due to boat materials)

Anyways, Back to your question. I think you'll find that the modern method of paddling whitewater ultimately began in 1953 with a Czech named Milo Duffek in Italy. Milo developed a stroke that allowed him to spin his kayak on a sequence of strokes and not loose significant momentum. This sequence of strokes is commonly known as The Duffek. Obviously it came out of Wold Championship level whitewater. The stroke sequence was adapted by all high level paddlers, and is commonly taught at whitewater schools, and is the basis behind how most folks playboat and how all slalom is done


Author:  D Burgess [ February 21st, 2008, 4:28 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks, PKNOERR.

What I have in mind as a precursor is what I have known as "forward canoeing". I learned a bit of it at summer camp in the 60's, and it is described by Grey Owl and in books such as "God's River Country".

That style involves paddling to go faster than the water and using violent rudder strokes and draws etc by the bowman to negotiate the rapid. The stern paddler kept the canoe straight, followed the bowman's lead, and provided power to maintain steerage way.

When I first heard of ferrying, I had the impression that it was something new. I can't remember when that was, though.

Does anyone know how voyageurs, for instance, ran rapids?

Author:  Erhard [ February 21st, 2008, 4:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

D Burgess wrote:

Does anyone know how voyageurs, for instance, ran rapids?


Looks like slowing down the canoe rather than power through the rapid.....

Author:  jedi jeffi [ February 21st, 2008, 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  modern ww

In Canada it really started when the OVKC (Onatrio Voyageurs Kayak Club)
brought Milo over during the mid sixties to teach the group his advanced stokes.
There is a old 8mm film of him I hope that surfaces for the 50th Credit races this year.
Many of those paddlers as their lifes and jobs changed and moved around the country set up clubs and activities around the country,
so much history not know by the paddling community, still being spread around by word of mouth.
Many of those that taught others did so from the heart and not for the ego or pocket :clap:
I started in paddling in 67 and met and paddled with many of these people.
Many have passed on and there are still a few around.
Paddlers across the country would be surprised where thier roots came from.

Author:  D Burgess [ February 21st, 2008, 5:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

For interest, some of the "forward" technique is described here:

The bowman's paddle is explicitly described as a rudder, and the sternsman provides power. The item is an early publication, and is an interesting read.

Author:  jedi jeffi [ February 21st, 2008, 9:45 pm ]
Post subject:  technique

The thing to remember about technique that it is an evlolving art form.
Along with boat/paddle design, training techniques, coaching/instruction.....and so on, plus the ever-so Canadian pastime of eating our young for personal advancement.
Not to mention the individuals abilitly to take what they have learned and use in a river expeirence. In ww at the higher levels it must be a reaction, if you have to think about it and then react it is too late.
After the "Duffek the next big jump is when American paddler/coach wrote "the River Masters" about how the East Germans had taken ww boating to a high level.
I have an old Super 8 of the East German C2 teams at their last world Champion ships in 77. This was the first WC that the close cockpit design was introduced by the Americans.
The East Germans I beleive came 1-2-3.
The end cockpit boats are not much different in design than todays doubles.
The great difference was in watching them paddle as a team and the effiency of their strokes.
It was like watching number 99 at his peak in hockey.
The thing I taught the kids I coached was to delvelope a bag of tricks (tech) that worked for them and that they could learn something usefull from every coach/instructor they came in contact.
A 5' 4" women will have to have a different tech. than a 6' guy who has a short mid body and ape like arms..... they are just able to have a mech. advantage, this is were boat design can even things up.
So when you are learning keep an open mind and develope the tech. that works for you. :wink:

Author:  jedi jeffi [ February 21st, 2008, 10:20 pm ]
Post subject:  for the record

For the record this is me Oct. 1977 Oxtounge river Ont. ... 7541hqvZxS
and in case the link works
It may look like ego (maybe it is) but just to show you there are a lot of boaters out there that have a lot of 'T" shirts that can help you along your journey.
I forget who the photo guy was it was another just lucky someone take pics of fall colours, it is on canvas, just getting older just like me.

Author:  Guest [ February 22nd, 2008, 2:44 am ]
Post subject:  Duffec

Actually 'Duffek' is the name given by European kayakers to a paddle technique that Milovan Duffek from Czechoslovakia translated from canoeing to (slalom)kayaking in the early 1950s in Europe. For kayaking it may have been a new technique at that time, but in itself you can't say this technique has really been invented by Milo Duffek.
The 'modern' part perhaps is that kayaks, which were mostly open water traveling boats, were then adapted to whitewater paddling, and so needed different techniques, which the canoers already had.

addit: ... roject.pdf

Dirk Barends

Author:  D Burgess [ February 22nd, 2008, 8:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks all.

Jedi, that is an amazing picture. I wonder, would you try that carrying all your gear in a remote setting?

Erhard, they do look like they are backpaddling, don't they?

I am really thinking of the Bill Mason type of technique for tripping when I say ferrying rather than the high-level paddle sport kind of activity. Did Bill introduce new things, or did he promote already well-known techniques?

I'll rustle around and see what I can find in a few more books.

Author:  Guest [ February 22nd, 2008, 8:24 am ]
Post subject:  ferrying

I think it has more to do with semantics, or defining what is meant with certain words.

* paddling backwards or back paddling = paddling in reverse, that is not forward.
Back paddling does not necessarily mean you are paddling upstream or downstream. That depends on at what direction your bow is pointed. Also, it doesn't necessarily mean you are ferrying. However, it is probably better to also ferry a bit when back paddling upstream against the current, to stay or to get into the right position.
* back ferry = paddling backwards upstream or against the current and ferrying.
* forward or front ferry = paddling forward (usually against the current) and ferrying.
* S-ferry = a ferry where the 'ferrying path' from above looks a bit like an S. This is the consequence of using different ferry angles when passing a very fast current speed while coming from and getting into slower ones. Can be done as a front ferry or as a back ferry, but you will have to really good to do it as a back ferry -- I sure can't do it as a back ferry with guaranteed success!

The main disadvantage of back ferrying is that it is considerably more difficult to do than a forward ferry. Also you likely will not have the same speed paddling backwards as paddling forward -- and the more speed you have, the better a ferry can be done (less sway?).
With a heavily loaded canoe quick turning is not so easy as with a very maneuverable lightly loaded boat, so with such canoes you will have to back ferry more (often).
For a lot of whitewater designs, especially the solo boats, paddling backwards is much more difficult than turning quickly and doing a forward ferry instead. In that respect it is quite logical that back ferrying is not the regular technique for people in whitewater 'minded' boats.

Dirk Barends

Author:  Erhard [ February 22nd, 2008, 8:51 am ]
Post subject: 

D Burgess wrote:
Erhard, they do look like they are backpaddling, don't they?

I am really thinking of the Bill Mason type of technique for tripping when I say ferrying rather than the high-level paddle sport kind of activity. Did Bill introduce new things, or did he promote already well-known techniques?...

It makes sense: for one, the loaded boats were heavy and hard to control once they have picked up momentum. And if you damage the boat seriously, you spend your next day or more repairing, thus making it quite unattractive to take chances in the rapids.

Their motto must have been: go gingerly down the rapids but paddle like the Dickens whne the going is good. And that's a practical strategy when you think about the route:up the Ottawa, across via MAttawa and French and across the Great Lakes with a "short" carry at the Soo.

About Mason: from what I recall in a few pblic events where he spoke, he was working on documenting the best technique and thus worked it out with one of his pals. And in the process, he learned a lot himself. I wished someone like PMP or Becky would pipe up so we'd hear it from someone who was close to those events.

Author:  jedi jeffi [ February 22nd, 2008, 9:39 am ]
Post subject:  tech.

D. Burgess I was doing that sort of thing before I had responsabilities (family)

He may have not "invented" the tech. but he did refine a draw to a much more efficient stroke, just the same as many other sports were someone tweaked a move and made it better.
And good technique = ( :wink: Sorry Dirk) saving your butt on a trip, lake or river. And reaching to improve ones ability is a good thing.
Any boat full of gear responds differently than an empty one and requires you to vary your tech. to acheive the same goals.
This is where the practice part of different scenarios comes into play, either with "gates" or imagined hazzards. (ww is easy, easy rapids first; large bodies of open water with controled teaching conditions is another)
And the real question is whether you and your group has the tech. (skill) to do a certain trip.
When I taught a lot before my kids came along and got involved in thier activities was " Why should I learn that (stroke or rescue) I am only going to do lakes?
For those of us that have been around awhile know the answer and just don't want to see another news story.
So having a large bag of different strokes is a bonus,
and who knows someone may be tweaking a move that will bear thier name.
Forward, backwards, sideways it is not about who taught you but whether you have the ability to control your boat in the conditions you put yourself, because you have to get yourself out of it, and everyone will meet a "surpise" on a trip.

Author:  pknoerr [ February 22nd, 2008, 12:14 pm ]
Post subject: 

Dirk, I agree with your statement regarding Milo. I suspect that much of the development of paddling whitewater faster than the water as opposed to slower came because of a combination of things.... like the growth of racing (slalom and downriver), more durable materials (aluminum, fiberglass, royalex, etc.), reintroduction of more highly rockered boats designed to take advantage of eddies and allow increasingly more difficult water to be run, and last but not least, the desire to run river recreationally for the fun of running them... and thus ultimately playboating.

I suspect that prior to WWII there were very few people agressively running rivers, because boats weren't up to it, and there was little need to run much above a light to moderate Class III because the consequences were too great. Thus with racing, and newer materials, and the desire to run more and more difficult whitewater: paddlers, boats and technique were developed to run bigger whitewater requiring all to react to run the rapids.

There are still lots of reasons to run rapids slower than the river in tripping. We've talked about it... no rather we've beaten it to death... so I'll avoid that, but... I think that there is little doubt that very few canoeists were running many substantial rapids real agressively in tripping circumstances before the middle of the 20th century.


Author:  D Burgess [ February 22nd, 2008, 2:12 pm ]
Post subject: 


That's an interesting post. I wonder if there has been a kind of pendulum effect.
Perhaps it's an interplay among paddling technique, canoe materials and the reasons for running rapids.

Erhard's suggestion of running gingerly in bark canoes makes sense.

If you read Grey Owl's account of a trip on the Mississagi (in the 1930's I suppose) and Marion Ferrier's account of a trip on the God's River (evidently in the 1950's) you read of canoeists paddling faster than the water. The books are Tales of an Empty Cabin and God's River Country, respectively, and describe some pretty wild rides.

We know of the Mason way in the later 1900's.

You describe a current aggressive approach.

Maybe there's a nice thesis in this for someone.

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