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Canadian Canoe Routes

Guide stroke video
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Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 25th, 2018, 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Guide stroke video

I just posted a Youtube video showing how the Guide or Canadian stroke is done.

Author:  nessmuk [ October 25th, 2018, 6:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

I disagree that the "J" must end with a pause. Newbys probably learn like that as they break the habit of the thumb up goon or rudder stroke. But done correctly, there is no need for any notable pause to steer with the J, only a slight outward push of the power face at the end of the active stroke and as an initial still in water moving portion of paddle recovery. Granted, if a significant or severe correction is needed then the J can be held in a rudder position for a moment or two. Rudder or J, very slightly angling the rotation angle of the blade (while keeping the blade still in a nearly vertical orientation) at the end of the stroke can effect a direction bias toward either the onside or offside direction. Precision control, try it.

He is correct in that an experienced paddler tends to morph the J into the guide/Canadian stroke. I know I have done that for a long time as a pleasant and effective way to go. But I do not pry my paddle shaft on the gunwale. Not my $200 custom cherry wood paddle, even though you can see such wear marks on Bill Mason's thick shaft paddle and canoe.

Somewhat in the opposite, I often use the pitch stroke, which is essentially angling the blade early toward the J position, while still in the mid-late power phase. I think of the pitch as being an early application of the J, the Canadian being a late extended J.

Author:  frozentripper [ October 26th, 2018, 7:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

Thanks for posting the vid, Rolf... I'll have to see it again. I still am not sure exactly what I'm doing, terminology-wise, during strokes for distance and efficiency, probably pitching but maybe there is some advantage to using the gunnel (which I've been avoiding).

The underwater scene with the dog paddling alongside the canoe is a nice touch of humor with the comment that some strokes are more efficient than others... paw vs paddle, that's a first for paddling vids for sure.

Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 26th, 2018, 8:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

Years ago I was in charge of Instructor Services for the Ontario Recreational Canoeing Association and spent a lot of time revising and updating the program. One of the most lively discussions with the instructors involved was about "textbook" descriptions of strokes and the names used to describe them. A good paddler rarely does "textbook" strokes, the reality is that some modification is required just about ever time the paddle goes into the water. Where and how forces are applied is the most important component of paddling well but it gets into long descriptions of leverage, pitch control etc and its a heck of lot easier to just say something like "do a draw now". Here's an example... if you wanted to be accurate you only do a "J Stroke" when paddling on the left side of a canoe. If you're paddling on the right side you'd actually be doing an "L Stroke" and that kinda points out the problem with putting names to strokes. The footage I used for this video shows some variation in the way the paddle is being used to adjust for small changes in directional control and its my hope that the visuals will stick because it would be a heck of a lot longer if I had to explain the slight changes.

As for using the gunnel... the video was about efficient paddling. Consider this... if you want to conserve a ton of energy on a long day of paddling one of the easiest ways to rest your arms between power strokes is to avoid lifting the paddle. As illustrated in the one hand recovery in the video, the bottom arm does next to nothing on recovery in the guide stroke and the top arm isn't picking up the paddle but is putting a bit of downward pressure which means there's a heck of lot less "work" being done instead of an out of water recover where you are lifting the weight of the paddle. The cherry paddle I'm using in most of the shots weighs 1.2 pounds. A moderate rate of paddling is about 20 strokes per minute. That's 1,200 strokes per hour and it comes to 7,200 strokes in a day if you paddle for a reasonable 6 hours. That means you've lifted 8,640 pounds give or take if you do a full out of water recovery from the end of the power stroke to the beginning of it and even more effort if you use your arms to steer instead of using the gunnel. That's literally over 3 tons of "work" done over a day of paddling that can be reduced. Math wasn't my best subject in school so I hope I got that right but I'm sure you can get the idea. Doing the steering the way its shown in the video reduces the amount of weight lifted and work done to a small fraction of that amount. After a day of paddling your body will thank you if you incorporate some or all of the technique in the video and you'll have a lot more energy left over to take care of campsite chores at the end of the day and enjoy the fire before retiring for the night.

On a side note... the cherry paddle in most of the shots is the same one I've been using for about 20 years now and its pushed my canoe over many thousands of miles happily prying off my gunnel. I was very careful about about examining the wood when I chose that paddle and even after all that time and use it shows next to no wear.

Hopefully that's food for thought :-)

Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 26th, 2018, 8:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

nessmuk wrote:
I disagree that the "J" must end with a pause. .

Thanks for the note, your observations are constructive. Just to be clear... I didn't say the J stroke "must" end in a pause but when its taught as "textbook" it is power, pause and steer. As paddlers get more comfortable they will naturally reduce the amount of pause and start to incorporate some of the variations you described. My video is intended to encourage paddlers to find ways of decreasing the amount of work and increasing the enjoyment without being prescriptive. There isn't one and only "right" way to paddle, just a right way that works for you and that's going to change as you gather experience.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ October 26th, 2018, 9:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

I too am not a gunwale prier either which may well be a good thing for alleviating tiredness..but I do see some disefficiencies in the Canadian Stroke as shown. First there is no torso rotation shown which of course leads to arm strain.. and the forward stroke is following the curve of the gunwale which is usually a detriment necessitating over correction.. But to be fair I haven't thought of my stroke recovery if it is always the same degree of correction each time.. For consistency sake it may be easier to follow the gunwale and then overcorrect ( and its a slight degree for each) with each stroke.

If you are sitting instead of using the gunwale you can use your knee as a fulcrum.

I like the music and the pace and the easy explanation of the Canadian stroke.. And for once we generally agree in terminology south of the border too.

Author:  nessmuk [ October 26th, 2018, 10:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

I often have to break bad habits of paddlers in my guide training course, if they have any paddling experience at all. the most important skill to learn is how to make the canoe go straight without significant frustration. I say if you can make a canoe go straight you then automatically know how to make it turn". If they have to start out with the rudder stroke to gain confidence, so be it. Go straight first, then we modify to incorporate the J and more advanced linked strokes. The ability to link strokes and to make more efficient strokes, that is one point of making the sometimes difficult awkward transition to the J when for the most part the goon rudder works perfectly well for going in a "relatively" straight line. I liken it to riding a bike. Does an experienced bike rider need to know the physics of how to move arms, body, legs and lean to avoid an upcoming pothole or other obstacle? No, given enough advanced notice, it just happens automatically with linked body motion. Paddling is much the same, you have to observe and "think" one or two strokes ahead of where the canoe is going, automatically without even "thinking" about it.Introducing the J can be difficult and initially awkward to a rudderer, but is done and explained to show how to link other more advanced and efficient strokes beyond simple ruddering (or heaven forbid, back paddling to routinely steer) for direction control and precise maneuvering.

About conserving energy... As a long distance canoe racer with a couple dozen Adirondack 90 mile and multiple Yukon 1000 mile races behind me, I am very aware of energy saving techniques and necessity. Even though I race using a carbon graphite racing paddle weighing only ounces, I have learned with that racing or with my wood recreational paddle how to relax and rest arm and all muscles during the less than half second or so that it takes during the recovery portion of the stroke before the next catch. Of course the J and Canadian stroke are not normally incorporated in the racing power stroke. But still, I focus on relaxing muscles during the recovery stroke. During the 1000 miler, at race cadence, I figure we take something like a total of a half million strokes while paddling virtually continuously for the fully allowed 18 hours each day, every day for a week to the finish. My lower back sometimes suffers from the race tension and long days of sitting upright, but otherwise my arms, acting only as linkages from water to the stronger back and torso muscles, do not feel tired nor get sore. Long ago I learned and teach that if your arms get tired or sore, then you are using poor paddling technique and not properly incorporating major muscle groups like you should. Of course when racing we frequently hut to change paddling sides which provides some muscle relief and for direction control. But at times due to wind or other factors we sometimes spend many minutes on one side with power strokes. Recreationally, I often spend most of an hour on one side or the other, switching only for variety or according to shore maneuvering needs. Either way, racing or recreationally, I have never felt the need to rest my lower shaft arm any more than resting the grip arm during multiple strokes.

Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 26th, 2018, 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

littleredcanoe wrote:
I too am not a gunwale prier either which may well be a good thing for alleviating tiredness..but I do see some disefficiencies in the Canadian Stroke as shown. First there is no torso rotation shown which of course leads to arm strain.. and the forward stroke is following the curve of the gunwale which is usually a detriment necessitating over correction.. But to be fair I haven't thought of my stroke recovery if it is always the same degree of correction each time.. For consistency sake it may be easier to follow the gunwale and then overcorrect ( and its a slight degree for each) with each stroke.

A few things to consider regarding recent replies to this post...

You can use core body muscles without doing torso rotation - I do but it doesn't look like it. I occasionally get students who've had "proper form" drilled into them and don't believe me. Easiest fix to convince them is to do a side by side paddling comparison and I can easily keep pace with them because they are concentrating too much on form without paying attention to function. If I really want to push my canoe, I'll add torso rotation and that leaves them in the dust. Bottom line is that there are lots of things that can be done to improve efficiency and its best to keep an open mind when developing technique. What happens when the rubber hits the road is more important than what's in the textbooks.

If your paddle follows the gunnel, it gets closer to the direction of travel and that reduces the turning influence of the stroke. If the canoe is heeled like I do solo, the paddle can actually cross over to the other side of the keel line (direction of travel) at the end of the stroke and when you do that well, the correction required is less not more. Keeping the paddle parallel to the keel line for the entire length of the power stroke actually increases the turning effect because you gain leverage against the fulcrum (center thwartish) of the canoe as you move the paddle towards the stern. Never understood why there doesn't seem to be an understanding of that basic fact of physics in some circles.

nessmuk mentioned this not you but... I don't try to "break" students of bad habits. I watch what they are doing, figure out where they could improve and choose the one main problem and then tell them "to do this... try this". People don't like it when you tell them they are doing something wrong but they appreciate it when you provide tools to help them out. The key in my opinion is never try to improve everything at once, find the most obvious thing they can work on to make it easier and once they get the feel for that move down the list of other stuff that could help them.

I have more than 50 years experience paddling canoes and a lot of that has been on deep wilderness trips 3-5 weeks long as trip leader in places like the arctic where you have lots of time to work on the mechanics of paddling efficiently. I've also spent a lot of time figuring out how to develop very precise control of a canoe and over the years I've probably helped several thousand students learn a bit more about paddling. My videos are an offering to share what I've learned works for me over many years of trial and error and folks can take advantage my meager $.02 CDN or not. There isn't a right way to paddle, there's a way to paddle that's right for you right now but if you keep an open mind "right" will change over time and that's a good thing. I still learn things about paddling and don't think that's ever going to stop.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ October 26th, 2018, 4:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

youngster.. 53 years tripping here.

But never mind that isn't important.. The gunwale follow is easier for folks to fall into but it alas has a sweep component and the correction has to correct that as well as the sidewheel effect of paddling off of the centerline.

So over a brewski or two we should talk. Or at Charlies house over a wine or two. He has a nice collection.

I wish I could do a video on what I think of as an evolution of the Canadian Stroke.. The Northwoods Stroke. Its been done for over 150 years here in Maine but we like to keep it a secret..

Racing and tripping arent quite the same.. 60 spm means you don't want correction strokes with the friction loss..

This gets to be a complicated equation.

Author:  nessmuk [ October 26th, 2018, 4:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

Please don't get me wrong with my comments. I hope I did not offend. You created a video showing your style based on your experience and I appreciate that and that you posted it. I do not have the facility and equipment or the ability to do the same. If I did, and if LRC did, each one would be different, stressing different aspects and self taught techniques and habits, I am sure.

I have two different lives on the water. One of racing and training for races, and another for recreating, and maybe yet a third mode for training guides and boy scouts. Each of my modes is different and uses different techniques on the water and paddle handling. When not with my race team I train solo, which tends to be a blend of race and recreational techniques (I am as likely to have both a bent shaft race paddle and a wood otter tail paddle with me). Since I am almost always a bow paddler when racing, I have limited, though not zero control over steering with bow control strokes and paddle handling ability. On the other hand, I set the pace and cadence and am the navigator, which I love to do. And the stern paddler (especially in a long boat voyageur) takes cues from me for initiating major turns. At other times I relish either stern or solo control with a well made paddle.

Author:  MartinG [ October 27th, 2018, 8:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

Nice video Rolf!

I can not keep up a text book stroke, paddle parallel to the line of travel, vertical shaft, hands stacked, paddlers box, rotating at the core, etc. etc. for any significant length of time. It's like parade marching vs. walking. I find it exhausting.

Maybe I'm just a lazy paddler. For me, getting in a groove with a partial in water retrieve, prying of the gunnel with almost every stroke is the most comfortable and tireless way to travel. I find this particularly true in a solo canoe. When sterning with a partner, it takes me some more time to get in sync. Especially when the partner is more powerful than I am. I have to reign those horses in a bit before I can find a groove.

Author:  Splake [ October 27th, 2018, 1:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

I completely agree with using the gunwale during the pry. It is absolutely critical for increasing power and preserving energy when paddling for hours. Similarly the river-J, which Nessmuk described using the outdated derogatory term 'goon' stroke, is absolutely essential for both generating the necessary power for a lot of river tripping situations, including whitewater, and for saving both your shoulders and wrists from execessive and damaging strain. As many have learned painfully, the flatwater-J while a really useful stroke, has horrible ergonomics.

Coming back to the video however I don't see any downward pitch on your recovery stroke. The angles I'm seeing in the video are actually pulling the paddle away from the hull which would counter the pry portion of the J stroke if it was actually having any steering impact.

In practice I would say that I let the paddle move forward freely on the recovery, knifing through the water at an angle to minimize resistance. That would be consistent with the angles I see in the video where you are knifing the blade through the water on the recovery and where the recovery includes moving the blade back out a bit wider to accommodate the width the hull will be when you reach your maximum forward extension and start the next power phase of your stroke.

Author:  nessmuk [ October 27th, 2018, 1:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

I did use the term "goon stroke" for the thumbs up rudder technique as it has been known for a long time. I do realize that term has gone out of favor. Note that I did say that what is important for new paddlers to get the canoe going straight as a confidence builder and that is an effective control stroke, it is especially used by beginners who don't have any other paddle skills (other than madly and randomly changing sides in an attempt to effect direction control). But because the power face is reversed, it does not naturally transition into some of the other most useful strokes.

I realize that the white water rudder is used by, well, white water paddlers on rivers. I personally am not a white water paddler, but am a river paddler. The Yukon current, for example, rushes along at 6-12mph, but is not white water. It is essentially just moving flat water with tricky surface cross current segments. During the 1000 mile race my team and I paddle pretty much nonstop for the rules allowed 18 hours/day, and have never felt the need to rest the paddle on the gunwale during the recovery stroke. When recreationally paddling, often for many hours or loaded for all day tripping, it is the same. I paddle for very long periods on one side at a time and do not "hut" myself. A wood paddle naturally floats, so when doing the Canadian stroke, it is somewhat buoyant, and you can use the pitch angle of the underwater blade on the recovery to adjust the weight and pressure.

Author:  Rolf Kraiker [ October 28th, 2018, 6:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

littleredcanoe wrote:

So over a brewski or two we should talk. Or at Charlies house over a wine or two. He has a nice collection.

A brewsky or two is in order and you're right about Charlie's collection :-)

Author:  Wilsauceez [ October 28th, 2018, 6:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Guide stroke video

Nice video..its always a good idea to watch things like that. It doesnt matter how long anyone has been tripping, keeping good habits is important. Not thinking that you can't learn more because we think we know it all is self destructive.

I solo 99% of the time so I do vary my stroke through the day ie. pausing after the J and using the gunnel for a while. The one thing I can't do (and have spent hours & hours trying) is paddle on my weak side. I can paddle all day on my strong side (as long as I change my stroke once and a while). But once I try to switch over I might as well try and paddle with my feet LOL.

Can't paddle on my weak side and if I take too long of a stroke on my strong side I get chafing on my right arm from rubbing against my life jacket. Every year I work on these things so hopefully I figure it out someday.

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