Wednesday May 24th 2017 *POSTPONED*
Steering the Boat: Draws, Pushes, Leans and Sides
Paddling a marathon canoe is different than paddling a recreational canoe. Marathoners don't use correction strokes like the J-stroke to direct the boat where they want it. By switching sides every 5-10 strokes the paddlers can keep the canoe going fairly straight, but what do you do when you need a little more help?
The two major steering strokes used by marathon paddlers are the draw and the push. These are used in the bow and stern and are adaptations to the forward stroke. In other words (unless the situation is drastic) the paddler takes a regular forward stroke but with an angled pull or push at the initial part of the power phase. It usually doesn't take much to be quite effective.
The most subtle way to change the direction of your boat is to lean it. If you lean one of the gunwales closer to the water the boat will carve in the opposite direction. Both paddlers need to be loose in the boat and working together to keep it stable. Usually it is the stern paddler who initiates leans, which can be done by simply relaxing your hip on the leaning side and looking towards where you want the boat to go. Leans are most often done towards the stern paddler's side, but if you are an experienced paddler, offside leans can be very useful. In the bow it is an awkward feeling to be leaning the boat away from your paddling side, especially if you are trying to draw at the same time.
Another way to turn the boat is to both paddle on the same side, which pushes the boat away from that side. This is called "paddling sides". The stern paddler may switch to the bow paddler's side or hut the bow paddler to their side, but it's always a good idea to let your partner know you are doing this! Paddling sides can be uncomfortable and some people don't like it, but in certain situations I find it the fastest way to get where you need to be.
Good paddlers will put very small amounts of draw or push on a stroke to fine tune the boat direction before having to resort to something more drastic. Usually small leans and subtle steering strokes are all that is needed to direct the boat, but sometimes you need more. The more steering you need to put on a stroke the more it will slow down the boat. That is why I will try sides before resorting to large steering strokes.
Wednesday May 17th 2017
Marathon paddling is efficiency oriented and the goal is to make the boat go fast while conserving the most about of energy. It is very different from a recreational or touring stroke as it is shorter, much quicker, and does not use steering strokes (correction stroke) in the same way.
There are three main phases of the stroke:
The catch (putting your blade in the water) happens as far as you can reach in front of you while still being able to plant your entire blade in the water. You can either “stab” it in, or “slide” it in from the side. It should be clean and quick. Think of it as anchoring your blade.
Check out our pervious post on 'The Catch' for more details...
The power phase is when you pull the boat towards your paddle. Notice I said "pull the boat", not push the water! Big difference. Think of it as if you were sitting on the ice and you stabbed your paddle into it and pulled yourself towards your paddle. This should be quiet; no turbulent water gurgling around your blade. Use your core muscles for power, not your arms. If your abs are sore at the end of the paddle, you are doing it right!
As soon as the paddle passes your knees you should pull it out of the water. It shouldn’t go past your hip. The recovery is extremely quick, as you gain no forward momentum with your blade out of the water.
Paddlers switch sides every 5-10 strokes on average. This keeps the boat going straight without the need for a J-stroke. Paddlers switch sides simultaneously when a “hut” is called. It is usually the stern paddler who calls the huts.
Group paddle sessions will begin on Wednesday May 10th 2017 for this season. Please arrive a few minutes before 6:30pm so that the session leader can organize boats and partners before the Group Paddle Focus and the group gets on the water!
Wednesday August 24th 2016
This week will be the last SCC Marathon points race of the season... and it's going to be a good one!
We will still continue to have group paddle sessions as long as the weather and river conditions permit.
Wednesday August 3rd 2016
We’ve looked at riding wash already but here are some specifics about stern wash riding. The waves coming off a boat’s stern are good to ride in most conditions. In long races side wash riding can be expensive, especially if the lead boat doesn’t go straight or the course is narrow and shallow. Stern riding can give you a break.
You get the best ride if you keep your bow within the V coming off the lead boat’s stern, and about a foot behind. Keep loose in the boat and it will want to follow the lead’s stern. To ride the wash the stern paddler watches the lead boat to anticipate any directional changes and react as early as possible. The bow paddler controls the distance between the two boats and fine tunes the steering if necessary. This is usually by adding a slight draw or push (sweep) to the forward stroke.
Wednesday July 20th 2016
There is a great article about bow paddlers and stern paddlers written by Holly Reynolds here:
We tend to slot paddlers into two categories, which Holly labels “Bow Jock” and “Stern Runt”. The stereotype is: the meat in the front of the boat and the brains in the back.
It’s true that the stronger paddler usually goes in the bow – it’s where the power is most useful. We also stick rookies there too because it’s generally easier to control the boat from the stern than the bow. But don’t let that fool you.
The bow paddler not only has to provide horsepower, they have a whole lot of other jobs. They need to be aware of obstacles and opportunities, set the right cadence for the paddling situation, hold the forward-and-back position of the boat while wash riding, crank in crossbows with an offside lean, fine tune the steering, and be able to anticipate and assist with whatever the stern paddler is trying to do. (In other words, be mind readers.)
The stern paddler’s job is to maximize the power in the boat by getting it in the right position and matching the bow’s stroke so there is the best possible glide in the boat. They put their muscle in too, but their head is wrapped around the whole situation and like chess players they are playing the game 5 moves ahead. They will be planning moves far in advance that put them on the right side of a buoy turn, for example.
Paddling with someone else is like a marriage. You rely on each other. There are roles to play. There is the expectation that your partner knows exactly what you are thinking at all times. There are fights.
Respect and communication are the keys to success. There is no better way to appreciate everything your partner does until you are literally in their seat. Every stern paddler should paddle bow sometimes, and vice versa.
Try this regularly. You’ll think twice next time you feel like throwing the wedding china at your partner’s head.
Wednesday July 13th 2016
The Saskatoon races are this weekend, so this week we’ll review some things to get prepared.
Wednesday July 6th 2016
Starts are important even in long races. The easiest water to paddle is the undisturbed water up front; big waves build behind the lead boats which can be tricky to navigate. As well, a good start can get you up with a pack of faster boats which can pull you during the race.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Wednesday June 29th 2016
We’ve looked at the mechanics of a good stroke, but the way you position your body has a huge effect on how well you can transfer power from your body to the boat. We’ll start at the bottom:
Feet - If balance is good in the boat, having your feet in the middle and pointed up (not angled out) gives you the best reach as your knees don’t impede your forward extension. This is necessary in the bow anyway, where you often have to stack your feet in order to fit into the boat. In the stern try putting your feet in the middle like this. When you need maximum control of the boat (such as when leaning aggressively) you may need to add more contact points with it by bracing one or both legs against the sides.
Legs – Your legs should be extended in front of you with your thighs almost parallel to the gunwales. Normally your knees will be a little higher than your pelvis. This is quite subjective so find the extension that is most comfortable and gives you the best leverage.
Pelvis – Very important! Think of your pelvic girdle as a bowl full of water. You want to position your “bowl” as if you are gently pouring the water out in front of you. The natural tendency is to angle your pelvis too far back, holding all the water in your “bowl”. You lose a large amount of reach sitting like this and it promotes arm paddling as opposed to using your core muscles.
Torso – Positioning your pelvis correctly will get your torso in the proper position. In your profile you should have a forward lean from the hips. Keep your back straight, however - don’t hunch to get that lean. You’ll know you’ve got a good forward stance if your runny nose were to drip onto your knees.
Arms –Your arms should stay out in front and your upper hand should circle in front of your face during your stroke without dipping too far down (this means you’re driving your stroke too much). Your lower arm should never collapse too close to your body. Think of maintaining the “paddler’s box”: the rectangle created by your arms, the paddle, and your chest.
Your arms should not have too much extra movement during your stroke. If you cock your wrist or elbow when you take the paddle out of the water, for example, you may get tendonitis issues.
Common bad habits
Wednesday June 22nd 2016
Shallows are difficult to navigate. The boat tends to bog down and the waves get harder to ride. If you understand how to make the best of shallows, you can use them to pass boats and make up a lot of time in a race.
Concentrate on a good stroke in shallows. The first third of your stroke is most important.
Try to anticipate shallow sections. Get your boat speed up so you can “pop” the boat: this means surfing your own wave, and if you manage it you will travel far more quickly. You’ll feel when this happens: your stern will rise up and your speed will instantly increase. Suddenly it will feel much easier to paddle. Popping the boat is easiest when the water depth is minimal – if it’s more than two feet it’s called “sucky water” because the boat feels bogged down and is difficult or impossible to pop.
When a wave moves from deep water to shallow water, it does two things: it travels more slowly, and the wavelength gets shorter. This results in steeper waves that are closer together, which changes where and how you ride wash.
If you are riding side wash, you may find the right place to ride is farther back on the wave. It can be difficult to stay here due to the shorter steeper wave and often you get shunted away from the lead boat and slide down the wave. That’s why everyone sprints before a shallows section – the easiest place to be is out front.
Group Paddle Focus
Details for our weekly group paddle training sessions. All sessions start at 6:30pm at the Victoria Boat House.
May 10: Welcome
May 17: Marathon Stroke
*May 24: Steering POSTPONED
May 31: TBA..
June 7: Intro to riding wash
June 14: Reading Rivers
June 21: Shallows
June 28: Buoy Turns
July 5: TBA..
July 12: Race Starts
July 19: Portaging
July 26: Race Nutrition
Aug 2: Group Paddle
Aug 9: Side & Side Wash
Aug 16: Group Paddle
Aug 23: Equipment
Aug 30: Group Paddle