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.