The Forward Stroke
The forward stroke is one of the most exhaustively analyzed and debated
moves in canoeing. Instructors and Olympic flatwater coaches have heated
arguments over its finer points.
1. Wind up the rotation
as if you were going to do a forward sweep, but keep the paddle as
vertical as possible, not low.
2. When you've wound up as far as possible, push down with the grip hand
and arm to bury the paddle in the water. Remember, down with the grip
hand. Don't pull back with the shaft hand as many people do.
3. Lift the paddle out of the water when it comes alongside your hips.
You've used up your rotation: Get the paddle out of the water for another
windup and stroke by lifting your shaft hand straight out to the side and
lowering your grip hand across your chest.
Wind up your torso so that you are looking back over your paddling-side
shoulder toward the stern, as for a reverse sweep, but in this case, the
paddle is vertical, and your grip hand indicator thumb is pointing out,
away from the boat. Your grip hand should be about head level.
Push down with your shaft hand to bury the
blade in the water. You will be pushing the non-powerface of the paddle
forward through the water. Once the paddle has passed your knees, pick up
the shaft hand to take the blade out of the water.
You may have seen
pictures of a lone canoeist leaving a beautifully straight wake across a
lake at sunrise. That guy doesn't switch sides, you think. How does he
keep going straight? The answer is simple, if subtle: At the end of almost
every forward stroke, the experienced canoeist makes a small correction to
adjust the boat's tendency to turn away from the side where power is
applied. So what will you do? You will learn the correction strokes: the
stern pry for big corrections, and the J stroke for smaller ones. A good
way to distinguish between the two is to think of starting from a dead
stop. First you will need the pry to check the boat's strong tendency to
turn away from you during the initial powerful forward strokes that get
the boat under way. Then the J stroke will come into play for smaller
corrections as you get up to and maintain speed.
Only the stern paddler (or the solo paddler) does the correction
strokes. The bow paddler provides pure forward force without correction.