How to Paddle a Canoe — 7 Essential Canoe Paddle Strokes to Make You a Pro at Canoeing

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Canoes are good companions for making new memories and a fun way to get some exercise.

But before you head out on the water, you need to know proper stroke techniques. This will ensure that you know how to steer and paddle a canoe.

Otherwise, you’ll be lost amidst the sea and the waves will gulp you up in no time. That’s why it’s best to stay prepared.

You know what they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

So, what are the best canoe strokes you need to master?

Well, we have 7 different canoe paddle strokes so you can go and conquer the river or lake. Want to know all about these awesome paddling strokes? Then stay tuned as we explain all of them in detail just for you.

By the way, these strokes are important to know for kayaking too!

Related: Best Canoe Paddles Reviewed


Canoeing Tips – 7 Canoe Paddle Strokes You Must Know

How to Develop Good Technique for Paddling a Canoe. | Courtesy of PaddleTV

When you’re out in the water you’ll have to depend on your own skill to get you out of all kinds of trouble. So, it’ll be super handy to know all types of strokes. This way you won’t face any trouble and will be self-dependent. 

Why don’t we take a quick look at all the types of paddle strokes you can master.

#1 – Basic Canoe Paddle Stroke: Heading Straight

Let’s start with the easiest stroke. This is the one stroke that everyone needs to know. It’s called a traditional stroke. And as the name suggests you move in the forward direction.

For this stroke, you need to place the paddle in front of you in the water. Then slowly steer them back using a good amount of force. Repeat this a few times

Now while doing so you’ll notice that the paddle goes in a back and forth direction. That’s when you know you got it right.

#2 – Canoe Paddle Reverse Stroke: Going Backward

Another great stroke to familiarize yourself with is the reverse stroke. This is the complete opposite of the forward stroke.

That means instead of putting your paddle in the front gear you’ll place it in the back. Then make your way to the front. This will help you reverse your canoe.

So, if you ever need to back up you can trust the reverse stroke to have your back.

#3 – Canoe Paddle Low Brace Stroke: Speeding Up

Alright, it’s time to level up a bit. To really become the pro, you need to step up your game. And for that, you can use the low brace technique.

In this form of paddling, you need to draw your paddle out at 90 degrees and splash it into the water. Then you need to kneel down and lower your head and swiftly paddle the canoe.

This technique mainly works because it applies pressure on the water surface. So, you can have more control over the canoe. Thus, this technique can be a lifesaver.

#4 – Canoe Paddle C Stroke: Taking a Sharp Turn

Another great method of moving forward is to use the C stroke. Now, as the name suggests you must paddle in a C-shaped direction.

For this, you need to make a C in the water with your paddle. Sounds easy right? However, applying this on the moving water can be quite hard. So, make sure you get enough practice for this.

#5 – Canoe Paddle J Stroke: Steering the Canoe

The J shaped stroke is where, while staying on one side of the canoe, you get to control the direction it travels in. It is basically an upgraded version of the forward stroke.

The process is like the forward stroke except you have to twist your wrist to move the paddle. It’s basically like writing the letter J on a paper.

#6 – Canoe Paddle Draw Stroke: Closing the Gap

A great stroke to master over is the draw stroke. This helps you get nearer to another boat or shore. So, you can count on it to be quite handy.

For this stroke, you need to mostly use your paddle and keep your hand stiff. So, the unique thing is to place the paddle far away from the canoe. Then move the paddle close to the canoe.

#7 – Canoe Paddle Pry Stroke: Swaying the Canoe

The last stroke is known as the pry stroke. It’s the exact opposite of the draw stroke. So, you start off from the close part of the canoe. Then draw out the outer side.

Keep doing this and you’ll notice that your canoe turns sideways.


Canoeing for Beginners — FAQS

Well, that’s all the essential canoe paddle strokes you need to learn to be a pro canoer. But knowing isn’t enough, you need to practice them. So, don’t be shy to head over to the lake with your paddles and canoe and try out the awesome new moves we talked about here.

But before we leave, we want to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about canoeing.

Where do you seat on a canoe while riding solo?

There are two places on a canoe. They are the bow and the stern. You see, the stern position lets you have more control over the canoe. Thus, if you’re alone you need to head over there to steer your canoe.

Where should the stronger paddler sit in a canoe?

As the person sitting in the stern position has more power to steer the canoe the stronger one should sit there. That way if you need to take a sharp right the stronger person will be able to sway the canoe quite easily.

Do the canoes flip easily?

Generally, a canoe won’t flip easily. They are more stable than what they appear to be. In fact, they are quite safe to float on. However, you shouldn’t go overboard. Because a lot of shaking and irregular movement can lead to your canoe flipping over. And you’ll end up drenched.

Is it easy to canoe?

Yes, it is easy to canoe. In fact, even a beginner can grab a paddle and go out for canoe. All you have to do is take some precautions and master some strokes before you head on for a new adventure out in the sea.

Make sure you stay safe and don’t forget to have fun.

Take care. Adios!