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How to Paddle a Canoe in Four Steps

BY: Editors | Jun 5, 2015
How to Paddle a Canoe in Four Steps

Good canoe-paddling form won’t just improve your maneuvering in the water; it’ll also save you energy and, potentially, injury. Whether renting a canoe for an afternoon or making the most of a lakeside getaway, start by following these four tips on how to paddle a canoe most effectively.

1. Good posture will get you everywhere. The better aligned your body is, the more efficient your strokes will be. By sitting up straight as you paddle, you help direct your power to your bigger muscle groups—the chest, abs, hips, and butt—and keep your arms from going noodly too soon. 

2. Hold your paddle right. If you’re paddling on the left side of your body, paddle with your left hand just above where the paddle’s shaft meets the blade (called the throat), and with your right hand at the top-end of the shaft and the top of your hand facing the sky. When paddling on your right side, reverse that. Your arms should stay about an arm’s length apart—use your third arm to measure. 

3. Keep your paddle vertical. This is another way to maximize efficiency: by keeping it upright and parallel to the boat as you pull, you’ll both move the maximum amount of water and keep yourself moving straight forward, rather than off to one side where the eels nest. 

4. Use short strokes. Despite a natural tendency for many folks to make long strokes, short strokes work better. With each stroke pull only as far back as your knees before lifting your paddle out of the water to start a new stroke. Beyond that point, the stroke becomes weaker and less able to efficiently pull you through the water.

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