Paddling a canoe solo isn’t hard: just kneel and heel, then employ a rock-solid stroke. By T Edward Nickens
Paddling on your own is like having a backstage pass to every overlooked dam and remote stretch of river. Take your canoe where you want, as fast as you want, without the hassle of coordinating strokes – and schedules – with a partner. Burt Kornegay, owner of Slickrock Expeditions, has guided more than 400 trips, but he still likes going out on his own. “There’s a sense of freedom,” he says. “You can go at it hard or snooze all afternoon. And solo paddlers see so much more wildlife because they’re quieter.” Here’s how to transition from two motors to one.
Rotate your canoe, so what’s normally the stern is up front. Kneel with your butt braced against the bow seat, just behind the centre of the boat.
Heel the boat over by shifting your weight towards the paddling side. (This will shorten the boat’s waterline and boost manoeuvrability.)
Use a J-stroke to correct the bow’s drift away from the paddle side without killing momentum. Many people J-stroke ineffectively.
Plant the paddle blade in the water with the shaft vertical. Pull the paddle back in a straight line.
As the paddle blade passes your body, twist your hands down and out: the thumb of the top hand points towards the water, and the blade rotates a quarter-turn. It now lies parallel to the direction of travel.
Use your bottom hand to pry the blade away from the boat. Just a hint of ruddering will tame a bit of bow drift, but more correction will require a hard push. (You’re doing it right if your tricep muscle protests.)
Need a bit more correction? Drag the blade tip through the water (keep it shallow) as you bring the paddle forward.