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Perfect the Canoe Forward Stroke


Tandem canoeists practice the forward stroke.

Tandem canoeists practice the forward stroke.

Photo © by jennifrog
Canoeing is often viewed as a "simple" activity by many. Proper form, however, can make all the difference in the world in taking a canoeist to the next level. The forward canoe stroke is the first stroke that a canoeist should learn to begin to perfect this sport.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 5 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 1: Be sure to properly properly hold the canoe paddle and to sit up straight while paddling.

  2. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 2: Raise the paddle out of the water and bring the top hand up high (at or above the head). The shaft of the canoe paddle should be near vertical to the water and not diagonal across the body.

  3. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 3: Push the lower hand forward, reaching the paddle blade toward the front of the canoe. Be sure to sit up straight.

  4. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 4: Place the paddle blade into the water ahead of your body. Keep the face of the blade perpendicular to the direction of the stroke.

  5. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 5: Pull the paddle along the side of the canoe in a straight line. Allow the top hand to push forward and down while the bottom hand pulls back.

  6. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 6: Use the torso and upper body rotation to aid in the stroke and give maximum power. You shouldn't be using your arms as much as you use the rotation of your body.

  7. Canoe Forward Stroke Step 7:When the blade is past the canoeist's body, bring the blade out of the water and go back to step #1.


  1. In the case of a 2 person canoe, the person in the front should paddle on one side of the canoe while the paddler in the back should keep the canoe moving straight by paddling on either side of the canoe and through the use of other strokes such as the j-stroke.
  2. Switch sides frequently so that you don't put too much stress on one arm.
  3. Switch which arm is the top arm and which arm is the bottom arm as needed to give yourself an even workout.
  4. It is most efficient to paddle on the left side of the canoe when the right hand is on top of the paddle.
  5. It is most efficient to paddle on the right side of the canoe when the left hand is on top of the paddle.

What You Need

  • Canoe
  • Canoe Paddle
  • PFD
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