Skills: Paddling Backwards

It was a revelation when I first tried it. Everything was so dramatically different. I was on the edge of control; I was paddling backwards.

It was my Dad who first got me going in reverse. He had returned excited from a symposium where he’d been canoeing with a freestyle paddler. “He say it almost like a mantra,” Dad told me and then he recited: “Anything you do forward you should be able to do backward.” It didn’t sound like a big deal, but then I tried it.

Paddling backwards is a great way to teach solo and tandem canoeists important concepts by taking them outside of their comfort zone—nothing feels natural and everything is new.

Not only does this translate into more efficiency and grace on the water, these are also skills that we can carry to moving water rivers as well, whether back-ferrying a loaded tripping canoe or riding a sweet surf wave.

There are two important pointers that will help for practising your strokes in reverse. For solo paddlers, the most common problem at the outset is trim. It is critical to have your weight in the center of the canoe, or a little forward of center, so you are not stern heavy…


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