My dad used to suggest “keep your stroke short, it’s more efficient and relaxing,” as we paddled the flatwater stretches of the trip. It was 1983, and we were on the Nahanni River preparing me for a summer of guiding.
I fondly remember my dad’s voice as I paddled in the stern of the canoe. Being a teenager, I rolled my eyes at his instructions and was determined to prove him wrong. With stubborn resolve, I pulled with both arms and lengthened my stroke.
Dad’s stroke was smooth and relaxed even as he took two strokes to one of mine. I watched him more closely just as he had learned by studying a First Nations paddler.
This short canoe stroke, which I now call the traditional stroke, has become an important forward stroke in my flatwater repertoire.
Learn the canoeing forward stroke technique
To get the feel of the punch with power, try this learning technique. Hook your shaft hand thumb onto the gunnel to force yourself to create a fulcrum, punch your grip hand from your chin all the way to the gunnel until your knuckles touch.
Repeat this a few times and you’ll be well on your way to mastering this relaxing traditional stroke.