Back To Basics: Canoeing J-Stroke Vs. Goon Stroke (Video)

Which is better?

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John Langford at Voyageur Quest Outfitting demonstrates two strokes that will have your canoe traveling in a straight line—the Goon stroke and the J-stroke—and discusses the benefits of each.

What is a Goon Stroke?

The Goon Stroke—coined by canoeing legend Bill Mason—is often practiced by beginner-intermediate paddlers, because it’s the easiest stroke to get you back on course. Unlike the J-stoke, this stroke uses the opposite side of the power face of the paddle blade to make a steering motion. It is similar to the J-stroke but finishes with a small pry. Over long distances, or over time, it can be less efficient than the J-stroke and can also cause damage to your equipment if you are prying off the gunwales.

What is a J-Stroke?

The J-stroke gets its name from it’s path of motion; the paddle follows the letter “J”. It starts the same as a standard forward stroke, but towards the end, the paddle is rotated and pushed away from the canoe. 
Once you’ve planted your blade in the water to take your stroke, pull the blade back towards you alongside the canoe—your boat should move forward. At the end of your stroke, turn the wrist of your lower hand outward, so the paddle blade makes an imaginary J away from the canoe.

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  1. I’ve been canoeing 50-100 days of the year for over 45 years. I distinctly recall, at MKC in 1979, being shown the J-stroke (as opposed to the goon stroke, which I had previously called the “J-stroke”, as that’s how I was taught ask a kid.) But after hundreds of thousands of paddle-strokes, the arthritis in my wrists prevents me from doing the J-stroke now, and I am back to the goon stroke. I suspect that decades of doing the “J” contributed to this condition, although my work as an electrician and my woodworking were also likely factors.

    Has anybody else, after decades of doing the “J”, suffered this affliction and reverted to the goon? I have lost much of the range of motion of twisting my wrists, and it’s painful to do so.

  2. I caught my rafting guide buddy spinning the T-grip in his hand with every stroke while on a canoe trip in the big bend. Still utilises the efficiency of the traditional J-stroke but with less wrist fatigue. Comes in handy every once in a while.


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