Learn about Canoes and Canoeing, Part 1

Filmmaker Jason Eke has canoed most of his life. With this video he begins a 2-part series for beginners on how to canoe. Since he records the video while he’s in the boat, viewers get to see some beautiful Canadian wilderness along with the instruction:

In the video Jason addresses several of the most common questions he’s asked about canoeing:

Is Canoeing Difficult?

“One of the greatest things about canoeing is that it’s really not difficult at all. Pretty much anybody of any skill level can canoe,” says Jason.

Jason Eke next to his cedar strip canoe

Yes, beginners can have fun in a canoe in nice weather

It’s important to follow basic common sense principles like: wear your life jacket, and don’t go too far from shore. A few hours in a canoe on a calm day will give a first-time canoeist a great time.

The weather plays a big role in canoeing for beginners, though. If, instead of that calm water, you have a strong wind, waves and maybe some rain—it can quickly become very challenging!

Canoeing can definitely take a lifetime to refine, like most other outdoor pursuits. But there are just a few basic techniques anyone can learn to be able to enjoy canoeing, and especially canoe tripping. The most important are the forward, back, draw and pry strokes (which he covers in more detail in Part 2 of this series) so you’re able to control your canoe with ease.

Do You Have to Kneel in the Canoe?

The answer is no, you don’t have to kneel in the canoe. Plenty of canoeists stay seated all the time.

But kneeling helps lower your center of gravity and helps you connect better with the canoe. Jason explains, “You can feel the way it’s moving and sitting, and I think that you even get a little more power in your stroke.”

He especially likes kneeling when canoeing solo because of the extra stability and control he feels. If others are in the canoe with you—like pets or children—kneeling is more stable and safer for everyone if the weather and water get rough.

canoeist paddling a canoe

Sitting strategically for good hip rotation and stroke power

When he’s on his seat, Jason likes to sit with his “paddle” leg (the leg on the side his paddle is on) tucked under him, and his other leg forward. This makes it easy to use “hip rotation” with each stroke, which gives your strokes more power and doesn’t fatigue your upper body as much.

What are the Basic Parts of a Canoe?

In the video Jason uses the cedar strip solo canoe he built himself. Solo canoes are shorter and lighter than traditional tandem canoes, and they have just one seat instead of two.

Whether solo or tandem, though, the basic parts of a recreational canoe are:

  • Seat(s)—Canoes have one or two seats in them. A solo or pack canoe has one seat placed near the middle. A tandem canoe has a seat in the bow (front) and in the stern (back).
  • Gunnel—The material that runs along the top edge of the hull. It provides something to hold on to when portaging and makes the hull edges more comfortable.
  • Yoke—Some canoes have a yolk for portaging your canoe. The yoke is designed to fit around your neck comfortably when you carry the canoe on your shoulders.
  • Deck—At the tips of the bow and stern, decks give you carrying handles and help keep water out of the canoe.

a canoe's yoke

A canoe’s yoke stretches across the middle from gunnel to gunnel

A canoe's deck

The bow and stern decks provide a handhold when carrying the canoe

How Do You Safely Lift a Canoe for Portaging?

It’s important to use your whole body when lifting a canoe, not just your back and upper body. You’ll use your thighs and legs, arms and upper body, plus momentum to get the canoe from your thighs up onto your shoulders. It’s part strength and part technique.

man lifting a canoe

man lifting a canoe to portage

This is where the weight of the canoe makes a huge difference! Some recreational canoes are 90 pounds or more, others are as light as 35 or 40 pounds. Of course it’s much easier to lift a light canoe, especially for people who are small or aren’t as strong.

man portaging a canoe

Putting the canoe back down involves rotating the canoe sideways carefully while it’s on your shoulders, grabbing the gunnels with each hand, and lowering it to your thighs and then to the ground. You don’t want to drop it or you’ll risk damaging the hull.

Some people like to leave their canoe in knee-high water before lifting it, since it’s higher than the ground. Lowering it back down in knee-high water gives you the same advantage, as well as less risk of dropping it on something that’ll damage the hull material.

Learn more about Jason Eke and see more of his films on his website, Facebook and Instagram page.

What paddle questions can we help you with today? Get in touch with our Wisconsin-based Customer Service Team: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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