Techniques for Canoe Racing


Marathon canoe racing is held by organized canoeing clubs under the auspices of the International Canoe Federation. Different techniques of paddling and body positions are involved in canoe racing, where one to several people may be in a canoe during a race. A marathon is conducted over long distances on rivers, lakes, the open sea or an estuary. There may be shallows, rocks and portages included as obstacles in the race.

Basic Canoeing Techniques

Canoe racing involves a sit-down style of paddling, using single-blade paddles. Each paddler must paddle on opposite sides for 6 to 12 strokes before switching sides. On the average, there should be 60 to 70 strokes per minute, but this can be increased to 80 strokes per minute. The bow paddler, the heaviest and most powerful person from your crew, sets the pace. The stern paddler sets the course in the water. He will call “hut” or “hup” to signal the crew to switch paddling sides. He should be able to work closely with the bow paddler to anticipate the turn and be efficient in the stroke rate.

Paddling Techniques

Paddling techniques and strategy, combined with upper-body and leg strength, are needed to win a marathon canoe race. "Flooring it" means lowering your center of gravity by spreading your knees toward the sides of the canoe while you sit down with your butt touching or close to the bottom of the canoe. This position will add more stability to the canoe. During the power phase of paddling, when you want more speed, the paddle should push straight down into the water but not too deeply. Short strokes are used to maximize efficiency. The rate of the stroke can be increased by using strong yet short strokes.

Trimming the Canoe

This technique involves placing the heaviest and most powerful crew member on the bow of the canoe. The natural tendency as the canoe moves on the water is for the bow to rise up, putting more workload on the person sitting on the stern. Since the bow paddler should be setting the pace, his weight should bring the bow of the canoe down and level on the water, and his strength will provide the additional push needed to bring the canoe forward faster and more efficiently by reducing the back drag.

Use the wake generated by other canoes in front of you to give you some time to surf and reduce the wind resistance as your own canoe moves forward. One technique you can use to navigate waves is to stay on the outer edge of wave trains to avoid being pulled into choppy waters. Approach the wave head-on with the canoe perpendicular to the wave rather than positioning your canoe sideways. A canoe positioned parallel to a wave is very dangerous, as the canoe can overturn when hit by a strong wave. Keep your paddles in the water when you encounter rough waters to have more leverage, and use power strokes to get out of the whitewater.