Canadian style paddling?

ken mueller

Canton, Ohio
Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is this type of paddling? I've seen pictures of it, and was wondering if there is a benefit to paddle this way.Thanks!

To the best of my knowledge, this refers to a steering stroke that is alternately called the northwoods stroke or the canadian stroke. It's different from the j stroke in that the steering is accomplished as the paddle is lifted out of the water. The blade is kept in the water during the return stroke, angled and lifted up in such a way as to apply the correction one normally applies at the end of the j stroke. The blade emerges from the water with a sort of pop or snap before repeating the stroke. Becky Mason's recent video has a nicely done explanation of the stroke. I'm probably a slow learner and have never had anyone actually demonstrate the stroke to me. It took me years to actually figure it out to the point where it is now a comfortable relaxing stoke suited to calm water travel. Most books that discuss it attempt to explain it but then suggest you have someone show you.
It's harder to explain in words than to do. Andy's description is good, but to understand the nuances you really need to put your paddle in the water. The slice angle is key and it will vary depending on the amount of turning you want to do and the forward speed you want to maintain. No two strokes are exacly the same, because you adapt to the movement of the canoe. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it if you spend a couple of hours practicing. Bill Mason's Path of the Paddle paddle book describes it completely and has a number of instructive photographs. You don't need a pal to show you if you have the book, but it wouldn't hurt.

Give it a try. It is an elegant and surprisingly strong stroke. :)
There is the Canadian stroke, which Andy and Rob have described pretty well (and I concur, you need to be on the water to truly understand it).

Then there is also what we call Canadian Style paddling, sometimes also called "Omering" (after Omer Stringer). This is a solo paddling technique where you kneel in the center, or just abaft of center), with your knees tight into the bilge, heeling the canoe over. The heeling can be dramatic, often with the gunwales just off the water. A variety of strokes are used in various combination to manouver the canoe. Sue Plankis usually demonstrates this at Assembly and/or the Adk Freestyle Symposium recital.

It is similar to Freestyle, the main difference being that it wider canoes are usually used for Canadian Style, and most, if not all, the strokes are performed "on-side" where Freestyle uses both "on-side" and "off-side" strokes.

Both are often done with routines set to music, but knowing some of the manouvers that come out of Style and Freestyle paddling can enhance any paddling experience, especially river travel. Some refer to it as obedience lessons for your canoe, with the object of getting from here to there without hitting anything with as few strokes as possible.