How To Be A Better Paddler


LOVES Wooden Canoes
Proper instruction is important if one is going to be a better paddler….courses through organizations like the Ontario Recreational Canoe and Kayak Association or Paddle Canada can teach you the proper technique. But like anything, you become better with practise. Especially if you put into practise what you’ve learned. The more time you get out on the water the better you become. Or at least in the water if you can’t get on the water.

In Roy MacGregor’s book, Northern Light:The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him, comes the following description of the lengths that Tom Thomson went to be a better paddler:

Thomson had caught the bug of the North. He soon showed up at work carrying a new paddle, which he immediately tested out by filling one of the photoengraver tanks with water, then placing the tank beside his chair so he could sit down and practise paddling.

“At each stroke he gave a real canoeman’s twist,” recalled J.E.H. MacDonald, “and his eye had a quiet gleam, as if he saw the hills and shores of Canoe Lake.”
(p. 28)

Paddles up until later then….unless you’re fortunate enough to still be out on the water….or at least have a really big bucket of water.
The title of this thread was partly tongue in cheek as I found it unusual that Tom Thomson would go to such lengths to practise his paddling....very interesting that he would go that far to be a "better paddler"....or maybe it was to impress his peers (including future members of the Group of Seven) who must have thought he was some sort of "bush man" in "show off" more so than actually improve his paddling....I really can't imagine anybody sitting in a chair with a paddle blade in a trough of water practising srokes and actually being a better paddler for it....more likely "stoking" (or "stroking" LOL LOL) his "image".

But never the less, it does illustrate that practise of any kind is important....and you only get better by doing
Getting specific movements committed to "muscle memory" by simply repeating the movement is a generally accepted means of training muscles (persons?) to perform the actions in a certain way without thinking about it. Speaking as a certified canoe instructor, paddling instruction involves not only teaching certain skills (you'd be amazed at how difficult it can be for some folks to learn a draw stroke), but also involves improving efficiency, and changing muscle memory (aka "breaking bad habits"), which is quite a challenge for most folks.

Repetitive "muscle memory" work has also been part of my rehab protocol, following both rotator cuff surgeries. Tying the tip of a paddle to an elastic band, and the band to a table leg, provides resistance much like a water bucket, though it is considerably less messy. :rolleyes: Having missed the best part of the last two paddling seasons in a row, due to the surgeries, I'm a little out of practice, and upper body strength overall needs all the help it can get.

This is also a good way to practice skills when you're not in a canoe, as Thomson figured out. If you can keep the motions in your muscle memory all winter long, you just might not feel quite as sore after your first float trip in the spring! If this makes me as much of a canoe nerd as Tom Thomson, I'm pretty happy with that! It's quite a promotion! :)
Some great points by Paul K. I know I hadn't paddled as much in years as I have this past season....and my "muscle memory" certainly had diminished, especially in the finer movements sometimes required in precise paddling (when I think about it, initially my "muscle memory" certainly constantly "reminded" me of how much I had let slip LOL LOL....muscles I hadn't used like that in years ached just a bit more than normal)....I guess using various approaches to practise might have helped....although I know that I definitely improved by just getting out as early as I did and just doing....I put in several hours most days just paddling to improve my technique....took some valuable lessons to put me on the right track....and just paddling as many days as I could....but maybe Tom Thomson's "bucket" trip might work too....however I think Tom was still "practising" a bit more of an ego rather than paddle strokes.
Dave, it definitely counts....especially if you don't fall in again....BTW, belated Happy Birthday wishes