Well, it is said that the forward stroke is the first to learn and the last to master!

This is not because it is the hardest to learn. It is because, by default it is the most practised. And we know what practise makes... permanent!
Only perfect practise makes perfect.
As mentioned in the introduction when working to develop our paddling let's make sure we are undertaking deliberate practise.

Forward paddling in a white water context usually means acceleration. The ability to create forward momentum over a short distance is one of the keys to becoming a solid boater.

Creating Forward Momentum

The larger muscles of our torso come into play when manoeuvring the canoe, forward paddling is no exception. We achieve maximum extension in the catch phase by rotating our torso, the blade is then locked in position and the boat and body are driven past the paddle by unwinding the torso. A correction stroke can then be used to keep the boat on line.


The catch:
Use your flexibility to wind up for the catch, think of this as reaching forward with one side of your torso and back with the other. Drive the blade into the water with the top hand with a slight forward lean from the hips. Tilting your pelvis forwards puts your back in a strong position. A slight bend in the bottom arm keeps it safe.

Creating Momentum - The Catch


The drive:
Transfer your weight onto the blade then drive the boat past the paddle through the knees by unwinding the torso and thrusting your 'sit bones' forwards. (And yes, this pelvic thrust is sometimes referred to as 'humping!') A vertical paddle, as viewed from the front of the boat, will aid tracking. It is worth noting that there is little downward pressure on the knees throughout the forward stroke, the weight transfers from bum to blade, with the knees driving the boat forwards. This drive ends when the knee reaches the paddle.

Creating Momentum - The Catch


Even a super efficient forward stroke is going to create some spin momentum away from the paddle. This can be corrected by a cool little pry at the stern of the boat. From the end of the drive phase to the start of the pry there is no active pressure, the blade is almost 'placed' into position. With the bottom hand behind the hip, the T-grip can be pulled inwards to 'kick' the stern back on line.

Creating Momentum - The Catch

Note that the catch, drive and correct are done as one fluid movement.

Offside forward:
A quality offside forward stroke is essential for the white water canoeist. The body movement is very similar to the onside forward stroke, after all the T-grip and shaft hand have not changed. As we drop our weight onto the blade the T-grip hand drives forwards, with the shaft hand low. The power phase stops at the knee and the paddle is rotated to allow a knifed recovery.

Creating Spin Momentum

Creating spin momentum to your offside:

Wind your torso up and look towards your offside, plant your blade at your bow and drive the boat away from the blade with your onside knee and offside foot. Varying the verticality of the paddle and the start and finish points of
the stroke will have different effects on the turn.


Creating spin momentum to your onside:

Wind your torso up and look towards your onside, plant the blade at your stern. Push your hip away from the paddle whilst driving the boat round with your offside knee and onside foot.


To create lots of spin momentum the paddle can be flipped over to finish the turn with a draw towards the bow.


Spin momentum can also be created to the onside with an offside forward power stroke. A sweeping effect can be added by bringing the top hand in towards the boat.


Before we drive the boat forwards it makes sense to point in the direction we want to go! This drill brings together an understanding of spin and forward momentum.

Spin and drive: onside
Create some spin momentum to your onside then slice the blade into the catch phase for acceleration. Now apply three powerful onside forward strokes, correcting with a little stern pry.


Spin and drive: offside
Create some spin momentum to your offside then drive the boat forwards with a powerful offside forward stroke, followed by two powerful onside forward strokes, correcting with a little stern pry.

Add accuracy and structure to this drill by aiming at numbers on an imaginary clock face. Use your imagination to vary the practice session.