Getting the Most out of the Canoe Leg

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by Rod Price

Of the three disciplines in adventure racing, it is canoeing that is the most neglected. I would estimate that less than a third of adventure racers actually get out on the water for training sessions. Obviously, it is easier to put on a pair of running shoes or jump on a bicycle than it is to load up a canoe, find a partner and head for the nearest body of water. And that is why devoting some time to canoe paddling can improve your team's overall performance in the next adventure race.

The Efficient Paddle Stroke

Let's go over a few basics. The recreational canoes we use in adventure racing are built more for stability than speed. The second you stop paddling, your canoe starts to slow down. Work on increasing your paddle strokes per minute. Your goal should be about 50 - 60 strokes per minute. The "catch" is the part of the paddle stroke when your blade first touches the water. In a seated position that should be about 2 1/2 feet in front of your waist. On the stroke, make sure all of your paddle blade is going in the water. Half the blade equals half the power. When the paddle is even with your waist, it’s time for the next stroke. If the paddle goes past your waist, you are pushing water upwards instead of behind you. Shorter, more frequent "power" strokes will make your canoe go faster.

There's Only One Captain

Every boat needs a captain. The captain is usually the most experienced paddler. He (or she) decides where the canoe goes. This is best done from the rear canoe seat. Whether you have two or three people in the canoe, you will be more efficient if everyone stays in rhythm. A good captain counts the strokes of his teammates. He call "hut" or "switch" every 10 to 15 strokes to keep everyone's arms fresh. When approaching a checkpoint flag on the shore, plan on the most direct way to get it and get the canoe moving again. Someone should always be paddling. Rotate food and water breaks. Every second counts. Paying attention to the little things can save you a lot of time in the canoe leg.

See you on the water--Rod Price

In over 30 years of canoe racing, Rod Price has won more than 200 races, including the world's longest race - the Yukon 1000 in 2009. He is author of the book Racing to the Yukon. Price started adventure racing in 2002 and is the captain of Team Eco-Choice. He may be contacted at

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Comment by Greg Owens | January 26, 2011

Great article Rod. See ya on the water soon.

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