E + R

Early + Reverse

This is the key to navigating a rapid/river feature with ease. There are other ways such as bouncing off rocks at the last-minute which the modern boats construction permit, but those paddlers of an older vintage or those who have competed in slalom or a discipline with a composite constructed craft often see things differently.

  • Choose your course early and reverse strokes are good for this.
  • Then navigate avoiding bashing your hull, simple.
  • Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


In moving water the reverse stroke, low and powerful is your greatest ally.

Strokes of the forward variety can add speed in situations where it is not advisable i.e. complex rapid, or fast moving water.


Set your line as soon as you can especially in moving water.

Treat your boat as if it were made of a delicate material, steer its course and be less at the mercy of the flow.





I believe by “handwriting” by jon|k by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonk/

Once you have learned the strokes it is then time to blend them into a style, as strokes rarely exist in isolation but flow from one to another.

No two series of strokes are the same whether that be in amplitude of the stroke, speed or amount of force applied to the blade.

It’s akin to taking individual letters and making them into joined up words, sets of strokes with the aim of moving the boat through the body of water, the features of which prescribe the rhythm of the passage.

Keeping the blade active is important, often beginners or less experienced paddlers lift their blades out of the water and this coupled with their less developed sense of boat balance can end in a capsize. Apart from the balance and capsize issues not having a blade in the water can result in poor control as you are at the mercy of your edge and current speed. See below for an explanation of active blade.
Active blade this can best be explained by being shown

Letters & Strokes


Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nooccar/


We start as we start writing, clumsy scruffy letters but in the boat the strokes are often ineffectual clumsy and feel strange.

Practice is all important, like a musician practising to get better, improve and maintain you need to undertake concerted practice.

With a musical instrument the drive is to sound better, and the quality of your playing is easy for you and others to hear. With paddling the clues can be a little more ambiguous especially when the beginner paddler is concentrating on not getting wet.

Some pointers to the standard of your strokes are listed below:

Balance and maintenance of.
Success did you do it easily or was it merely survival?

Some of the points above can be sensed and others need external feedback be it success or third party input.

Set yourself a course or move on the river and repeat, see how effortless and smooth you can make it, how few strokes can it be done with?