Solo Paddling — Going Sideways

One of the things that I really enjoy when paddling is slide slips - either as a direct side displacement* or running sideslip. A graceful flatwater maneuver and when done well it almost appears if the canoe is moving sideways by magic. Side displacement is useful under a wide range of conditions from just landing your boat at a dock or the shore to executing maneuvers in moving water. To execute a smooth side displacement body position is important. Move the the center (front-to-back) of the canoe so neither end is dragging more than the other. Rotate your shoulders to face the direction (or away) that you are moving. I often rotate my whole body at least a little as it gives me more power and control. Your hands should both be outside of the canoe with the paddle vertical and the power face toward you. At the end of a pry your grip hand may be inside the gunwale. The blade should be well submerged in the water. Throughout the stroke keep the blade submerged about the same amount and use a smooth motion with constant speed. Make small adjustments in the direction of the stroke and power as needed - avoid making large corrections. Although it is not necessary to heel the canoe over, doing so may actually make a smooth side motion more difficult, I heel the canoe because it gives me a better paddling postion close to the side of the boat. When executing side displacement the line of the canoe should be perpendicular to the direction of travel with no 'wiggle' and minimal (or no) forward/backward movement.

When practicing side displacement put the bow of the canoe near (5-10cm) along straight edge like a dock. Keep the canoe in a T position to the dock and move sideways keeping the same distance from the dock. An alternative to this is to find a bridge or other long line that you can paddle under. Place the canoe to form a cross (+) and keep your self directly under the line. Because the best position for your body is to face the direction of movement this method might provide a better feeling on how to move the canoe. I find that lining up two objects some distance away directly inline with the displacement direction provides the best method of keeping a good smooth line.

Once you are comfortable with going sideways try following the outline of a dock including the corners, instead of a nice straight line lineup and follow the shoreline, or put the bow (or stern) of the canoe at a bouy go in a radial circle keeping the bow at the marker.

Some video clips of side displacement

Solo — on side displacement

To move your canoe directly sideways you can use one of two strokes: 1. Basic Draw stroke with an in-water recovery or 2. Sculling draw stroke. When paddling flatwater solo you are likely better off to use a sculling draw as it provides constant power and more ongoing correction.

The draw stroke is done by placing the blade in the water parallel to the line of the canoe about 50cm straight out from the gunwale. Pull the canoe to the paddle. Rotate the paddle so the thumb on your grip hand points away from the canoe and slice the paddle back to the starting point. Repeat the stroke. By small adjustmeents in the starting point and the direction of the draw you can move directly sideways. This stroke is very difficult do do smoothly and without rocking the canoe. Keep the paddle a constant depth in the water throughout the stroke and as vertical as possible.

The sculling draw is done by placing the paddle deep in the water a short distance behind you and pitching the blade, like a airplane propeller, about twenty degrees towards the front of the canoe and moving it straight forward. Stop the forward motion a short distance infront of you. Change the pitch so it is open to the back of the canoe and move the paddle straight back until the starting point. Continue this motion back and forth to move the canoe sideways. I find that choking up on the paddle and keeping the blade deep in the water provides the best control.

The advantage of the sculling draw is the it provides a continuous pull; the paddle remains in the water allowing for ongoing corrections. If it is done well in quite water it can be more powerful than a straight draw.

A Running Draw is the natural extension of the basic draw stroke. It is excuted with the paddle basically in the same starting location as the draw but because the canoe is moving the paddle can remain static with the blade pitched open (a little) toward the front of the canoe.

Solo — off side displacement

A basic pushaway, pry, or sculling pry can be used to execute a side displacement maneuver. Using either a pry or push-away the paddle should start deep under the canoe. In the case of a basic pry the grip hand is pulled back towards the centre of the canoe. Use an in-water recovery with the paddle slicing back to beside the canoe.

A push away starts with the blade parallel to the line of the canoe and deep in the water beside the canoe. The canoe is pushed away from the paddle for about 50cm. The paddle is rotated, turning your thumb on the grip of the paddle away from the canoe, and sliced back to the side of the canoe. The motion is repeated push the canoe away from the paddling side of the canoe. The pry is similar except it is a much shorter stroke and the gunwale is used as a fulcrum providing a very powerful stroke for side displacement. When pulling the grip hand into the canoe be careful not to pull to far and cause the canoe to rock. The idea is to push the canoe away not lift water**. The pry is a very choppy short stroke making it difficult to use for a smooth motion.

The sculling pry is similar to the sculling draw in that the paddle is moved straight forward and backward but the pitch is opened away from the direction of the movement. It is a difficult stroke to complete and control. Keep the paddle vertical with the blade deep in the water using short strokes. Keeping a good body rotation to the side of the canoe improves the power in the stroke. The regular pry still remains the strongest of the offside displacement strokes.

A Running Pry allows the paddler to shift a moving canoe sideways away from their paddling side without turning the canoe. On the flat it is fun to do but on moving water it can be a very important skill. Slide the blade into the water parrallel to the direction of the canoe and then open up a pitch on the blade toward the back of the canoe. Use the gunwale to support the paddle. When first working on this stroke start with the canoe turning, ever so sligtly, towards the side you want to side slip. The placement of the paddle is about where your knees are located, slide the paddle backward if the canoe starts to actually turn, slide the paddle forward to stop the backend from washing out..

Some video clips of side displacement

* I have used the term 'side displacement' when moving the canoe directly sideways. 'Side slip' is more commonly used for the same maneuver and is the term now used by Paddle Canada.

**With a small modification on the the pry this stroke can be used in place of a high brace to stop the canoe from tipping to the off side. The gunwale is still used as a fulcrum but the blade starts a little further out (blade does not start deep under the canoe) and the grip hand is pulled into the canoe much further. The idea is the paddle pushes down on the gunwale and the canoe is righted. This modification is called a righting pry.




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Last modified: Fri Jun 15 22:12:27 2012