Considerations of stroke Slice, Exit, and Recovery

A stroke is usually considered as three phases -- Catch, Power, and Recovery. I often consider a fourth (exit) phase at the end of the stroke, after the power phase as the paddles comes out of the water -- the recovery being the motion to return to the Catch point. I want to provide some input into a few under-appreciated, and often ignored, components of strokes:

The video provides six slow-motion examples that represent each of these components. When watching the video focus on the completion of the stroke and the transition from power through recovery. Each of the components are fairly commonly used and a poorly executed slice, exit, or recovery can cause problems with overall boat control. These are not the only strokes where slices and exits are used but they provide examples of some options, once understood the concepts can be applied to other situations.

Draw Stroke -- In water recovery

The recovery on the draw stroke has the paddle blade turned perpendicular to the direction of travel, there is no out of water component (exit) on this stroke. The recovery portion of the stroke should have no pitch on the blade, and should not cause the canoe to change direction/speed forward or backward. In the video clip here notice that the end of the power phase has a clean, fast (snappy), rotation and the blade is sliced out to the starting point then rotated back for the next stroke. Notice the relatively smooth water behind the moving blade during the slice.

Slice into Running Draw

Many static strokes require the paddler to slice the blade into the correct position before applying pitch to the blade. A very common problem when slicing the paddle is applying a small degree of pitch to the blade which causes the canoe to turn (or yaw unexpectedly). When using a running draw to execute a side slip any pitch during the slice will cause the canoe to turn away from the paddling side. I think paddlers often add some pitch unconsciously because they want to feel some pressure (pull/push) on the paddle, or they anticipate the final pitch needed and apply that too early.

In the video clip notice the minimal amount of turbulence behind the blade until near the very end when a small amount of pitch is added. The small degree of pitch causes some turbulence and was left in the clip to distinguish the 'slice' from the power portion of the stroke. I usually encourage paddlers to minimizing the length of the slice when using any running stroke -- plant the blade where the power is required, or slicing-in from the side (rather than from behind).

Forward Stroke -- Slice sideways to the recovery

After the power portion of a forward stroke the paddle must come out of the water without any force or pressure. The power portion of a forward stroke ends about the hip (with the upper arm of the shaft hand in line with your body). Applying any force beyond this point is inefficient, or worse digs water up at the end of the stroke. Once the power portion of the stroke is complete I find it easiest to slice the paddle out sideways (from the canoe) in an arc through to the recovery (with the power face of the blade facing the sky). Some sprint canoeists and dragon boat paddlers, pull the paddle directly up out of the water as they recover their body position rather than slice out to the side - I find this particularly difficult when paddling 'Canadian-style'.

The key with the slice is to be quick, and let the paddle continue up with the motion of the canoe -- remember you should not feel any pressure, after the power phase, as the paddle exists the water. It is important to continue through the recovery with the blade parallel to the water surface (or the power face facing the sky), this is the neutral position if the paddle was slice sideways out of the water.

J-Stroke -- Slice sideways or up, to recovery

The exit from the J-stroke may be made in two ways: 1) slicing out sideways similar to the forward stroke, or 2) lifting (slicing) the paddle directly up after the correction.

Slicing out involves the blade making a small rotation, arcing down (slightly) and away from the canoe. This allows you to rotate the paddle to the power face up position, and then slice out sideways. The small arc, and slice should be a continuous motion and not apply any additional forces in the water. The stroke should be done with the blade very close to the canoe, the correction portion of the 'J' should be no more than a few degrees (10 at the very most). The 'J' portion may be done at the hip and fairly deep in the water, or further back with less depth, but always with the blade close to the canoe. I find the arc-slice the easiest way to exit to the recovery when doing a J stroke. The same motion also lends itself to transitioning to a closely related stroke called the 'Canadian'. The Canadian has a recovery through the water with a slight pitch to the blade, there is no pause or catch in the stroke. A continuation of the recovery fully in the water, with a palm rotation, can also be used -- this is called a rolling-J or silent stroke.

The lift exit involves slicing the blade directly up (lifting) and out of the water after the 'J' correction. The blade is then rotating to the recovery section of the stroke. There is no rotation of the paddle or sideways slice in the water. The exit is done behind the paddling position.

River-J -- Slice Up

The exit from the River-J is limited to slicing directly up after the correction portion of the stroke.

Some paddlers will rotate the blade in the water similar to the arc-slice mentioned above but this is not often used and unless the slice is very carefully done any pitch will slow the boat. Similar to the J-Stroke above the blade must be kept close to the canoe, and the correction portion perpendicular to the surface of the water. The correction must be limited to only a few degrees.

Note of Clarification (fall 2019): I am told that Paddle Canada no longer recognizes a 'River-J' as this is a combination of forward stroke and [stern] pry. I will continue to use 'River-J' in my discussions as a convenient reference to a blended correction stroke with a change in power face.

Back to Home Page
Back to my Canoe Instruction WWW page

October 13, 2019, 2019