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RIP J-Stroke: ACA No Longer Teaches the J-Stroke (EDIT: Or Does It?)

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I was paddling today with an ACA certified instructor. He was telling me the ACA no longer teaches the J Stroke (he'd never even heard of the Canadian stroke). Instead of the J Stroke, they only teach the what he called the Stern Pry, which is I would call the River-J aka the Goon Stroke -- i.e. thump up pry.

Also, while I do the J or River-J in one motion, the current teaching doctrine on the Stern Pry is to remove the paddle from the water completely at the end of the forward part of the stroke and then reach back and put the paddle in the water towards the stern before making a short pry off the gunnel. It sounds more awkward than it is to do in practice, but taking the paddle completely out of the water before the correction pry seems like a needless extra step to me. I asked why they teach it this way and the instructor said it is because it is easier to teach it as three separate steps and they want to de-couple the forward part of the stroke from the correction part.

In any event, RIP J-stroke. Next thing you know, they will stop putting two spaces after a period when typing. Wait, they already did that! Damn kids!
 
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I was paddling today with an ACA certified instructor. He was telling me the ACA no longer teaches the J Stroke (he'd never even heard of the Canadian stroke). Instead of the J Stroke, they only teach the what he called the Stern Pry, which is I would call the River-J aka the Goon Stroke -- i.e. thump up pry.

Also, while I do the J or River-J in one motion, the current teaching doctrine on the Stern Pry is to remove the paddle from the water completely at the end of the forward part of the stroke and then reach back and put the paddle in the water towards the stern before making a short pry off the gunnel. It sounds more awkward than it is to do in practice, but taking the paddle completely out of the water before the correction pry seems like a needless extra step to me. I asked why they teach it this way and the instructor said it is because it is easier to teach it as three separate steps and they want to de-couple the forward part of the stroke from the correction part.

In any event, RIP J-stroke. Next thing you know, they will stop putting two spaces after a period when typing. Wait, they already did that! Damn kids!
What level instructor was he? Most are level 1 and 2 for canoeing.. FreeStyle level 3 is built around the J stroke. It might make more sense to not teach the J at level 1 .
 
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I don't know what they are thinking. I have never, will never, and will never teach to pry the paddle shaft against the gunwale of any boat. I know that Bill Mason famously did that, and if you have ever seen one of his paddle shafts half worn through you will know why. You can only guess what that does to the gunwale as well. The J is useful not just for the stroke power and steering control that it offers, it is the initial lead-in gateway to many other useful primary strokes. My J is one continuous motion without any hesitation whatsoever at any point in the catch, the power, the control phase, or the recovery, My boat travels fast and in control, with total bow yaw varying less than 5 degrees on every stroke. When I need some other kind of control, my J easily transitions to do what it takes to please me. If someone told me that I could never do the J or any of its follow-on strokes again, I would probably have to quit paddling.
 
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Can’t imagine you can do that stroke as described by OP without slowing down the boat….. doesn’t make sense to me at all!! Used to be an ACA IT and I would still teach the J for flat and slow moving water until they dumped me for doing it.
Quick and whitewater are a different matter and a pry can be very useful there.
 
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What level instructor was he? Most are level 1 and 2 for canoeing.. FreeStyle level 3 is built around the J stroke. It might make more sense to not teach the J at level 1 .
He held certifications as an ACA Level Four Tandem Instructor and a Level Two Solo Instructor.
 
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If someone told me that I could never do the J or any of its follow-on strokes again, I would probably have to quit paddling.
Not to worry, yknpadler, nobody is telling you that you cannot use the J-stroke. The ACA simply doesn't teach it (according to this instructor).

On the other hand, if they did come for your J-stroke I gather they would definitely have to pry it (off the gunnels) from your cold-dead hands (to paraphrase Charlton Heston).
 
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Alsg,

If I understand your description in your original post, the paddler is lifting the paddle out of the water before inserting it back near the stern. Then lifting the paddle again to reach forward for the forward stroke. Two lifts for every stroke, compared to one lift for the “normal” stroke. Over an 8-hour paddling day, that can create a lot more wearyness. Why not just do the stern pry as we all understand it, without the extra lift? To add the extra lift, in my opinion, makes the stroke needlessly cumbersome and complex.
 
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Alsg,

If I understand your description in your original post, the paddler is lifting the paddle out of the water before inserting it back near the stern. Then lifting the paddle again to reach forward for the forward stroke. Two lifts for every stroke, compared to one lift for the “normal” stroke. Over an 8-hour paddling day, that can create a lot more wearyness. Why not just do the stern pry as we all understand it, without the extra lift? To add the extra lift, in my opinion, makes the stroke needlessly cumbersome and complex.
Yes, you are describing exactly what this guy was showing me. He insisted that the extra lift (before the pry) is how ACA wants its certified instructors to teach it. I don't get it either.
 
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Kathleen wonders if your paddling companion had suffered a stroke other than a canoe stroke, as it makes no sense to her. As she points out, almost all beginning stern paddlers naturally fall into the river j. To encourage them means that it would be even more difficult to get them to do the j in later instruction.
 
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Some instructors emphasized feathering the paddle blade vertically as the blade reached the hip, then carrying it farther aft before executing a stern pry. I have never heard of anyone recommending lifting the paddle clear of the water and reinserting the blade and that strikes me as absurd.

The stern pry is about the most effective stroke there is for turning the canoe toward a solo paddler's on-side without unduly killing forward momentum. It can certainly be done without prying the paddle shaft off the gunwale. I do not feel that learning a forward stroke/stern pry combo ("thumbs-up J") precludes effectively learning a J stroke. But I have found that some beginning paddlers have enough difficulty mastering a smooth J stroke that it makes more sense to start them out with a thumbs-up J stroke to get them going straight with a minimum of frustration.

As alsg points out, the J stroke remains in the course curricula for river canoeing and whitewater canoeing levels 2-5 certification as well as for the river touring curriculum.
 
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Solo ? I use a C- stroke, to maintain same side power. Otherwise Sit and Switch, Pull strikes.

Who ever took lessons on how to paddle ? I thought it was just like a bike ! You just hop in and start wielding the paddle !

Dragon boating, as a Stern, I'd call for Pry, Draw, and Pull. Oh, and Hold water. Those were the days !
 
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He held certifications as an ACA Level Four Tandem Instructor and a Level Two Solo Instructor.
Got it. The ACA teaches different things at different levels. Its based on a building block approach and I think they have shifted some strokes up a level..
Most people getting into canoeing don't want more than the basics of getting from A to B without getting into trouble
There is actually an algorithm but I can't find it on the ACA site. The tree branches early into river and flat course progressions.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I don't believe the ACA has abandoned teaching the J stroke.

Rant time.

Nor would I care. The J is far more efficient than the goon/rudder on flatwater for transitioning into and/or from the pitch stroke, Canadian (knifing J) stroke, C stroke, northwoods/guide stroke, and all palm-rolled strokes such as the Indian stroke.

In my opinion and experience, the thumb-up goon/rudder/river-J is used as the regular solo correction stroke in flat water only by paddlers who have never learned or mastered the rich variety of transitionally fluid thumb-down correction strokes. It is also used by many whitewater paddlers (including me) for powerful corrections while accelerating for short stretches in turbulent waters. But if you watch truly expert whitewater slalom racers, as well as high-kneel flat water racers, they will all use thumb-down J variants when forward stroke sprinting.

I've never heard of lifting the paddle out of the water and reinserting it to make a correction.

I don't believe the guy knows what he's doing, or talking about, or both.

Nor do I care. In formal or informal instruction, I would immediately kill the instinct to do a goon stroke as a regular solo correction, and insist on learning the J and its variants from the outset. Sure, the goon is easier to learn. So is switching hands or using a double paddle, both of which instincts I would also kill immediately. (Unless I were specifically teaching bent shaft hit & switch technique.)

Of course, a stern pry is a good way to initiate an onside turn in many flat water situations, but to teach or use it as the primary and choppy method of correction is to miss much of the transitionally fluid single-sided correction strokes based off a thumb-down paddle, which make canoeing for me such an elegantly rewarding physical, mental and spiritual activity.
 
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I do believe alsg's instructor friend does know what he is talking about. He is a level 1 or 2 instructor and has taken the exams to teach that curriculum successfully. The J stroke may be introduced at level 3 Freestyle ( which in itself has six levels! and requires 54 hours to complete). the more basic levels require 6-8 hours.
This in no way besmirches anyone. If you are going to instruct mostly short clinics or at kids camps, you have no need to spend an insane level of hours to become a Level 3 instructor.
The J stroke skill was just moved to another level, I surmised. I last was an ACA instructor in 2016 and will be joining some others next month at the Adirondack Canoe Symposium. The J stroke will be a good campfire topic.. as is the ACA also generally. Sometimes we wondered just what was that organization thinking?

I think that there are some knickers that can be unknotted.
 
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I asked why they teach it this way and the instructor said it is because it is easier to teach it as three separate steps and they want to de-couple the forward part of the stroke from the correction part.
Perhaps the idea is to help emphasize ending the forward stroke at the hip and avoiding the tendency to lift water that occurs when a power stroke is carried too far back. I was taught a thumb-down J at Girl Scout camp more than 50 years ago so that is the style I'm used to, but keeping the power phase short and in front wasn't something they focused on at Girl Scout camp so I started out carrying the power phase of a J stroke back farther. It has been confusing to me when instructors say the forward stroke should end at the hip and then say that correction should be done reaching far back without really explaining how the paddle is supposed to get from one's hip to a far back position when doing a J stroke.
 
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Former ACA L4 instructor here Th e ACA is garbage. I had a low original membership #. Garbage the whole time.
 
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