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

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Most paddlers I know would be better off using the goon stroke instead of messing with a poorly done J IF they could only learn how to keep their paddle at a 90 degree angle instead of doing what is essentially a sweep stroke all the time.

When I bought my first carbon paddle in 2014 I used it for a 750km trip, by the end of the trip there was a distinct groove in the shaft from all the prying off the vinyl gunnels. I added whipping using 2mm nylon cord which eliminated the issue and it is still as tightly wound today as it was when first added with no further deterioration of the shaft.


The pics at that link show a very long section of whipping, on my paddle it's just long enough for my grip plus a little more to ensure it's the only part of the paddle shaft that ever contacts the gunnel.

bandit_paddle_shaft.jpg
 

Glenn MacGrady

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In my view arguing which is better makes no more sense than arguing whether a hammer is better than a screwdriver. You use the stroke that works best for what you need to do at the moment,

Sure, but what are most canoeists doing in the vast majority of moments when they are cruising on a flat water day or overnight trip? They are forward stroking straight ahead, mile after mile, on reasonably calm water. So, the question or argument is what is the most efficient, flexible and least tiring stroke to do that.

You have argued above, Pete, that Minnesota switch paddling is the most efficient and fastest for that kind of paddling. I agree, but don't switch paddle as my primary traveling stroke because I find it too repetitive and BORING.

So, the question to me is which single-sided correction stroke, the J or goon, is more efficient, flexible and interesting as the primary traveling stroke on reasonably calm waters. I have no problem arguing for the J.

First, a C stroke draw at the beginning at the stroke plant can be more smoothly integrated in a J completion than a goon completion. Second, a pitch stroke during the power pull can be more easily transitioned into a J than a goon completion. Third, a Canadian in-water return correction can be more easily transitioned from a J than a goon. Fourth, all palm rolled maneuvers, such as the Indian stroke and christie turn, are more easily transitioned from a J than a goon. The plant draw, pitched pull, Canadian return, and palm rolled maneuvers are all fundamental components of my regular forward travel stroke repertoire, and I would guess they are, more or less, for most experienced single-sided paddlers.

As Ray Goodwin argues, the primary moments when the goon is more useful than the J are: (1) accelerating with power from a dead stop, (2) big on-side turning control in a rapid, and (3) big on-side turning control in winds. I agree,* but situations (1) and (2) don't consume many moments on most paddlers' flat water canoe trips. When strong winds and wind waves are trying to push a canoe off-side—the most common situation (3) moments for flat water cruisers—quick stern pry goon strokes are then indeed the best tool (unless the paddler has the ambidextrous competence simply to switch paddling sides).

Thus, averaging over all moments on my typical day or overnight canoe trips, I find the arguments for the thumb-down paddle position (J) vs. the thumb-up paddle position (goon) to be overwhelming in favor of the thumb-down J and its more efficiently transitional variants, which are all fundamentally important to me.
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* For power acceleration from a dead stop in flat or whitewater, I personally would probably use alternating (uncorrected) forward strokes and cross-forward strokes more often than goon strokes, because the lateral vector pry element of the goon stroke will usually kill my forward vector momentum more than alternating forward and cross-forward strokes will. An exception would be when powering out of an eddy into an upstream ferry across a strong current when my paddle is on the upstream side—I would then definitely use stern pried goon strokes (if I was not comfortable just switching paddle sides).
 
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Most times when solo or stern, I am doing either the pitch stroke, as described above, or especially when I am using my wood ottertail, I do a version of the pitch and Canadian return, as described above. The pitch is essentialy an early J, while the Canadian is an elongated post-J. Both strokes are done smoothly, neither stroke includes any hesitation at any point whatsoever.

Since I am a flat water racer, known most often (90%) to paddle in the bow during training and races, I don't get to see much of what my stern paddler is doing. I just power along, occasionally doing brief bow rudders or draws to make small fine tuned (sometimes major) corrections), watching for obstacles, and listening for the "hut" from the stern in sit and switch mode. I power draw and post radical (buoy) turns and initialize our entry angle into moderate turns. I believe the stern does a combination of straight power and draws, never a strict J during racing or training, sometimes even a pry rudder. Especially when paddling a multi-seat voyageur canoe, the stern paddler may independently choose which side they need to be on for effect. The stern paddler calls hut for three reasons...for yaw correction if we are angle drifting to one side too far, or when strong side angle power is needed. Another hut reason is during long straight stretches for muscle relief and refreshed power application.

With a good experienced crew and well balanced load, very frequent switching should not be necessary. I dislike times when I am in C2 and my stern paddler calls huts every 6-8 strokes. Wasted energy. Sometimes it is necessary, but not continuously. When I paddled the Yukon 1000 mile (twice) in voyageur canoes, my team was strong and well trained. Unless correction for the normally squirlly current was necessary, we would stay on one side for an average of two minutes or so (that is well over 100 strokes at my stroke rate) before the call to "hut" to rest our muscles on that side. Sometimes it would go even longer in a boring stretch and the paddler in seat #2 behind me would beging with a song "and now it's time...."
 
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In wind with a misbehaving stern of the canoe wanting to broach just the stern pry is useful though I prefer a stern draw with a lot of torso rotation.. No forward momentum
 
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And just like that, this video comes out from Paddling Magazine.

Thanks for the video. I was taught the j-stroke as a kid in the BSA and I've always wondered what you guys meant by "goon" stroke (actually kind of assumed that I was doing one but, as I'm neither a purist nor worried about style points, I wasn't too worried about it)

Turning the palm so that the thumb is up looks uncomfortable... I'll have to try it the next time I go paddling. (I've already pried off every corner of a canoe but not routinely... Just whatever it takes to put the canoe where it belongs)
 
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Thanks for the video. I was taught the j-stroke as a kid in the BSA and I've always wondered what you guys meant by "goon" stroke (actually kind of assumed that I was doing one but, as I'm neither a purist nor worried about style points, I wasn't too worried about it)

Turning the palm so that the thumb is up looks uncomfortable... I'll have to try it the next time I go paddling. (I've already pried off every corner of a canoe but not routinely... Just whatever it takes to put the canoe where it belongs)
It is very comfortable and avoids the over cranking and stretching of the arm and wrist. Basically taking the top hand off when it gets to thumb downish and putting it back on thumb uppish a microsecond later.

Watch this video from Rolf Kraiker

 
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As some of you may have deduced by the 2 canoe builds I have documented here, I am very much a "as long as it gets the job done" kind of guy. If I can make something functional look pretty, fine - but that's the order of the priorities.

Keeping on that theme, I use any and all manner of strokes to get the boat to go where I want. The J is a necessary tool in that quiver, but I'm not against a goon/pry if the wind/current is making things particularly difficult. My wife and bow paddler, bless her, has the timing of a hit-and-miss engine. Sometimes she'll be midway through her second stroke before I've finished my one correction stroke. We get the job done, though - with no regard to who might be watching.
 
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I can't remember the last time I used a full J and doubt I've ever done the goon. A pry is helpful in the mixed bag of strokes for tightish situations.
Recently I found myself trying to maneuver close to a small cascade spilling into a shallow bay and received no intuitive help from my bowsman. The whole bag of strokes including quiet underwater recovery strokes were needed to avoid rocks, logs, and the other drifting canoe.
waterfall.jpg
It's always good to know and practice whatever skills you have, whether they're rusty or polished. The next day I struggled with a different stronger bow paddler crossing a lake in a stiff wind. All went well as we headed towards a quieter bay quartering into the wind, until he really dug in and strove for more power. Power I could not match. I'm afraid there was a little zig zagging done across that stretch of water but we made it still in good humour.
 
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So the J is not dead. It is just in a new condo. American Heart Association does this often too with rescue breathing. It used to be taught to everyone and now is an optional skill in laymans CPR.. They now have kiosks where you can learn hands only CPR in 30 seconds. As a former CPR instructor I saw many laypeople really flustered with the initial more rigorous courses back in the 90's.
 
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So the J is not dead. It is just in a new condo. American Heart Association does this often too with rescue breathing. It used to be taught to everyone and now is an optional skill in laymans CPR.. They now have kiosks where you can learn hands only CPR in 30 seconds. As a former CPR instructor I saw many laypeople really flustered with the initial more rigorous courses back in the 90's.
Yes, I have been bemused by the AHA course reversals regarding CPR recommendations. The thing that has struck me is that the instructors were all absolutely certain that their way was the only "right" way to do CPR back then, and are still certain of that today. I guess that is what they have to do dealing with the lay public.

But since this is a canoeing forum I feel compelled to point out to the general audience that no rescue breathing CPR is not appropriate for drowning victims. No rescue breathing CPR is geared toward treating witnessed cardiopulmonary arrests among the general public. In these scenarios the cause of cardiopulmonary arrest is nearly always cardiac and the victim's blood remains adequately oxygenated for at least a little while after they lose consciousness. Also, someone who is witnessed to suddenly keel over and become breathless and pulseless is very unlikely to have an airway obstruction.

If someone suffers cardiopulmonary arrest due to drowning the cause is respiratory, not cardiac, and by the time they are pulseless their blood is very deoxygenated. In this setting, at least a few initial rescue breaths are essential. And if a person if found to be in cardiopulmonary arrest following severe trauma, a clear and patent airway should always be confirmed, maintaining the neck in a neutral position, just before or while commencing chest compressions. The best way to do this is by visually assessing the airway and successfully delivering one rescue breath.

 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Regarding this CPR tangent, I would point out for members who do not know, yellowcanoe is a retired EMT and pblanc is a retired M.D. (surgeon, I believe).
 
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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.
I grew up paddling in the Temagami region in the early 1970s. ALL of the local first nations folks used the "goose stroke" (pry) but kept thier hand between the paddle and the gunwal to avoid rubbing. They all never lifted the paddle out of the water either. Stroke, 90degree clockwise rotate to pry *if necessary*, slide the paddle in the watter forward after the pry, rotate paddle 90degrees counter-clockwise and stroke again. I find it MUCH more efficient in all water.

If your paddling on the right hand(starboard) side of the canoe, and the wind is from your left(poft); you dont have to pry....or J... IMO J is a waste of time, and effort. I get a lot more power that wasting time & effort on J.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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They all never lifted the paddle out of the water either. Stroke, 90degree clockwise rotate to pry *if necessary*, slide the paddle in the watter forward after the pry, rotate paddle 90degrees counter-clockwise and stroke again.
That's very interesting, Manitou, and it's certainly a legitimate and perhaps comfortable way to paddle.

However, simple physics disallows it to be the most "efficient" way to forward stroke. All corrections, especially lateral vector pries, stall momentum and all in-water returns create water friction drag on the paddle. That may not be important to any given paddler, such as me who likes partial in-water Canadian returns, because all-day paddling comfort often trumps maximal efficiency and speed.

Those Indians were probably not using bent shaft paddles either, which have been proven to be more efficient than straight paddles in hydrodynamic tests, and would be klutzy to stroke in the manner described.

Holy smokes and no jokes, there certainly are different strokes for different blokes.
 
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Wow, hot topic!

When I started out I thought I *was* doing the J-stroke, but it was thumbs-up goon / rudder. This worked fine on all the flat rivers in the Tampa Bay Area. It wasn’t until a couple years ago I learned the difference and also started trying to learn other strokes. I love the quiet efficiency of the underwater return and palm roll strokes. I’m not really good at them yet, especially on my left side. But I’m enjoying the journey.

One of the biggest hurdles to learning is the fear of bashing into another paddler.

We never had this fear as kids, it was the goal! Thank goodness we didn’t have expensive composite canoes at the time. The Grummans could take it.
 
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As a former CPR instructor I saw many laypeople really flustered with the initial more rigorous courses back in the 90's.
I just recently recertified WFA and CPR. That question came up in the class. The instructor said that the layman doing compressions only thought is because too many people are rightfully hesitant to include rescue breaths (especially if they do not have a proper shield, as is the usual case). The oxygen already contained in the victim's blood may be enough to sustain life until an EMT arrives, you just have to get it moving with compressions only at least. Something is better than doing nothing while awaiting advanced EMS.
 
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Exactly.. And I was not exactly an EMT. 20 years as a paramedic , So I wielded a heavy defribillator and a lot of cardiac drugs. To teach the same CPR to those who were waiting for me as those on my team was ludicrous.. Families sometimes actually froze.. Things have come a long way including lay CPR instructions given by dispatchers on the phone. ( My two daughters fell into the EMS pit too from the dispatch end.)
 

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I'd like to cease this CPR tangent in this thread, because it's an important subject and I'm going to start a separate thread on it in the Safety and Medical forum, asking the participants to repeat what they've said. Thank you.
 
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