Wenonah and paddling technique

Glenn MacGrady

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Here is a direct link to the particular article I believe Mason is recommending:


I'll just add that, even if you are not a racer as I am not, you can still prefer a bent shaft for straight-ahead correction stroke paddling; that you can use sit & switch technique from a bench seat canoe; and that you can kneel and do correction stroke technique off of some bucket seats, such as the Harold Deal bucket seat on the Hemlock SRT -- all of which I do regularly.
 
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Here's an excellent piece on why Wenonah canoes are the way they are, and provides a good discussion of sit-and-switch paddling.

https://kitchi-gami.com/
I've had two Wenonah solos and always used the sit and switch. with them I just couldn't get a solo to go straight with a J or C stroke.
But it's kind of annoying having to switch sides so often. I have a new solo and next summer I really want to learn how to keep it going straight without switching sides. Speed isn't everything. I had sliding bucket seats on both Wenonah's and it really spoiled me. Being able to change trim on the fly is really handy.
 
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I think the Wenona bucket seats are comfortable, they hold me in place and I can get a pretty powerful stroke even w/o the foot brace. I only have straight paddles and never tried a bent so can't comment on them being better. If I paddled that boat more I might go to a shorter paddle. The one thing I liked about the bucket seats for tandem was that it kept my wife in the center and I wasn't always counterbalancing the boat. She was also less fidgety.

Like Mason said, switching sides becomes mindless after you've done it enough. But interesting to me is that I find it takes way more thought and concentration and is less repetitive and monotonous than using correction strokes. I do both and enjoy both depending on conditions ,goals or mood.
 
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I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to find the bucket seats comfortable.
Like others have said I do both but generally prefer sit and switch, however I seem to be the opposite of lowangle al in that I find sit and switch to be more mindless than correction strokes, at least if I want to move relatively fast.
If I'm paddling all day there will be extended periods where I'll move to the Canadian stroke and single side it while I cruise along and admire the scenery and daydream.
Eventually I'll want to move a little faster and then the Canadian stroke takes more of my concentration and feels less efficient (technique breaking down I'm sure) but I can move to sit and switch which propels me faster and keeps my mind thinking about other things.
If I want to go faster yet then I need to allocate more brain power my stroke and daydreaming takes a back seat.
It's nice to be able to change gears throughout the day, both mentally and physically.

Alan
 
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Now I took the time to actually read the article. I thought it was very good and mirrors my thoughts on paddling very closely.
Thanks for sharing!

Alan
 
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Like others have said I do both but generally prefer sit and switch, however I seem to be the opposite of lowangle al in that I find sit and switch to be more mindless than correction strokes, at least if I want to move relatively fast.
If I'm paddling all day there will be extended periods where I'll move to the Canadian stroke and single side it while I cruise along and admire the scenery and daydream.
I probably think more when switching sides because I'm typically in a big empty boat and do it when it's windy especially.

Like you I'll change between the two, going to correction strokes for a "break" and to enjoy the scenery and daydream. Both styles can take a lot of focus in tough conditions or they can be the thing for blissful daydreaming when the going is easy.
 
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With an 11 oz paddle (heavy by Zaveral standards), it's a toss up whether even one J stroke is worth it. A flick of the wrist and you're paddling on the other side with no loss of momentum. And I can go as slow as I want.
This summer on the Noatak I purposefully spent a lot of time straight-shafting--probably at least 300 of the 400 miles. I was trying to emulate the stern man in the other boat, who is an exclusive straight shafter. While comfortable with a straight shaft, I have a long ways to go to match his efficiency. Except when needed, I'm a die hard bent shafter from a short racing heritage, including gunkholing.
 
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I've been a racer for 25 years and of course my team and of course always use the "hit and switch" paddling technique using carbon bent shaft paddles. I have two Wenonah canoes, a Minnesota II and a Monarch, both are of similar design and similar performance with sliding (fore and aft) adjustable seats. There is another kind of sliding seat that I have used in canoes with more than two seats (C4 and voyageur) that you will see used in racer's canoes. For all except the bow and stern paddler, the mid section paddlers in stock fixed centerline mounted bucket seats are at a great disadvantage. They have to reach out with relatively long shaft paddles to reach the water. Not very ergonomic. As a result, their stroke has an inefficient sweep stroke component that is very wasteful of energy both to them and to the boat's forward motion. Best and fastest performance is obtained with the paddle shaft vertical in the water close to the gunwale, and power delivered parallel to the boat central axis and desired direction of motion. That is much easier on paddlers muscles also, particularly during a hundred-mile day.

So C4 and voyageur canoe racers have developed ways of mounting seats that will easily slide sideways with the paddlers hip moving gunwale to gunwale with very little effort on each hut. Early designs mounted bucket seats on wheels rolling side to side on channels in a flat bench. Later designs now use polished sleeves sliding on strong teflon coated tubes. (One of my early voyageur canoes had flat teflon sheet fixed to the seats. Paddlers wore nylon shorts that slide very easily on teflon.) When a "hut" is called, those mid boat paddlers must move in synchronous coordinated fashion to the opposite sides of the canoe. It has worked very well but the technique means that everyone has to pay close attention to avoid a missed hut call resulting in a potential imbalance disaster (we call it a "bobble"). Sometimes when the wind is blowing hard and waves are breaking, it is hard in seat #2 to hear the stern call the hut. It is calculated that during our Yukon 1000 mile canoe race, each paddler took nearly a third of a million paddle strokes, with approximately 20,000 huts.

one unmentioned disadvantage to the hit and switch technique is the paddle drip on every hut. I'm normally a bow paddler, so my drips go forward, but all paddlers behind me drip in the boat, or on the paddler in front of them when spacing is tight. Those drips add up in the boat hour after hour. Another disadvantage for racers is the first stroke after the hut is not always up to fully efficient power, plus as much as half a stroke time period can be lost during the transiition. Some stern paddlers like to call huts more often than necessary IMO. 8-12 in a C2 seems about right. 16-20 strokes to hut seems about rignt in a c4. In the voyageur we often would go a full 2 minutes, or up to a hundred stokes between huts. Some c2 stern paddlers call hut as often as every 6 strokes, which is far too often and unnecessary to maintain directional control. I feel much as 10% efficiency and power can be lost when calling hut too often. That makes a huge difference in a competitive race. There is nothing to say that every paddler has to hut if a good alert stern paddler alone can take a couple of correction stokes by him or her self on the other side as needed.

I am not normally a solo racer except very rarely. But when I train solo or when recreational paddling solo, I rarely focus on hit and switch, unless you count switching every 15-20 minutes or so that I do for variety or for evening out muscle tone. I get practice enough switching when training with my team or during races. My normal solo power stroke is the pitch, or a very fast J ( both done with a carbon bent) without any hesitation or paddle drag at the end of the stroke. When moving more leisurely, I might morph my J into the Canadian stroke with my spare ottertail paddle just for the enjoyment of that stroke. Or do something else as needed for fun and fine maneuevering control. As the article says, when paddling solo if I really need to move extra quickly for some reason, I might go to hit and switch for fastest sprint like movement, but I don't enjoy doing it.
 
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one unmentioned disadvantage to the hit and switch technique is the paddle drip on every hut. I'm normally a bow paddler, so my drips go forward, but all paddlers behind me drip in the boat, or on the paddler in front of them when spacing is tight. Those drips add up in the boat hour after hour. Another disadvantage for racers is the first stroke after the hut is not always up to fully efficient power, plus as much as half a stroke time period can be lost during the transiition.
Good points!

My normal solo power stroke is the pitch, or a very fast J
Ditto
 
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In regards to water dripping in the boat during switches: when I'm tripping or just paddling for fun my switches are slightly slower because instead of bringing the paddle straight up and over I swing the blade out front in an arc so it flings the water over the bow during the switch. This causes me to miss a stroke but keeps the water out. Doesn't work in a head wind though.

Alan
 
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I learned to keep my Wenonah Prism going straight from one side of the boat using a bent shaft. With a C I can turn the boat to my on-side. But if I want to get some speed and glide going, it’s hit and switch. I rather like the tractor seat, it’s the first boat I’ve ever had with one. I wish the hull had better secondary stability, when you bury the bulge you swim. Or at least I do. Gonna go read that article now…
 
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Forgive me if I'm wrong but I see many posts here about the inconvenience to switching sides while paddling. It takes me less than a second to switch over and yes I get a drop or 2 or water in the canoe. But that sure beats paddling on one side for an extended period of time and a switch happens faster than a corrective stroke while only paddling on one side.
Of course there's those that may have an injury where they prefer to paddle on one side, but I myself feel much more stress after a dozen strokes per side.
 
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I dunno, let the flaming begin, but in my opinion, you may as well just get the dirty double blade out if you are going to hit and switch for canoe tripping. If you are racing, you are going to do whatever makes you go faster, but if you are canoe tripping, why bother with all that flailing about? I have paddled for 12 hours at a time and never felt the need to switch sides. As for making a solo canoe go straight.....I have yet to meet one that did not respond to a correction stroke.

I have paddled a wenonah Spirit 2 for several hundred kilometers. Initially the only thing I liked about it was the 44 pounds for a 17 foot canoe. After putting it through a variety of situations, including pushy C2's, fully loaded, I grew to really like that hull. It was fast and sea worthy, and despite it's weird shape, it responded well to the usual whitewater strokes with a good bow paddler. It didn't hold much gear, compared to a similar sized traditional canoe, but it held enough for two people for a normal ten day trip.

I disliked the bucket seats. I especially disliked how low the stern seat was placed. If it had been my canoe, i would have reefed those bucket seats out and put regular seats in, a few inched higher too.

I will concede that I own a couple of bent shafts. However, if I could find a straight shaft carbon paddle, I would probably get rid of them too.

I just remembered......I got a work contract last week until the end of April...I was going to buy a new gun as a reward, but I think I'll spend today looking for that elusive straight shaft carbon paddle. Probably convince my wife of the necessity of that before another gun, lol.
 
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I've had two Wenonah solos and always used the sit and switch. with them I just couldn't get a solo to go straight with a J or C stroke.
But it's kind of annoying having to switch sides so often. I have a new solo and next summer I really want to learn how to keep it going straight without switching sides. Speed isn't everything. I had sliding bucket seats on both Wenonah's and it really spoiled me. Being able to change trim on the fly is really handy.
Planting far forward as possible and taking the paddle out of the water mid thigh helps. Called sometimes cab forward paddling and it minimizes switching.
 
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Forgive me if I'm wrong but I see many posts here about the inconvenience to switching sides while paddling. It takes me less than a second to switch over and yes I get a drop or 2 or water in the canoe. But that sure beats paddling on one side for an extended period of time and a switch happens faster than a corrective stroke while only paddling on one side.
Of course there's those that may have an injury where they prefer to paddle on one side, but I myself feel much more stress after a dozen strokes per side.
Hit and switch paddling, and doing it very quickly and efficiently is the mandatory style when racing. You can't compete without doing it well. Yes, of course it takes less than a second to switch. Often it takes another first full stroke to get up to fullly efficient power capacity. Especially true for C4 or voyageur middle seats paddlers, who must slide their butt or their rolling seat from one side to the other. And, myself as a bow padddler in C4 or voyageur, my back is continuously soaked from paddle drips of paddler in seat #2 switching.

But some of us, even racers, occasionally like to easily cruise along during recreational paddling. I feel that spending many minutes on one side does a couple of positive things for me. First, it develops lasting muscle tone, very handy for those times when racing in close quarters of boats or shore, or when fighting wind when a hit and switch is just not the right thing to do and you must stay on one side for an extended period of time. Secondly, it is just an enjoyable pleasurable thing to do, to stay on one side and work on your skill of keeping the boat going straight with effective combinations of power and control strokes.

During the Yukon River races, all 6 voyageur paddlers would stay on one side for a full two minutes at a time before a hut. With a good stern paddler doing effective control strokes and a good power and weight balance among paddlers there was no reason to hut sooner. That takes some one side endurance training.
 
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I'm one of those namby-pamby switchers. Sometimes I paddle single sided for fun or a change of pace but most of the day will be spent swinging the paddle left to right. Like anything else it becomes muscle memory and it just happens. It's not clunky and it's not something to think about/concentrate on. Just like single sided paddling to good paddlers. My brain is in neutral thinking about whatever else it wants to think about while I'm flailing away from side to side.

Sometimes I do get tired of switching back and forth. Days can be long. When that happens I quit switching. It's good to have options.

Alan
 
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but if you are canoe tripping, why bother with all that flailing about?

I will concede that I own a couple of bent shafts. However, if I could find a straight shaft carbon paddle, I would probably get rid of them too.

but I think I'll spend today looking for that elusive straight shaft carbon paddle.
If you're flailing, you're not doing it right (similar to "I can't make my canoe go straight"). Watch some marathon races on Youtube. Tripping, you just slow it down. There's no flailing in my boat.

I haven't found an aesthetically pleasing carbon straight shaft. Zaveral makes a carbon, and Wenonah has one on their site, but they don't hit it for me. A nice compromise might be Bending Branches' Sunburst ST, which has a carbon shaft and wood blade. A friend had one on a long Canada trip some years back, and it seemed pretty nice.
 
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