Current Ideas: Hold on! For Boat Control



For Boat Control

To control your canoe, I mean to really control it, you need to hold on to it!

When I watch some canoeists in whitewater, I often wonder how hard they’re trying to hold on to their canoe. I see canoes that wobble side to side, bounce and heal over when striking waves and tilt during forward strokes.

These canoes are “loose”. The boat is not being held by the paddler. In fact the paddler looks and behaves like they’re cargo!

If you were to ask anyone how hard they’re holding on to, say, their paddle – they’d say “damn HARD”.

Ask them how hard they are holding their canoe and you may get a puzzled look.

But, rephrase this to “which piece of gear is most vital to getting you down the river?” and canoe and paddle will likely duke it out for top honors.

So, what’s the point?

Holding on to your canoe is just as important as holding on to your paddle.

Are You A Passenger?

Obviously canoes have a spot for you to sit. So, place your derrière in your boat and that’s the end of it right?

Not so fast, a whitewater canoe comes outfitted with a seat or saddle complete with thigh straps, perhaps knee straps, knee pads, and may even have toe pegs and hip blocks.

But, is strapping yourself in all that it takes to get your craft under control?

Loose Hips – Not if You Want Control

You may have heard the phrase for running rapids, “keep your hips loose”. I always thought this allowed the canoe ride up and over waves.

I was incorrect.

Loose actually works against the job at hand. Better to think “loose hips sink ships” as side to side healing doesn’t use the hull to your advantage. You’ll lose all the design features of a hull if you allow it to rock side to side.

Hold Your Canoe Is to Control your Canoe

Sit down, strap yourself in, lock legs. Hold your canoe with the same intensity as you grip your paddle.

Hold your canoe to steady it during forward strokes – it will be more efficient.

Hold your boat to carve – it will track without skidding.

Grip your canoe going through waves – it will be stable.

Hang on to your canoe while surfing – feel the edge cut across a wave face.

Strategize throughout every maneuver. For example, calculate the ideal tilt during a carve so the edge digs into the water to maintain a perfect arc. Create the tilt with your legs and lock them for the duration of the move.

For every move, think how holding you canoe will improve its performance – AND YOURS!

Push Out, Make a Platform

Picture your points of contact; your butt, knees and feet. And, imagine the canoe as capable of rolling side to side and it’s you who controls it.

Begin by pushing out against the hull using the knee pads (hopefully shaped like cups). This creates a wide, stable, and braced posture. Then, tense your calves and quads to lock your legs, and put pressure on your feet. Now you have a wide platform to connect you to the canoe.

Equally tension the legs to hold the canoe flat. Great for straight ahead efficiency and surfing across waves.

For carves or wave blocks, tilt the canoe by coordinating both legs. Lifting one leg against the straps while pushing the other down, tilts the canoe. Lock your legs to freeze this positon and hold it for as long as necessary to complete a maneuver.  

Get a Grip – On Your Canoe

Paddling well, really well, requires that you paddle in control.

Choose a route, plan the moves to get through water features, then hang on, literally, and do it.

Tighten the muscles in your legs against the outfitting and hold the canoe strategically every step of the way. Tilt it on a carve, hold it flat on a straightaway, edge across a wave, wave block a haystack.

Boat control will give you a performance boost so… Hold On!