How Canoeing Works

Canoeing Gear and Accessories

One of the most important things you'll need to canoe is a life preserver. You should always wear it while you're canoeing. It's not a substitute for strong swimming skills, which we'll talk about later, but it's definitely necessary just in case you capsize. But, that won't happen, right?

Next, you'll need paddles. The average canoeist paddles 25 strokes per minute. That adds up to 1,500 strokes per hour [source: Malo]. So, make sure you select a paddle that's the appropriate weight for your skill level. You have hundreds of combinations of paddles to choose from, since they have different blades, grip shapes and lengths. Also, they can be made of spruce, fir, cedar, basswood, ash, cherry or maple. Spruce paddles are popular because they're light and easy to handle. Generally, for a beginner paddler, a light paddle works best.

A good way to choose the right size paddle is to stand it vertically in front of you. The one that meets your eye level is your size. If paddling in tandem (two people), the bowman's paddle should reach from the toes to the chin, while sternman's paddle should reach from the toes to the forehead. We'll talk more about bowmen and sternmen later. A longer paddle gives you more leverage which makes it easier to handle. Solo paddlers, in particular, find longer paddles really helpful.

Here are some helpful terms to know when selecting a paddle:

  • Blade: large flat portion of paddle
  • Grip: handle of paddle
  • Grip hand: upper hand located on grip of paddle
  • Feather: flat position of blade in recovery to cut down on wind and water resistance
  • Flare: area of increasing width of paddle where shaft joins blade
  • Shaft hand: lower hand located on the shaft of the paddle
  • Throat: junction of shaft with blade above the flare
  • Tip: end of the blade

You may also want to pick up a few more canoe accessories like poles to navigate shallow streams, canoe seats and rubber mats.

Get ready for some action because next we'll learn how to carry, launch and navigate a canoe.