The Kesagami River Solo Episode 3 Correction Strokes

The Kesagami River Solo Episode 3 Correction Strokes

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It was morning on Day 3 when I used an ancient First Nations hunting stroke to creep up on a bald eagle. I’d just left a lake-like section of the Kesagami and a slow current pulled me through beautiful Black Spruce forests that seemed to go on forever. A Red Squirrel sounded its alarm which I attributed it to the eagles presence. Ironically, it’s the Red Squirrels that created the perch the eagle was hunting them from. Red Squirrels remove the cones near the top of Black Spruce trees, giving the trees the dense clump of branches that ofter occur at their tops. After the eagle took flight, I got the idea to shoot this video.
A Bald Eagle takes flight from atop a Black Spruce Tree. Photo Jim Baird
A Bald Eagle takes flight from atop a Black Spruce Tree along the Kesagami River. Photo Jim Baird
It wasn’t long before the current picked up in speed and I ran a long, bounder strewn rapid, my first whitewater challenge of the Kesagami. The run didn’t pose any real danger but it got me worried. My canoe was loaded with almost three weeks of gear and supplies, making maneuvering around the rocks more difficult than anticipated. If I was finding it hard to steer the canoe in these modest rapids, I worried I’d find myself in trouble on the countless raging rapids that awaited down river.
Without the use of a correction stroke, your canoe will travel in circles or you’ll have to constantly change paddling sides to keep it pointed straight. This is because after every forward stroke, the canoe steers away from the side you’re paddling on. Correction strokes are used to subtly steer the canoe back to center to keep it going straight. Master your correction strokes by practicing these following steps.
 
J Stroke
If you do it right, your paddle makes a “J” in the water. This fluid stroke is best used outside of whitewater on calmer stretches of river and on long stretches of flat water. The motion of the J minimizes drag as you make the correction, meaning you’ll expend less energy using this stroke after a long day of paddling.
1) Start with a normal forward stroke, but at the end of the stroke twist your top wrist (top hand) so your thumb points toward the bow.
2) At the end of the forward stroke, your top wrist should be bent forward and the paddle blade should be sideways in the water with the back of the paddle blade pointing away from the canoe. In effect, the paddle is turned 90-degrees.
3) With thumb still pointing to the bow and paddle still at 90-degrees, push away from the canoe to make the correction and repeat steps 1 and 2. You may want to pry off the gunwale for more power.
Its name is passé but the stroke is still as good as ever.  It has the advantage of a silent approach because the blade never leaves the water and requires minimal motion. The technique has long been used by Canada’s First Nations paddlers, including the Cree who’s canoes have plied the waters of the Kesagami for millennia. It also works well in wind as steering can be done throughout almost the entire stroke.

1) Start with a normal forward stroke, but a quarter of the way through twist your top wrist (top hand) so your thumb points toward the bow. At the same time, bend in your bottom wrist (shaft hand) to gradually increase the pitch of your paddle blade for the last quarter of the forward motion.

2) At the end of the forward stroke, your top wrist should be bent forward and the paddle blade should be sideways in the water with the back of the blade pointing away from the canoe. In effect, the paddle is turned 90 degrees like in the J Stroke.

3) Without stopping the motion, slice your paddle sideways under the water toward the bow while keeping pressure on the outside of your paddle blade. This is where the correction is made.

4) In the last quarter of the back stroke, spin the paddle another 90 degrees counter-clockwise if paddling right (clockwise if paddling left). You should be back at the beginning of the first step when finished the paddle rotation.

Canadian Stroke

This smooth stroke has the basic mechanics of the J but can propel you more quickly as the correction is made while reaching forward to begin another stroke. For this reason, it’s also an effective stroke for the stern paddler to use when paddling tandem. This is because it prevents the stern paddler from having to pause when making the correction at the end of each stroke, enabling  them to keep up with a fast pace initiated by the bow paddler.

1) Start with a J-stroke

2) Once your thumb is pointing to the bow and the paddle is at 90-degrease, slice the paddle blade sideways through the water until about half way through the stroke.

3) Pull the paddle out of the water and begin the next forward stroke. The correction is done by pushing out on the paddle as it’s sliced back towards the beginning of the stroke.

Stern Pry 

Likely the easiest correction stroke to learn, but not a good one to use on flat water as it creates more drag and slows progress over the long haul. This strong stroke is best used in rapids.

1) At the end of your forward stroke, point the thumb of your top hand towards the stern, effectively pointing the front of your paddle blade directly away from the canoe.

2) Push away from the canoe to make the correction and repeat step 1. More power can be given to the correction by prying off the gunwale.

D Stroke  

A combination between the Stern Pry and the Indian Stroke. The D stroke, which I incorrectly refer to as the C Stroke in this video, is an excellent stroke to use in whitewater and  windy conditions. This is because the paddle blade never leaves the water, enabling the paddler to brace faster while retaining more over all control.

1) Like the Stern Pry, at the end of your forward stroke, point the thumb of your top hand towards the stern.

2) With the front of the paddle facing outwards, slice the blade sideways through the water to the beginning of the stroke and repeat.

Note: Make the correction during your back stroke as you slice the blade through the water. The blade stays submerged throughout the stroke.

 

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