Paddle with gusto when canoeing, it’s an active sport

Canoeing isn't about just pointing the canoe downstream and then letting the current take you. It's an active sport where you can go from eddy to eddy in twirling ballet moves.
Carolyn Cole | MCT
Canoeing isn't about just pointing the canoe downstream and then letting the current take you. It's an active sport where you can go from eddy to eddy in twirling ballet moves.
Posted Oct. 21, 2011, at 4:38 p.m.
Scout a river to find a friendly place to practice getting in and out of eddies, and don't worry about portaging anything you aren't comfortable floating through. U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Nancy Brown paddles her canoe on the Rio Grande at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, Texas.
Tom Pennington | MCT
Scout a river to find a friendly place to practice getting in and out of eddies, and don't worry about portaging anything you aren't comfortable floating through. U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Nancy Brown paddles her canoe on the Rio Grande at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, Texas.

There’s something sweet about an eddy turn. I’m not talking about some dance move. Well, then again, maybe I am.

Canoeing is like a dance on water, and when you make the right moves, it’s like a waltz to the sound of water.

Canoeing isn’t about just pointing the canoe downstream and then letting the current take you.

It’s an active sport where you can go from eddy to eddy in twirling ballet moves. You can do draw strokes to magically move the canoe sideways to avoid obstacles.

A good workout

This past weekend, my wife and I and the two retrievers jumped in our tandem canoe and launched into the Boise River.

We were looking for a workout and some good canoeing practice. It is the best fitness center you can find.

Scout the river first if you have never run it. And there’s no shame in portaging anything you don’t like.

The river also has a lot of eddies and riffles where you can practice all sorts of moves. Making the moves is what it’s all about.

So what’s an eddy? It’s a spot in the river, often up against the bank, where the water is flowing upstream because of the configuration of the shoreline and the river.

Eddies are your friends. They are quiet spots where you can catch your breath and assess what’s downstream, or just enjoy the scenery.

Catching an eddy is not always easy. When the bow of your canoe leaves the downstream current and hits the upstream current of the eddy, something’s got to happen.

For us, it was a beautiful sweeping movement of the canoe smoothly whipping around in the eddy so that we were facing upstream. Perfect, even though the dogs didn’t lean the right way and there was a little rocking.

We crossed the eddy line, where the two currents were going in opposite directions, and remained upright.

That’s good in a canoe. Catching the edge of your canoe or kayak in an eddy line can flip you over if you aren’t ready or don’t have a good brace with your paddle.

That’s why practice makes you a better paddler. Practice in a friendly place like the Boise River so if you end up upside down, you can recover and swim your canoe to shore before going into some brush or over a rocky diversion.

Go where you aim

Ferrying in the river is another paddling technique that will help you get to where you want to go, or to avoid trouble.

Ferrying is when you point the canoe upstream and put the bow very slightly in the direction you want to go across the river.

By continuing to paddle, and leaning in that direction slightly, the canoe cuts across the river without losing ground downstream. What a smooth dance move.

It’s really a cool feeling to accomplish pulling into an eddy, peeling out of an eddy and doing some ferry moves.

Don’t forget to scout. Make sure your life jacket is the right fit. And have fun.

Here’s a website that gives some good info on paddling: www.redtailpaddle.com/paddling_tips.htm.

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