How to Paddle a Canoe

You wish to go on a canoe with your friends or loved ones and navigate the river, but you do not know how to paddle a canoe, then you can follow the tips given in this article to paddle your canoe. Every time when you try to paddle your canoe or kayak do you tend to hit someone else’s canoe or kayak? Then, following the tips given below you can paddle your canoe without any professional’s help.

How to paddle a canoe?

Physical Fitness:

  • Canoe paddling is not a difficult task but you need to be physically prepared to paddle a canoe.
  • Paddling a canoe needs a lot of effort from your upper body. Your arms need to be in continuous motion to paddle a canoe.
  • You need to get prepared for this by indulging into similar exercises that involve rigorous movement of your arms.
  • Besides exercise, you can practice paddling in a nearby lake or pond. This will not only help you to get physically ready for the actual paddling of the canoe, but also help you get a control on the steering of canoe.
  • While practicing, start paddling in the upstream direction first. Once you are tired, paddle in the downstream, so that your canoe moves easily with the water current and you can relax for a while.
  • Practice in slow moving water. Do not step into fast water currents while you are learning to paddle your canoe.

Choosing a Paddle:

  • Paddles used to paddle a canoe are different from those used to paddle a kayak. Canoe paddles only have one end that immerses in water.
  • Choose a right paddle and check the grip of the paddle.
  • Choose a paddle according to the size of the canoe and your ability to hold the paddle. Do not opt for very heavy, long paddles that you may not be able to hold.


  • While your canoe is near the bank, get into it. Do not let the canoe move. You can ask someone to hold the canoe for you while you get into it.
  • Put on your life jacket without fail. If you are paddling a canoe for the first time, it is advisable to take someone experienced person along with you.
  • Step into the center of the canoe, so that your canoe does not bend on one side and the balance is maintained.


  • Hold the paddle perpendicular to your body.
  • Then immerse the other end of the paddle into the water. Almost ¾ of the paddle should be submerged in water.
  • Now lift it again and place it back again in water. Repeat this till your canoe starts moving.
  • If you are alone in the canoe, you will have to paddle it on alternate sides, that is once on left side, and once on right side.
  • If you have someone along with you on the boat, one of you can paddle on the right side while the other can paddle on the left side.


  • Once you have started paddling the canoe, you need to give a direction to the canoe.
  • The boat moves in the opposite direction of paddling. This means that if you paddle in the right direction your canoe will move to the left and vice versa.
  • The person sitting toward the backside of the canoe will actually be able to control the direction. He/she can direct the canoe while the other can continue paddling, so that the canoe moves in the desired direction

Besides this, you also need to know about forward paddling and backward paddling.

For forward or backward paddling, the basic tips or instructions of paddling remain the same. However, it is just the steering you should master on. Steering is not only in terms of direction, but also in moving forward or backward.

Forward paddle:

  • Sit in the canoe and balance your body. Once you have balanced yourself pick up the canoe.
  • You need to move the canoe in the forward direction, for this, hold the canoe paddle firmly with both hands.
  • Both your hands on the paddle will move in the backward direction. This will move the water behind, and the canoe forward.

Backward paddle:

  • Kneel down in your canoe and turn 90 degrees to the side you are paddling.
  • Facing to the back of the canoe, you need to move the water in opposite direction. This means, if you wish to move the canoe in backward direction, move the water in front direction.
  • Submerge the canoe paddle in water. Now both the hands will move in forward direction. This will move the water ahead and the canoe backward.

It is very simple, isn’t it? While steering always remember that the water should in the opposite direction in which you need to take your canoe. Follow the instructions and learn to paddle your canoe.

Related Content:

  1. How to Make a Canoe Paddle
  2. How to Choose a Kayak Paddle
  3. How to Paddle Surf
  4. How to Stand up Paddle
  5. How to Build a Canoe

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