Canoe Forward Stroke
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Detailed Description
The forward stroke is the fundamental stroke of canoing on which everything else is based.  It is important to be efficient with your forward stroke.

To start the blade enters the water vertical in almost a downward jab.  This is also known as the plant.  If you have the blade to forward or back a lot of the force of the stroke will go into rocking the boat rather than driving you forward. Right before planting your top hand should be about the height of the bridge of your nose on top of the paddle and your bottom hand should be about the height of your ribcage.

During the pull the blade of your paddle should stay vertical so the stroke propels you forward and doesn't leak energy.  It is best to not think of it as pulling you paddle through the water, but rather to think of it as pulling yourself and your canoe forward to the point you planted your paddle.  Most people make this stroke too long and their paddle blade exits too far behind them, not vertical.  This wastes energy and makes the canoe wobble. You want your pull to be fast, not hard.  You go faster by having a faster pull, not by pulling harder.

At the end of your stroke you pull your paddle out vertically in the exit.  However, unlike the plant at this exit is fine to come out to the side.  Just don't let the paddle blade keep going backward as you exit the blade from the water.

The return is bringing your paddle back to be ready to plant again.  If there is wind it if often a good idea to twist your top wrist so your blade is parallel to the water so you aren't punching forward against the wind.  The main thing here is to have a fast return.  It is almost always more efficient to have a faster shorter stroke rate with less power per stroke, and the main way to make our stroke rate faster is to have a faster return.

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Canoe Forward Stroke Progressions