Life feels good when you’re drifting down the river in a canoe. Are you looking for a way to get out into nature and explore her grandeur? Canoeing offers you a way to enjoy the waterways around the United States. From the balmy Florida keys to the frozen waters of Alaska, there are so many ways to enjoy canoeing.
It’s a great family pastime and a way to connect with those people you love. It’s also a fantastic way to spend time with friends. Taking a three-day canoeing trip down a river is plenty of fun. Canoeing lets you get in touch with your wild side. Take in the glory of the wonderment around you and unplug from society for a few moments.
This guide unpacks everything you need to know to learn how to canoe.
- Booking a Canoeing Trip
- Essential Gear for Canoeing
- How to Dress for Canoeing
- Safety Gear
- Tips for Getting In and Out of the Canoe
- Paddling Techniques for Canoeing
- Learning to Ferry the Canoe
- What to Do If Your Canoe Capsizes
- Tips to Stay Safe While Canoeing
Booking a Canoeing Trip
Unless you want to drop thousands on gear and a boat., it’s probably a good idea to go on a canoeing trip instead. There are dozens of operators around the country offering three to seven-day canoeing trips.
You get everything included when you book your trip, from your safety equipment and boat to a guide to direct you along your journey. A canoeing trip is loads of fun, and the more people that come along, the more fun you have, and the lower the costs.
Find an operator online and check through their package offering to see what is included in the trip. The tour will consist of meals and accommodation along the route in most cases.
Essential Gear for Canoeing
Before you start your canoeing journey, you’ll need to do a bit of work to prepare for the trip. You’ll need to bring along a hat and sunscreen for sun protection and a long-sleeved rash guard or t-shirt to keep the sun off your arms (light colors are preferable, don’t go with a black t-shirt).
- 【INFLATABLE BOAT】The symmetrical design of this 4-person canoe boat reduces water resistance to a minimum and gives it an above-average directional stability.Stable, universal and family-friendly.The 9FT Inflatable Kayak is the ideal multi-capacity product for lakes, rivers, outdoor pools and beyond. This 4 person raft is best suited for families of two adults and two children.
- 【COMFORTABLE FOR ANYONE】This portable 4 person boat offers both beginners and experts everything one expects from an inflatable canoe.It runs smoothly, is extremely resistant to capsizing and forms an ideal canoe for your camping holiday. Everybody will find a place on slow-paced tours along lakes and rivers. Unrivalled for joint experiences!
- 【FEATURES】This 107IN x 60IN kayak canoe is perfect for a fun summer day of enjoying watersports with friends and family. One built-in rod holders and a gear pouch also provide you with all the necessary equipment to convert your boating expedition into a fishing trip. The 705lbs capacity is sure to provide for the passengers and your gear.it weighs only 32lbs and will pack down very small,easier to transport.You only take 15 minutes can inflating the kayak,fitting in the trunk of any car.
- 【BOAT DESIGN】The EPROSMIN inflatable boat features construction with one air chambers and an extra one in the inner hull for safety precautions. The inflatable floor is comfortable enough to kneel upon and features two inflatable seat cushions. Welded oarlocks and an all-around grab line add convenience to this high-quality construction.
- 【INCLUDES】This 4-man inflatable dinghy includes all the accessories you need to get started on the water. Two 48inch aluminum oars and a hi-output pump, including a repair kit for small puncture damage make sure that you’re all set.
Make sure you have the right footwear for the boat. We recommend using fast-drying reef shoes of Vibram Five-Finger shoes featuring neoprene uppers that dry quickly and rubber soles to grip slippery surfaces.
If you’re going to cold water conditions, you’ll need to fit yourself for a wetsuit. In Alaska, very cold water may require a 5/4mm wetsuit or a dry suit. Northern Californian waters are not as cold, but you’ll still need at least a 4/3mm.
How to Dress for Canoeing
If you’re going on a trip in warm conditions, you can get away with wearing boardshorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt. If you’re in very cold conditions, we recommend wearing a wetsuit. However, you also have the option of layering your clothing to keep warm.
The base layer should be at-shirt made from synthetic materials. Don’t wear cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture, turns cold, and sticks to your skin. Use a nylon-based fabric like Gore-Tex to wick away moisture and keep you dry.
The next layer should be a fleece-lined zip-thru jacket. On top of that, you can wear a waterproof jacket and waterproof pants.
Safety is crucial when canoeing. The foundation of your safety equipment is the PFD. The Personal Flotation Device keeps you floating on the water if something happens to your boat, like a capsizing event.
If the river throws you out of the canoe, you could end up hitting your head on something, knocking you unconscious. Without a PFD, you’ll sink to the bottom and drown. The PFD keeps you on the surface, allowing people to identify you and pull you from the water.
Tips for Getting In and Out of the Canoe
Canoeing isn’t as challenging as you think. All you need to learn is how to get in and out of the boat and how to paddle.
Entering the Canoe
Have your partner hold the canoe at the riverbank or the dock. Put your right leg in first, placing your foot in the center of the canoe. As your foot lands, bring your right hand across to grab the rail on the right side of the canoe.
Bring the other leg in and place the foot next to the other. Keep your legs bent and your center of gravity low when entering the boat. Don’t stall during the process, and don’t push outwards with your right foot when entering, or the canoe will start to move away from you, and you’ll end up in the water.
Exiting the Canoe
Secure the canoe to the dock. Grab the side of the pier and stand up in a low crouch facing the dock. Swing your leg over the side and bring your arm over in a fluid motion to grab the side of the dock. Pull the rest of your body from the canoe onto the dock.
If you’re going to exit on the shoreline, you can drive the nose of the boat into the sand on the shore to secure it and exit into ankle-deep water.
Paddling Techniques for Canoeing
The forward paddling technique is the easiest method in canoe paddling. While it might seem simple, it can take months of practice to make your stroke as efficient and powerful as possible. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to forward paddle the canoe.
Hold your paddle with the inside hand on top of the “T” and the water-side hand two to three feet further down the shaft. Grip the paddle with your knuckles facing out.
Plunge the paddle’s blade into the water two feet in front of you and as deep as you can without lunging your back forward in the movement.
Push the top hand forward while drawing the blade back through the water by pulling with your bottom hand. Keep the top of the handle lower than your eye level. Pivot the shoulder when drawing the blade and don’t follow the canoe’s curvature.
Pull the blade back until it’s in line with your hip. Lift it out of the water and twist it parallel to carry it to the starting position. A left-handed paddler will find the canoe tracks to the right when they paddle, and vice versa for righties. You can use the braking technique to adjust your tracking or learn to paddle on both sides.
The backpaddling technique is useful for those situations where you need to get out of a navigational mishap. Turn in your seat, paddling in the opposite direction to shift the movement into reverse.
Kneel low in the canoe, shift your shoulders 90-degrees to the paddling side and focus on the back of the canoe. Reach back with the paddle, placing the blade into the water around two feet behind you.
Push on the “T” with your top hand and pull with the bottom to shift the boat into reverse.
The draw stroke helps you maneuver the canoe sideways and in sudden direction changes. Brace yourself in the sitting position or assume the kneeling position. Grip the paddle with the inside hand on the “T” and the other hand 2-feet down the shaft.
Reach over the edge as far as possible without upsetting the canoe’s balance. To turn the canoe, reach to the side in the same direction you want to go. Insert the paddle blade into the water and fully extend the lower arm while bending the top arm.
Straighten to the top arm while bending the lower. Draw the blade through the water towards you. Keep the paddle within six to eight inches of the canoe to get the best drive. Try to imagine yourself scooping the water under the canoe.
The pry stroke is good for turning the canoe fast or moving sideways if you’re paddling solo. Essentially, the pry stroke is the reverse of the pry stroke, starting at the side of the canoe and pushing away from it.
Kneel or sit comfortably and grip the paddle with the inside hand on the T and the outside hand two feet down the shaft. Submerge the blade into the water directly next to the canoe on the opposite side of the chosen direction.
Extend the top hand and keep the bottom hand closer to your hips. Pull with the top hand while pushing with the bottom. Use the canoe’s side as a fulcrum, pushing against the water. Turn the paddle’s blade sideways and keep it perpendicular to the boat. Slide it back to the starting position to take another stroke.
The cross-draw stroke is another method for turning the canoe quickly. This stroke is ideal for the person sitting in the front of the boat or for the solo paddler. Grip the paddle in the normal hand positions, with the inside hand on the T and the lower hand two feet down the shaft.
Pull your paddle from the water, twisting your core across the boat to place your paddle on the opposite side while maintaining your grip. Reach out, inserting the blade into the water toward the front and away from the canoe.
Pull with the lower hand while pushing from the top to draw the blade through the water to the front of the canoe. This stroke causes the front of the boat to pull in the direction you reach with your paddle.
Learning to Ferry the Canoe
When the river has a decent current, you’ll need to learn the correct technique for moving the boat from one shore to the other. The “ferry angle” is the 30-degree angle to the current that moves the boat across the river in the fastest manner, allowing you to leverage the current to reduce the effort required to paddle across.
If you need to back paddle, aim the bow downstream, 30-degrees to the side opposite of the side you want to ferry the canoe to. Paddle straight as hard as you can and not toward the side you want to go. The forward motion and angle of the canoe will push you along quickly to the opposite shoreline.
Make sure you keep your eye on the shore and assess your angle at all times to adjust your course. IF you turn broadside into the current, it could result in capsizing the canoe.
What to Do If Your Canoe Capsizes
If you spend enough time in the canoe, eventually, you’re going to capsize; it’s just part of the experience of canoeing. The first time you capsize can be a terrifying experience, especially if you don’t know how to handle the situation.
Knowing what to do when the boat capsizes can mean the difference between getting back to the boat and drowning.
Your priority is you, not the boat when you land in the water. So make sure that you get to the surface and catch your breath. Your second priority is your paddle. Try not to lose it.
Next, look around for the boat and locate the upstream end of the canoe. Keep your feet to your chest and avoid the bottom of the river.
Think about the water situation ahead. Are you approaching a rapid or waterfall? If someone is in danger, abandon the canoe and do what you can to help them.
The first option after a capsize is to swim the boat to shore. We recommend using the ferrying concept to help you get the canoe to shore as fast as possible. Turn the canoe’s rear to the beach and kick in that direction.
When you try to stand, the boat’s weight will try to pull you. So, make sure you swim until you’re in the waist to knee-depth water. Turn the canoe upside down when you reach the shore and completely submerge it. Lift it from the water and turn it the right side up. Reenter the boat and continue with your journey.
If two people can get the boat to waist-deep water, completely submerge the canoe, turn the canoe upside down underwater, lift the canoe straight up from both ends and set the canoe right side up on top of the water. Get to the bank and reenter the canoe.
Tips to Stay Safe While Canoeing
Canoeing is plenty of fun in all conditions. Whether you’re planning a whitewater adventure or a tour across flat water, you’ll need to ensure you have a safe experience. Here are our top tips to keep you safe on the water.
Take Everything with You
Some tour operators have everything you need for your trip. However, others require you to have the basic soft gear, like a helmet and PFD. Check with the tour provider to see what equipment you need to bring for the trip. The operator should have a list of recommended items to bring with you.
Canoe with a Club or Group
There are thousands of guided canoe tour operators all around America, Canada, and Mexico. There are so many locations to choose from for or canoeing experience. We always recommend that newbies to canoeing go with a group for their first experience.
You’ll understand why after your first trip. A lot goes into planning and executing a canoeing trip, and taking a guided tour shows you what you need to do on a solo trip by yourself with your friends.
Look Out for Obstacles
Keep an eye out for submerged obstacles. Usually, you won’t see them until it’s too late. However, there are telltale signs in the water, like disturbances on the surface, that may indicate a submerged object.
If you do hit something, assess the damage to the canoe right away. If you’re taking on water, use the ferrying method to get to shore as fast as possible.
Watch out for Fast-Moving Water and “V’s”
When the water moves quickly, you’ll notice submerged rocks create a “V” in the water. Avoid these “V’s” and paddle away from them. Keep the bow or stern of the boat facing downriver; going into fast-moving water from the side will capsize the boat.
Know Your Skill Level
When you start canoeing, it’s important to use a guide. There is more to canoeing than you think, and learning how to read the water can take a while. When you’re entering rapids for the first time, a guide is priceless. They help you navigate the right path through the rapids to safety.
Carry a Medical Kit
The guide will have control over the medical kit and a means of contacting someone if an emergency occurs. We recommend carrying a personal medical kit with you on your boat in case you get separated from the group.
Remember the Essentials
Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen. Don’t wear flip-flops when canoeing, as the current will pull them off your feet in the water. Bulky sneakers will also become waterlogged and slip off your feet if the laces aren’t tight.
Invest in a GPS
If you’re going on an unguided trip with your friends, take along a GPS. The GPS helps you understand where you’re going, and it can act as a distress beacon if you get lost.
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
If you’re going on a solo canoeing trip, remember to tell someone where you’re going and when they can expect you back. If you don’t arrive on time, they can call for help.