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Canoeing is a paddle sport in which you kneel or sit facing forward in an open or closed-decked canoe, and propel yourself with a single-bladed paddle, under your own power. Kayaking is a comparable activity in a kayak which usually has a closed deck and is propelled with a double bladed paddle. In a kayak the paddler typically sits with legs extended forward.
In some situations canoeing refers to both canoeing and kayaking. Other than by the minimum competition specifications (typically length and width (beam)) and seating arrangement it is difficult to differentiate most competition canoes from the equivalent competition kayaks. The most common difference is that competition kayaks are always seated and paddled with a double-bladed paddle, and competition canoes are generally kneeled and paddled with a single-bladed paddle. Exceptions include Canoe Marathon (in both European and American competitive forms) and sprint (high kneeling position). The most traditional and early canoes did not have seats, the paddlers merely knelt on the bottom of the boat. Recreational canoes and kayaks employ seats and whitewater and surf variants employ the use of foam 'saddles' with thigh straps or increasingly foam 'bulkheads' with integrated thigh hooks that give greater boat control under extreme conditions.
Canoeing began to meet the simple needs of transportation across and along waterways. Canoeing was the primary mode of long-distance transportation at one time throughout much of North America, the Amazon Basin, and Polynesia, among other locations. As a method of transportation, canoes have generally been replaced by motorized boats, airplanes, railroads and roads with increasing industrialisation, although they remain popular as recreational or sporting watercraft.
The origin of canoeing as a recreation and sport is often attributed to Scottish explorer John MacGregor (1825–1892), who was introduced to canoes and kayaks on a camping trip in Canada and the US in 1858. On his return to the United Kingdom, he constructed his own canoes and used them on waterways in various parts of Britain, Europe and the Middle East. He wrote a popular book about his experiences; "A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe" and founded the Royal Canoe Club in 1866. The first canoeing competition, the Paddling Challenge Cup, was held by the club in 1874. In 1924, canoeing associations from Austria, Germany, Denmark and Sweden founded the Internationalen Representation for Kanusport (IRK), forerunner of the International Canoe Federation. Canoeing became an Olympic sport in Berlin in 1936.
Other recreational aspects of canoeing are not strictly defined, and distinctions are rather artificial and growing increasingly blurred as new hybrid canoes, kayaks, and similar craft are developed. Some of these forms may be nominally organised at national levels, but are largely individual, group, or club activities. For many groups there is no emphasis on training, the goal is simply to use boats to have fun on the water.
- Small-craft Sailing – Developed by kayak enthusiasts, small-craft sails enhance the paddling experience for canoeists too. Small-craft sails such as the WindPaddle either augment the effort of paddling or effectively eliminate the need for paddling. They are great for touring, and have established a strong following with recreational canoeists, sea kayakers, expedition paddlers and adventure racers.
- Whitewater – paddling down whitewater rivers for fun, recreation, or getting away from it all. Can vary from short local trips on easy grade rivers, to extreme expeditions on raging torrents in remote locations for many days carrying all equipment. Whitewater Kayaking is probably the most popular form of canoeing (as the word is used in Europe), with Whitewater Canoeing in open canoes gaining more and more popularity lately for its bigger challenge and higher technical skill needed to tackle the same grade of whitewater as compared to paddling it in a kayak. This development has been marked by several new whitewater open boats hitting the market during the last three years, more than in the decade before that, especially PE boats fit for harder "creeking" style paddling.
- Sea kayak – recreational (touring) kayaking on the sea. Includes everything from short day trips to year-long expeditions, may include paddling on heavy seas, in surf, or in tidal currents, and usually requires navigational skills.
- Playboating – surfing and performing tricks on one feature on a river.
- Canoe camping, Touring, Tripping, or Cruising – combines canoeing/kayaking with camping.
- Marathon canoeing, for example
In some countries, these forms of paddling may come under the national canoeing organisations, but they are not universally accepted as canoeing, even though they involve propelling a small craft with a paddle.
- Wave skiing – paddling a small, maneuverable craft (surf ski) a little like a bigger surfboard, amongst the breaking waves of the sea or ocean, variously sliding down the face of the wave or performing tricks on the face of a breaking wave. Close affinity to surfing. The paddler sits on top of the ski and can be strapped in. Competition is based on points for tricks and style.
- Surf ski – paddling a long (about 22'), slim racing craft on the sea. Able to handle going in and out of breaking waves, but not for maneuvering on breaking waves. The paddler sits in a bucket style seat and uses a kayak-like paddle. Most common races are long distance in the open ocean where they can catch swells and get the feeling of skiing the ocean.
- Rafting – one or a group of people paddle a small or large inflatable raft down a wild water river. Has much in common with White Water Touring.
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Canoes have a reputation for instability, but this is not true if they are handled properly. For example, the occupants need to keep their center of gravity as low as possible. Canoes can easily navigate swift-moving water with skilled paddlers, careful scouting of rapids and good communication between the paddlers. Nearly every kind of whitewater that can be run in an enclosed kayak can - and has- also be run in an open canoe, with limits in high volume multiday creeking expeditions like the infamous Grand Canyon of the Stikine, where huge, river-wide holes would swamp an open boat and make it near impossible to keep your line and very high waterfall descents.
When two people occupy a canoe, they usually paddle on opposite sides, except for steering or moving the boat other than straight forward or back. For example, the person in the bow (the bowman) might hold the paddle on the port side, with the left hand on the shaft, usually just above the height of the gunwales of the canoe with the blade completely submerged and the right hand at the top end t-grip of the paddle. The left hand acts mostly as a pivot and the right arm transfers most of the power, that originates in the large muscle groups of the torso. The sternman would paddle on the starboard side, with the right hand on the shaft and the left hand on the t-grip. To travel straight ahead, both paddlers use the basic forward stroke, moving the paddle front to back in a line parallel to the gunwale.
The paddling action of two paddlers tends to turn the canoe toward the opposite side of which the stern paddler is paddling on. Thus, some way of compensation for this effect is important to keep going straight, which can be achieved by steering techniques or by paddling a sit & switch style, which sees both paddlers switching hands and paddle sides every 6-8 paddle strokes to keep the boat from veering off to one side. This is also the most efficient way of paddling and commonly employed in canoe marathon racing. Steering techniques vary widely, the basic question of which paddler should be responsible for steering is usually answered by a clear and certain: both! But it depends on the situation and maneuver.
Among experienced (white water) canoeists, stern paddler and bow paddler work together to steer the canoe. It is virtually impossible to achieve a precise maneuver without both paddlers working together. It depends on the kind of maneuver which paddler initiates it, and how, and there is a general rule that states the stern paddler is responsible for setting the primary course of the canoe, while the bow paddler will steer to help avoid obstacles like rocks that the stern paddler cannot see, or react to any other short-distance feature. In the case of back ferrying, or back paddling, the roles sometimes invert, with the bow paddler responsible for holding the angle of the canoe using small correctional strokes while back paddling with the stern paddler.
Turns can be executed making use of the paddle, the hull shape of the boat (which can be angled into or out of the turn), a change in trim by weight displacement of the paddler leaning forward or aft, or a combination of all of the mentioned actions, which is common in most techniques.
Paddle strokes are used to propel and steer the canoe, forward, backwards, or laterally. Primary strokes are the forward, back, J-stroke and C-stroke, the (back or front) sweep, the offside forward stroke, the pry, the draw, the stationary draw (also known as "Duffek"), the scull, which pulls or pushes the boat to the side, the boof stroke which lifts the bow of the boat to go over holes and drops to land the boat flat and many more.
Most paddle strokes can be segmented into an entry phase, planting the paddle in the desired position to start the stroke, a power phase, which applies power to the paddle and makes use of the "catch" effect, that enables the paddler to pull the boat towards the paddle that is "set" in position in the water, and the recovery phase, where the paddle is pulled or sliced out of the water and returned to the entry phase, or transitioned into a different paddle stroke.
Compound strokes connect multiple different base strokes to one motion, either blending multiple power phases to achieve a desired effect, like pulling the bow sideways a little before powering its forward motion, for example the c-stroke.
The paddle blade can be set from the top, tracking a circular path to prevent disturbing the water for a good catch, sliced in from the side, or even sliced back to the front while staying in the water for ease of the recovery stroke, as in the offside forward stroke. The recovery can thus happen under water or above water, either by turning the paddle into the desired direction sideways to reduce drag and move it towards the position where the next power phase starts, slicing the paddle, or by slicing it out of the water sideways. An efficient power phase is usually shorter than beginners expect - stroke mechanics work with the body in a way that only a short way of the paddle, for example usually not past the knee in the standard forward stroke, makes for an efficient stroke. It is important that the paddle blade stays perpendicular to the desired direction the boat should travel, so as not to "shovel up" water or "push down" on the water, which is just a waste of energy.
On swift rivers, as well as shallow lakes, canoeists may use setting poles. It allows the canoe to move through water too shallow for a paddle to create thrust, or against a current too quick for the paddlers to make headway. With skillful use of eddies, a setting pole can propel a canoe even against moderate (class III) rapids.
A trick called "gunwale bobbing" or "gunwaling" allows a canoe to be propelled without a paddle. The canoeist stands on the gunwales, near the bow or the stern, and squats up and down to make the canoe rock backward and forward. This propulsion method is inefficient and unstable; additionally, standing on the gunwales can be dangerous. However, this can be turned into a game where two people stand one on each end, and attempt to cause the other to lose balance and fall into the water, while remaining standing themselves.
- International Canoe Federation
- American Canoe Association
- Canadian Canoe Association
- British Canoe Union
- Scottish Canoe Association
- Welsh Canoe Association
- Outdoor activity
- Hazards of outdoor activities
- Paddle to the Amazon
- U.S. intercollegiate canoe/kayak champions
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Canoeing.|
|Look up canoeing in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- The official website of International Canoe Federation
-  cboats.net, THE whitewater canoeing forum for all kinds of c-boats
- Hong Kong Canoe Union (A member agency of Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China) (Chinese)
- Video: Short documentary about canoeing by the Philadelphia Inquirer
- American Canoe Association Homepage
- Canoeing at DMOZ