ORCC Ottawa River Canoe Club

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From the Coach

Team Communication

If you have any concerns, comments, feedback etc.  Please feel free to approach our coach or team manager to talk about it. If you are feeling it, chances are someone else on the team is in the same boat.


Please remember to stretch before each work out. This means dynamic stretching (easy movement through range of movements). 

This is not only to avoid injuries but will make us more comfortable in the boat and able to maximize our reach and increase our strength.

Off Water Training

Please make an effort to keep up your off water training. It is the extra effort away from the water also that will make a big difference.

 Stretching (Daily), 3 X thirty minute runs or swimming each week will increase your endurance. Weights are also a necessity to increase power.

Make the effort to get out of your comfort zone now rather than trying to cram for it at the end.

The Stroke

The breakdown of the stroke is in 5 different parts. Again, if you have any comments or feedback about the stroke feel free to talk to your coach. If you do not understand why a part of the stroke is done a certain way, please come forward, because someone else probably has the same question. Throughout this, you will see Why?  This explains the logic behind it.


  1. Most important aspect is STABILITY- leg position … This allows more freedom to rotate. Whatever leg (recommend outside leg/leg closest to water and inside leg back) is used to drive off please ensure correct footwear is used to eliminate slipping. Lock your legs in.  WHY? Stability ensures comfort will limit movement and changing of position during race.  Thus this stability is transferred to the entire boat.  Front leg is used as the anchor point to drive off, especially at the start
  2. Sit as close to 90 degree angle as possible in relation to side of boat.  I.e. Not with paddle side hip pointing forward at 45 degree angle. WHY? If angled it will do a number of things, the two most important points are:
    • Will cause paddler to ineffectively reach away from body when going “forward” which in turn causes body to be placed in a position of instability.  Paddle is pulled towards the body with arms instead of using pelvis/rotation for power and, pulls water towards side of boat instead of pulling boat forward.
    • It will inhibit use of full range of rotation with positive angle as will find blade behind /through area of maximal power early in stroke.
    • By sitting straight, maximal stability and power with ripping through de-rotation will be achieved.

Key words:

  • Stability
  • Straight in boat 


It must be remembered that while the stroke is divided into five points the entire stroke is a continuous dynamic motion and should not become staccato in nature.

Timing through every phase is essential so that the entire team is in unison.

  • Set up:

This is the most important part of the stroke as everything else comes from the set up.  Leading with the paddle side hip,

 bring the hip, torso, both hands forward while rotating (twisting) and reaching around your front leg. At end of the set up you should be fully rotated, have a nice U shape with your arms (A frame with body and paddle), chest open (Note: If you have the U shape, your top hand will be up), Keep your heads up and backs straight (eliminate bad posture i.e. hunched back). 

Why the hip?

Our pelvis supplies the stability and fulcrum for movement.  The hip also comes into play later in the stroke.

Why both hands forward?

This will get us in a better position for the catch and pull phase of the stroke. The sooner we get the paddle perpendicular to the water for the power phase, the more pull we will have and bringing both hands forward will aide in this. This is the exact same as the hug/the barrel and then “no”.

Why rotate around the front leg?

We do not want to put all our weight on the front leg. This will cause the boat to dive into the water and slow down the boat. If we are putting too much weight on our front leg, it also means we are lunging and not rotating.  When we lunge, we will not be rotating and using the strongest part of the body, the back. Lunging will cause you to use your arms, which in a race, will tire very fast. We want all your weight/the power on the blade.

Key words and Phrases:

  • Lead with the hip
  • rotate and reach around the front leg
  • U shape/A frame
  • Open chest
  • Entry/Catch:

The catch is driving down with the top arm, which will bury the blade, and snapping that hip back at the same time.  Use

 your body weight to lean on the blade.  The blade will enter the water at a slight angle however the action of dropping the shoulder and snapping that hip back will help get that paddle perpendicular (positive angle) to the water. As soon as we can get that paddle perpendicular and in into that pull phase the better. This will maximise the pull and move us quicker down the course.

Why top arm drive?

We have rotated and reached out that far it would be a shame to waste all that effort, so drop the shoulder and press on the blade, so we can maximise the pull phase.

Why snap the hip back? 

Not only is it the natural thing to do after we have rotated and stretched it out, it will set us up nicely for the press phase.

Key words and Phrases:

  • Top arm drive
  • Press/Lean on/Bury the blade
  • Snap the hip back
  • The Press/Power Phase.

All the preparation and hard work has been done in the Set Up and the catch to help maximize this phase. All of this happens in a continuous phase however for explanation purposes we will break it down into two parts

  • Rip through de-rotation following on from snapping hip back;
  • Bring the hip to meet the paddle

With top arm drive, Sit up hard, drive off the legs and bring the paddle side hip forward while to meet the paddle. Stay on top of the blade throughout the press.  Once the blade and hip meet, the stroke is over and we think about the exit.

Why bring the hip forward to meet the paddle? 

This will lead us nicely into the set up again for our next stroke. No movement is wasted. It also gives us that good strong press through the water while keeping the paddle at a positive angle.

Why sit up?

 So we can use our back for the press. If we stay down, you will have a tendency to use your arms and scoop water, which is very inefficient. We will be tired half way down the course. If we do not sit up also, we will be pushing the boat downward, not straight ahead. The scooping action will also hurt our lower backs. Push off the back of the press phase to launch yourself into the next stroke.

The sit up will also help you naturally lift your paddle out of the water for the exit phase.

Key words and Phrases:

  • Top Arm Drive
  • Drive off legs
  • Rip through de-rotation
  • Sit up strong and hard
  • Blade perpendicular (keep the positive angle)
  • Bring hip to meet the paddle
  • Push off back of stroke for extra surge
  • Exit

This is just how the paddle comes out of the water.  Recommended is just turning the paddle out and up with your hands.  If you paddle on the left your hands will come out on an angle at about 2 o’clock and on the right about 10 o’clock.

If the above is followed, the paddle will come out at the hip and will not be dragging back.

Key words and Phrases:

  • Pull phase must be fully executed i.e. Keep driving with top arm
  • Turn and lift paddle out with hands
  • Watch your timing
  • Return.

    In the recovery we should try to think about relaxing our hands in the air through the set up. If we have a death grip on the paddle on the way down the course, you will be wasting energy and lactic acid will build up in your forearms.

    Do not drop your top arm too far.


    You will be wasting energy by having to move your top arm an extra 60 – 90 cm each stroke as well as have to rush to get ready for the Set Up.

      We should also check our breathing in the recovery phase. Make sure we have a nice breathing pattern throughout the work out or race. Breathe in during the recovery phase when we are sitting up nice and tall and breathe out during the pull phase.

    We cannot stress enough about the importance of correct breathing patterns through a race……make sure you fully exhale during the Press Phase and inhale during the Recovery/Return Phase.  If not done correctly and you are just topping up your lungs, you will go into oxygen debt and lose power.

    The return should be nice and controlled not a rush for the front of the stroke

    Key words and Phrases:

    • Breathe
    • Relax
    • Controlled / Smooth

    Try to eliminate excess movement in the boat, not only could it effect the balance and cause other paddlers to lose focus and power, the extra friction on the hull will also slow the boat. 

    Email contacts: 

    • info@orcc.ca (general and program information)
    • camps@orcc.ca
    • recreation@orcc.ca
    • sup@orcc.ca
    • programs@orcc.ca
    • dragonboat@orcc.ca

    Location: 1610 Sixth Line, Dunrobin 

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