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Tips and Techniques - Crossforward



Using the Cross Forward Stoke in an Open Canoe

Users of the cross forward stroke seem to fall into one of the two following camps: The first uses it way too much and inappropriately, the second doesn’t use it enough or when appropriate.

When do you use a cross forward stroke and why? When you’re forward stroking and you need a little correction to bring the bow back to your on-side? Or when you’re surfing and start losing it to your off-side? Doing a move in or out of an eddy on your off side?

Before I answer these questions, let’s first review the disadvantages of the cross forward stroke:

It takes time to switch the paddle to the other side.

It doesn’t offer much power.

Limited in what you can do with the stroke once you are on your off-side.

Slow stroke rate on your off-side.

It takes time to cross back over to your on-side.

Cross forward strokes are not ideal for making bow corrections when you’re trying to bring the bow back to your on-side when paddling forward or surfing. If you look at the time it takes to position and then execute the stroke (and factor in the low power) it can add up to a net loss. It's usually more efficient (and easier) to correct from your on-side rather than to try a cross forward.

An extra problem when surfing is the inability to maintain a cross forward stroke rate that equals the speed of the water. There’s not much point in making strokes that don’t contribute to your forward momentum.

Another point to consider is that if you’re trying to make corrections from the bow of the boat, you have to fight the pressure exerted by the bow wave. The cross forward stroke just doesn’t offer enough power to overcome this bow "pinning" effect. Remember that efficient corrections come from the stern—where you can take advantage of leverage and the pivot point of the boat. It's much easier to deliver a powerful correction from the stern.

What are the advantages of the forward stroke?

It greatly increases control of off-side boat lean.

It can offer a certain degree of correction to help bring the boat back on line relative to your on-side.

If you look at the advantages and disadvantages of the cross forward stroke, the answer to "When should I use the cross forward stroke?" is simple. Use it whenever you are carving to your off-side. Making an off-side move in or out of an eddy is an excellent place to use the cross forward stroke.

In all other instances, I would first ask myself if there is something else I can do from my on-side and accomplish the same result? I would venture to say that there is and you will come out further ahead if you stick to your on-side, except when carving to your off-side.

Now before I get flamed for this article, let me clarify a few points. I wrote this in regard to open canoes and it does not apply to decked C1’s. The reason that there is a big difference in the use of the cross forward stroke is due to the fact the C1’s and open boats are very different animals. A decked boat has a lower, narrower bow than an open boat and it takes far less time and effort to cross over and then back again. Also the lighter weight and more efficient hull shapes of C1’s tend to make the stroke more effective.

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