On the Elegance of Paddling in the Stern

On the Elegance of Paddling in the Stern
Photo © Ken Powell

Photo © Ken Powell

Traversing reader, Ken Powell sent in a poem (and a few photos) he created while paddling the Yukon River. On the Elegance of Paddling in the Stern was conceived while watching a fellow paddler who’s paddling technique ‘needed a little more practice’.

Ken footnotes this poem with the following (tongue in cheek)…

Experienced tripping paddlers will get it.

Experienced poets might find it a bit rough!)
Image © Ken Powell

Image © Ken Powell

Grip hand swings below the chin.

Low hand loose at the paddle spread.

Arm straight, swinging like a pendulum.

Short surgical stroke firm pulls ahead.

Into the butter-water the paddle pries.

No sound except soft water cries,

plus the gunwale thud that levers firm

the craft one way, with a slight turn.

Or another way, with a sweeping pull.

The first by using the so-called “J”

in steady water would be the way.

While swift full waters will demand

a different position of the hand

that turns the blade in to the craft;

there’s no time for the paddle’s shaft

to be executing the over hand wrist.

Just a goon stroke, minus the subtle twist.

Now to the critical point most don’t get.

That is the direction – and you wanna bet

that big zigs and zags take so much time.

It’s best to ply a true straight line.

The secret lies with directing the hull

with smallish moves and no big lull.

By that I mean each forward move,

whether “J” or sweep, you want a groove

that keeps you plus or minus five degrees

from a distant point amongst the trees.

These skills must be done in a style quite pure

without fatigue and pain, for sure.

It’s not a race; it’s a leisurely tour.

A minimalist style allows one to endure.

So paddling along in synch with bow,

Both the art of the stroke, plus you realize now,

how the simple canoe is a beautiful craft -

elegant, complete and wonderfully apt.

A better symbol of Canada – this grand land,

than hockey, poutine, you understand;

than the beaver, Maple Leaf, or grey jay,

or Anne of Green, down Prince Edward way.

Photo © Ken Powell

Photo © Ken Powell