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Canoe Racing

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Marathon canoe racing is a sit down style of paddling over a distance that varies from a few miles to over 100+ miles in one day including multi-day races. Some of these races may include some portages. The races can be held on lakes and rivers. The rivers are mostly calm but they can have some rapids of moderate difficulty with clear passage that may require some maneuvering. The larger races may have several classes whereas the smaller races there may be only a couple classes. These classes can be based on age and sex of the paddlers and the type of canoe.

Each paddler is paddling on opposite sides and they will switch every 6 to 12 strokes or so. The stroke rate is usually between 50 to 80 strokes a minute, the average being between 60 and 70. The bow paddler usually sets the pace and this person is usually the heavier, more powerful person. It’s easier to trim the canoe with the heavier person in the bow. Paddlers new to canoe racing usually start in the bow because it’s easier to learn. The stern paddler will say, “Hut” or “Hup”, when its time to switch sides. The stern paddler usually sets the course in the river or lake. The stern paddler has to call the “Hut” before the canoe starts to turn. The stern paddler has to anticipate the turn rather than reacting to the canoe turning. Both paddlers have to be compatible in technique and stroke rate to be efficient in the canoe.

Marathon canoe racing relies mostly on the upper body strength and to a lesser degree the legs but the sport also relies on technique and strategy. It’s not always the strongest paddler that comes out ahead.

Marathon racing canoes are designed to go straight and fast. The stroke that makes the canoe go fast is called the forward stroke. There some basics to the stroke but each person will have some slight differences. There are other strokes the paddler needs to learn.

Where in Minnesota can a person learn the basics of the forward stroke and other aspects of Marathon canoe racing? One place to learn is at Monday Night Rookies. It’s held at the East River Flats Park on the East Bank (University of Minnesota) on the Mississippi River. Starting the Monday after Daylight Savings begins and goes till the fall when we have to turn the clock back an hour. Experienced racers show up to provide equipment and instruction to new racers. The late Karl Ketter and Jeff Howe practiced canoe racing on Mondays in 1976 at the River Flats Park. Over the years the tradition continues on. 
 The video below gives you a sample of what canoe racing is all about!