Moore Canoeing

Get the Most from Your Instruction

Set Goals

The first step toward success is for you to know what you want to accomplish. For us to help you achieve your goals in canoeing, we need to know your goals, too. When you register for instruction, be sure to answer the question on the registration form which asks you about your canoeing background and goals.

Think carefully about this, but don't concern yourself with setting ultimate goals right away, especially if you are just beginning. There are more reasons for canoeing than there are people who practice it, and the first step may be simply to discover some of the possibilities open to you.

In every case you should be prepared for your goals to change over time. After your first lessons with the Moore Canoeing School your background will dramatically change; when you add to your experience in this way your sense of potential will also grow, and in only a short time your most motivating goals might be something you now could not even imagine.

Here are some examples of the backgrounds and goals of other students. Their comments are short and long, abstract and concrete, focused on nature, art and self-experience. Their starting skills ranged from novice to expert. Their goals were passive and ambitious. However, because both students and instructors knew what the goals were, all were advanced upon, and most were achieved. In several cases we have chosen to show backgrounds and goals of students who have enrolled in multiple sessions to show how they changed with experience.

Robert; background: Quiet water canoeing off and on since I was a kid. Took sea kayak course in '88. Goals: Looking for solo water sport. Had been (and still am) considering sea kayaking. Had not seriously considered canoeing until I saw your video and canoes.

Robert; second year: Background: Moore School last year. Goals: (1) Master Bronze level skills. (2) Get a dependable BRACE!

Jane; background: I've canoed only a little, and no whitewater or solo, ever. I want to see how I will like it.

Jane; second year: Keep working on wet recoveries. Start working on reverse moves. Keep improving Bronze skills. Keep working on braking.

Peter; background: Quite a bit of tandem canoeing, mostly camping trips. Two formal courses; (1) Weekend whitewater canoeing course on Wolf River; (2) One day solo canoeing class through local canoe store. Limited experience in solo canoes (Wenonah Solitude and Advantage, Sawyer Summersong, Old Town Discovery). Goals: Want to learn how to handle a solo canoe well.

Peter; second year: Two courses from you last summer, otherwise, mostly tandem canoeing until this year. I want to canoe as well as you.

Mary; background and goals: Although I had some canoeing experience as a child, my first serious introduction to canoeing occurred when I took a two-week cruising trip into the Quetico at 16. The group leader had been canoeing all her life and taught us basic bow and stern technique. Those basic strokes took me through years of happy paddling thereafter. I bought a lightweight Grumman at 16 with the first $$ I made and now have two Old Towns—a tandem and a 1960 replica of Rushton's Wee Lassie. I bought the solo boat last summer—having fallen in love with the original Wee Lassie hull in the Adirondack Museum years before. Having fantasized about solo canoeing most of my life, I am delighted with mine and canoe several times a week before or after work. I am familiar, intuitively, with many of the strokes and techniques your booklet describes, but want to improve and refine my solo technique. Moving gracefully on the water is my goal—one I hope to be perfecting into my dotage!

Mary; second year: I have fallen in love with very small boats and wish to become indistinguishable from the water.

Mary; third year: To perfect the practice of my religion.

Dave; background and goals: Canoed some in the past. Interested in solo canoeing since I can't always find someone to go out with. Want to learn to be confident that I can get the canoe to do what I would like it to under most circumstances. Since I know very little I should have few bad habits to lose. Eventually will use my canoe for nature photography and general recreation.

Rose; background and goals: I've been canoeing about 10 years, mostly flat and moving water. Bought a solo boat last fall. I want to be a better canoeist. Mostly I want better boat control on rivers, which is what I enjoy canoeing most. However sport canoeing has some interest because I can go out to the lagoon after work and canoe, but it gets boring there. Practicing some maneuvering would make lagoon/small lake canoeing more interesting. Also the confidence factor is involved; it wouldn't hurt to have a little more.

Rose; continuing: Wanna make some hot moves, lean out on the paddle, feel the boat glide and have the sense of movement flow back into me.

Rick; background and goals: Eight years as Outward Bound instructor in BWCA and Maine—flatwater and whitewater, active canoe marathoning. Goals are to fine tune skills, acquire new skill and develop the "Art" and Explore. Meet new people!?

Catherine; background and goals: Some tandem experience/To learn skills and enjoy the experience.

Now it's your turn. If you know exactly what you want to achieve, that's great. If you are not quite sure, that is fine, too—and just as important. Your purpose can be exploratory or concise, expressed in a page or a word. For the immediate task, all that is needed to validate your goal is to feel it and want it. There is a space to do this on the registration form included with Registration Kit.

Warm Up and Stretch

During all sessions, before going on the water, we spend a few minutes learning some stretching and warming up exercises. Getting ready to canoe is an important part of a successful lesson. After our first meeting, you should plan to warm up on your own before each lesson or class. Plan to arrive at your lesson site a few minutes early so that you have time to warm up on your own and benefit most from your lessons. On-water stretching is a good thing, too, gently developing speed and performing various axles and braces, more to let the water forces stretch your body than to turn or heel the boat.

If you are not yet accustomed to sport canoeing, there is a stretching exercise that you may begin doing some weeks before your first lesson that will make your first-time experience more pleasant. We will describe the exercise in a moment, but first, here is the rationale behind it.

In sport canoeing, to get the greatest control of our boats and to really feel what is happening in the water around us, we kneel. Historically, kneeling in a canoe was often associated with pain, but this problem has been solved in modern canoes. The more sophisticated sport canoes of today are outfitted with central pedestals designed to make kneeling comfortable. The pedestal supports your weight by way of your bottom and thighs, and it allows you to place only the slight pressure on your knees and toes that is needed to establish a sensitive relationship with your canoe and the water.

Unless you are already fairly limber, however, the position can be uncomfortable at first. If sport canoeing is new to you, the initial discomfort of kneeling can be eliminated by doing a daily, one-minute stretching exercise for a few weeks before your first foray onto the water.

Here is what to do: Kneel on the floor with your knees together and your toes pointed behind you. If at first you have difficulty straightening your ankles enough to point your toes behind you, do the best you can. Slowly sit back on your heels until you feel the muscles of your ankles, shins and the fronts of your thighs start to stretch; hold for ten seconds. Be gentle with yourself; don't force it. Repeat two or three times. With time, a realistic goal is to sit on the floor between your heels and have the toe point of a ballerina. But long before that, canoeing's much less extreme kneeling position will feel natural to you.

More rationale: remember that stretching your ankles by pointing your toes straight back is an important part of the exercise. The more you can point your toes, the less you need to bend your knees, and vice versa. Once both your knees and ankles are limber, kneeling on the pedestal will be very comfortable and your legs will have considerable freedom of motion in your canoe.


To become your best, lessons are only the beginning. Practice is essential. After a lesson it is important that you intermittently practice what you have learned. We like to follow the 20:80 rule: between lessons, practice a new skill for at least four times as long as you spent to consciously learn it. This helps a new skill become a natural part of you instead of only something you once saw, tried and then forgot.

When you follow the 20:80 rule, you will benefit more from several short practice sessions than you will from one long session. For example, if a new skill originally required 30 minutes for you to reach a stage where you could perform it if you remained focused on your every movement, practice that skill 30 minutes a day for four days rather than for two solid hours on one day. Do this and the skill will become a subconscious part of you with least effort. So:

Lesson, practice, practice, practice, practice.

Lesson, practice, practice, practice, practice.

Lesson, practice....


We won't presume to recommend how much time you should spend having fun on the water, nor how much time you should spend working to make your fun more fun, but we will say that it is important to mix it up.

For a starting place, we like the 20:80 rule, again; fifteen minutes of focused practice on a specific skill complemented by a corresponding hour of spooning around in your boat for sheer reverie or whatever. Conversely, if you find yourself spending endless hours in your boat using only skills that already feel natural to you, set aside a few minutes to practice something new once in a while. An occasional few minutes focused on practicing a new skill will gradually increase your skills and enhance your canoeing pleasure for all time.


© Patrick Moore, Moore Canoeing 2000 - 2019     

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