Why do canoers kneel ?

Excellent canoeing is an art that takes quite some years under one’s belt to master. But, whether you’re a novice or a canoeing expert, there are a few basics you need to at least have a grasp on. One of them is the sitting position. 


Often, you’ve seen canoers kneeling more than not. But what is the logic behind this ostensibly tiring posture? 


As a general rule, canoers kneel to lower their center of gravity (COG) which in turn improves the boat’s stability. Besides, kneeling ensures the canoer has additional contact with the vessel, thus facilitating more control. 


We’ve just given a glimpse of what compels most canoers (especially the pros) to kneel, but that’s not all. We have more in store on canoeing postures, so stay with us as we explain it all. 

Why do you need to kneel while canoeing?

Nobody is refuting the fact that sitting with your back straight is the most comfortable position. But kneeling is the most convenient posture if you are aiming for stability, especially when rowing in turbulent waters


When you kneel while canoeing, you bring your body as close as possible to its level. Consequently, this lowers the vessel’s COG and generally improves its stability. Also, kneeling is the best position when rowing in windy conditions as it enables more control of the boat. 

Do Canoeing Professionals Kneel or sit?

There are different expert canoeing postures, all aimed at delivering the right thrust and stability of the boat. So which is which, and what is the precept set by canoeing professionals? 


Although it is not a mandatory rule, most canoeing experts, such as Bill Mason (a canoeing icon), recommend kneeling as the most efficient way to row a canoe.


Bill Mason further asserts that kneeling feels uncomfortable for most casual canoers because they don’t kneel enough to strengthen the necessary muscles for this task. Therefore, if you’re keen on the ultimate canoeing experience, you must take the initiative to practice kneeling often. 

Which is the best kneeling technique while canoeing?

When it comes to canoeing, there’s no one size fits all technique to adopt, as it all depends on the scenario at hand and what you’re aiming to achieve. 


If you’re looking for a short power bust to fight a current, you may opt to do the “one-knee” posture. The position ensures that your whole body is not compelled to kneel, thus cushioning you from the discomfort that comes with this position.


If you’re keen on more comfort while kneeling, you can adopt either of the following postures: 


  1. Kneel with your legs spread wide apart. The position significantly boosts stability
  2. Also, you can kneel with your butt leaning on the boat’s seat. 
  3. In addition, you can kneel while leaning to one side of the canoe. 


Thus, in a nutshell, your kneeling position will be primarily reliant on what you’re aiming to achieve. But the rule of thumb is that you must aim to be as close as possible to the canoe’s center as, essentially, you’re looking to improve its stability. 

What does heeling your canoe mean?

You may have had canoeing experts advise others to heel for improved rowing. So what does that mean? 


When you heel your canoe, you kneel on its center while leaning towards the side where you’re paddling. Consequently, the canoe will tilt towards that end, which will significantly improve the strength of the strokes. Also, there’s a significant lowering of the boat’s center of gravity, thus enhanced stability. 


Heeling is effective when you row in turbulent waters or want to move faster. 

How to improve kneeling comfort while canoeing?

Kneeling definitely hurts, especially if you are doing it for long or vigorously rowing against a strong current while in this position. But, there are ways of improving the experience, such as the following: 

Make good use of your seat

Kneeling with your whole body weight pressing on your knees will hurt after some time. Thus, you need to help your knees by alleviating some of this weight, primarily by leaning on the edge of the canoe seat. 


Also, while in this posture, you can freely move up and down, which is handy as you control the boat. 

Use kneepads

You can install kneel pads on the canoe to relieve pressure and pain on the knees. This is especially cardinal when you need to paddle quite strongly and are also looking to row from a stable position. 

Other Paddling Postures you should Consider

Kneeling is the go-to technique, especially while you’re rowing a traditional canoe. But it’s not the only one and may not be the most efficient in some scenarios and other canoe designs. Check out other valuable positions during canoeing.

Canoeing while Standing

Standing in a canoe is an unconventional paddling position, but some advanced users recommend it in some situations. Of course, standing hurts and may distort the boat’s center of gravity. So why and when should you stand?


If you’re an experienced canoer, you can stand with your paddling side leg pressed against the seat when in calm waters. Also, when poling the canoe, standing will be handy, but again the technique is specifically effective if the waters are relatively shallow. Lastly, standing is common when fishing. 


Otherwise, standing is the exception rather than the custom canoeing standard. 

Canoeing while Sitting

Forget all the fanfare surrounding the upsides of kneeling while canoeing when it comes to modern canoeing, as sitting has since been adopted as the new normal. 


The design of most contemporary canoes makes sitting the most comfortable position. In fact, kneeling on such vessels, especially ones with tractor-style seats, makes the canoe unstable. 


Probably, the recent dalliance of canoe manufacturers with sitting stems comes with the pressing discomfort that is commonplace during kneeling. As such, they’ve also taken care of the primary issue that prompts one to knee; most seats are situated at a point with the lowest center of gravity. 

To Conclude 

In a nutshell, canoers will kneel to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. Also, given that kneeling is painful, you can lean your butt on the canoe seat or have kneepads on the canoe’s surface. 


But as we have highlighted, kneeling is limited to conventional canoes as most manufacturers have come up with ways of keeping the center of gravity low without the need for kneeling. 


Lastly, you may also opt to stand while canoeing, but this depends on whether you’re on shallow or deep waters. Hopefully, you’re now in the light on why canoers kneel. See you later in our other canoeing articles.

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