Foto: Winfried Simon (note: paddling without PFD is only accepted during performance or competition)

The discipline of Canadian Style Paddling is older than that of Freestyle and it is always performed in tandem canoes, paddled solo. Paddlers use traditional paddles, which have a significantly longer and narrower blade than regular touring or whitewater paddles. The paddle is not lifted out of the water for recovery, but 'sliced' back as silently as possible.

The paddler is kneeling in the middle of the tandem boat and close to the rail, in order to heel the boat over as far as possible. In contrast to Freestyle this position is maintained at all times. The focus of attention is much less on the specific strokes and techniques, but on the resulting boat movement.

There are four basic criteria to describe the movement of a boat: Does the pivot point (= the paddler) move? Does it move on a straight or a curved line? Does the boat pivot around its pivot point? What is the relation between the pivot rate and the curve rate?

This system can be used to describe in principle any possible boat movement, and indeed many possible combinations of boat movement and rotation are used in Canadian Style paddling. Those moves can be pretty complex, presenting a great challenge even to accomplished paddlers!

It is particularly fascinating to watch Canadian Style paddling performed by a group of two or more boats. Boat movements as described above can be a feast for the eyes when performed in synchronity, e.g. mirrored or in parallel. On top of that, there are beautiful rotational moves, with several boats moving around each other (do-si-do, pinwheel) or very close next to each other (interlocking pivots).

Movements usually are very slow but still carry a strong quality of dancing. That is why Canadian Style Paddling often is referred to as 'Canoe Dancing'.