Style Canoeing Program

There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe.

Bill Mason

The Style Canoeing program follows in the footsteps of Omer Stringer, Bill Mason, Becky Mason, and others paddling in a classic Canadian form also called “Omering”, or Classic Solo Canoeing. This is a quiet water solo paddling style where the canoe is moved across the water in free flowing graceful motions and routines. It uses a traditional tandem canoe paddled on one side, with occasional cross strokes. The canoe is heeled to the paddling side with the gunwale near the water surface and the canoeist is quiet [sitting still almost invisible]; the focus is on the movement of the canoe. Canoe Dance or Ballet is subset of Style canoeing with usually longer routines done to music. American Freestyle is a closely related discipline that typically uses smaller canoes, many dramatic static strokes, and more body movement. An introduction to the basics of this more recent Style technique is included as part of this program.

Paddlers will gain an intimate feel of the connection between body, water, and canoe. By the end of the program they will be able to take the canoe through a series of precisely controlled quiet water routines as a single paddler or as part of a group. Participants will finish each course with a good understanding of the effect of hull shape, edging, body position, and strokes. Advancement from one level to the next will mean extending basic manoeuvres into routines with tighter corridors along with mastering new skills and new manoeuvres.

Although the Style program can be entered with Intro Solo skills the actual paddling skill requirements are quite high.  Paddle Canada recommends that participants have paddling skills and boat control at the Intermediate Lake Solo level.

The Style program is divided into three broad steps:

  • Introduction. Basic introduction to the concepts and forward control, weight turns, pivots.
  • Intermediate. Controlled weight turns, intro to variety of reverse manoeuvres, and simple routines.
  • Advanced. Controlled reverse, advanced routines, weight sift and static strokes (Intro to American Freestyle).

Program Goal

Participants will learn precise paddling skills that display graceful and fluid motions of the canoe during manoeuvres and routines showing a high level of precision boat control in a quiet water environment.

Ratios for Style Canoeing Program

Introduction to Advanced levels are taught with a maximum ratio of one instructor to six students (1:6)

Course Length

Minimum time required to complete each course:

  • Introduction: 8 hours (2 days will be required if the participant does not have the required Basic Canoe and Solo Skills)
  • Intermediate: 8 hours
  • Advanced: 8 hours

Participants should expect to practice at least two additional hours for every hour of instruction time.  Instructors may include this as part of the course time or run courses over a longer period of time.  This is especially true at Intermediate and Advanced levels where routines need to be choreographed and practised.

Age Requirements

There are no age restrictions for any Skills Courses except at the discretion of the Course Director please check with them. For all Style Canoe instructor courses there is a minimum age of 16.

Boat and Paddle

Style canoeing takes its history and development from paddling traditional tandem lake and tripping canoes; the program reflects this heritage. At the Introduction and Intermediate levels a traditional tandem canoe, with a symmetrical shape, some rocker, and arched hull (soft chines) is suitable. An ottertail paddle with a straight shaft and symmetrical grip is a good starting paddle. When working at the advanced level the same canoe and paddle can be used but some of the manoeuvres may be easier in a smaller solo canoe.


Since Style canoeing focuses primarily on canoe control on quiet water only a small area is required. A pool, sheltered pond, or small lake with 50m open water is usually adequate – larger groups may require more space. The water should be deep (1.5m or more) and free of obstructions or weeds allowing the deep paddle placement required of many of the strokes used in Style canoeing.