The Nature and Philosophy of the new Paddle Canada Canoe Program

by Brian Johnston

Over the past couple of years, the Canoe Program Development Committee (Canoe PDC) has been steadfastly developing a new Canoe Program with extensive input from paddlers across the country. The national program is relevant to canoeists from all regions of Canada and reflective of our diverse nation. The new program places emphasis on boat control, safety and enjoyment.

Paddle Canada as an organization promotes paddling literacy: the learning and practicing of physical movement and paddling skills, which leads to confidence (the ability to move a canoe with control in a wide range of paddling situations) when engaged in paddling activities. Paddling literacy incorporates the ability to look at, understand and react to the paddling environment (making appropriate and sound decisions).

The new Paddle Canada Canoe Program recognizes that paddling equipment can enhance control, safety and enjoyment. A properly outfitted canoe increases the paddler’s ability to control and manoeuvre the canoe as well as to stay in the boat, which aids safety, learning and enjoyment.

Diverse range of disciplines

The new Canoe Program is holistic in that it includes a diverse range of canoeing disciplines. It is also more comprehensive as each discipline outlines warm-up, review and general canoeing knowledge, plus a progression of skills (both rescue and safety) and difficulty as new skills are introduced at each level. The program aims to encourage people to be out paddling from the start, from day trips to multi-day excursions.

Exciting new disciplines are being explored and courses in both Big Canoe and Coastal Canoeing have already taken place. A new Canadian Style Canoeing discipline is in development with plans to have it ready for this canoeing season. Momentum for the new program is clearly growing.

Practice makes perfect

From Introduction to Advance courses, the Canoe Program progresses as it covers new strokes and improves upon candidates’ existing strokes, skills and knowledge. Learning strokes is a lifelong effort where mastery takes time, practice and experience. Mastery of the fundamental paddling strokes does not occur all at once. As candidates move through the program, instructors will look for improved stroke efficiency and finesse. Strokes are not test items, but they are fundamental to canoeing and paddling manoeuvres.

Flexible course formats

To help encourage uptake, courses are generally short in duration, usually representing the minimum time required, although many instructors may schedule extended courses. Obviously, mastery of all skills may not occur during a course. In order to successfully progress through the various levels, canoeists should practice and gain considerable paddling experience between courses. The comprehensive program, which includes a Waterfront Program, is achievable and marketable to younger canoeists.

There is increased flexibility and choice built into the program. Short clinics and modules (for example, Canoeing Basics) are now offered and instructors may teach solo and tandem canoeing as separate courses or together as one course.

There are skill and instructor courses so that paddlers may develop paddling skills as well as teaching skills. Instructor courses focus on teaching rather than paddling so it is imperative that instructor candidates achieve the appropriate skill level before attempting instructor certification. To that end, instructors must obtain a skill certification one level higher than the level to which they will be teaching (for instance, advanced skill paddlers instruct intermediate courses). In addition, both skill and instructor courses now contain more levels resulting in gradual, therefore more attainable, steps through the program.

Compared to the old program, the more levels and disciplines plus the shorter course lengths result in greater flexibility and choice in terms of course offering possibilities.

A wealth of knowledge

The program is current. It is reflective of how expert canoeists paddle today and incorporates the collective body of knowledge of the broader paddling community. It also recognizes the importance of proper paddling equipment to enhance control, safety and enjoyment while on the water.

Overall, the nature of the new program leads to a more progressive, attainable, flexible and marketable canoeing program. We believe it is a win-win situation for participants and instructors.

The Paddle Canada Canoe Program strives to meet the needs of recreational canoeists and instructors. Paddle Canada welcomes and values your input. You are encouraged to send your comments to Priscilla Haskin, Chair, Canoe Program Development Committee, at [email protected].