Trip Reports | Cooks River and Botany Bay

Canoe Training

Cooks River

25 July 2020 and 2 August 2020


On Saturday 25 July and Sunday 2 August (after Sunday 26 July was postponed due to strong wind and rain), eighteen Club members were introduced to the art of canoeing by one of Australia’s best canoe instructors, Travis Frenay from Paddle and Portage Canoes.


Travis started the group with the three basics for paddling a canoe—roughly where you intend to go, using a combination of forward, rudder and sweep strokes. Both groups quickly got the hang of the basic combinations before Travis introduced us to some more complex strokes.

  • Sweep strokes in tandem pairs (Hip to Tip and Tip to Hip) for quick powerful turns
  • Draw strokes for moving the canoe sideways
  • Feathered draw strokes, which requires delicate blade control and the paddler’s face to hold a steely expression while someone hums “Lady in red” somewhere in the background
  • Pry strokes for when you over do the steely expression and want to go back
  • The infamous J stroke which feels so awkward to start but once mastered allows a tandem or solo canoe to cruise with great efficiency
  • Bow draw strokes which when applied in a tandem pair with a sweep stroke makes a very powerful turning stroke which is a fundamental skill for paddling a canoe on moving or whitewater

Both groups finished the day with low bracing and capsize drills. The new paddlers learned how to empty a swamped canoe without going to shore and how to help get a paddler back into a canoe. The group on the Saturday showed particular grit as the heavens opened and the temperature dropped just as we prepared to go for a swim. It was fantastic to see the new canoe fleet put through their paces by a keen group of Club members.

The learning does not stop there, with a plan for further canoe adventures in the coming months, and possibly a moving water trip before the end of the year. Keep an eye on the Club calendar, emails and Facebook for more details.In the meantime check out, check out the following canoeing videos while socially isolating:

  • Mark Ornstein canoeing/dancing to Lady in Red
  • Waterwalker: A Bill Mason classic (see if you can spot the strokes listed above especially in the whitewater scenes)
  • Ray Goodwin’s Missinaibi River Video: This is a twelve day expedition down the Missinaibi River in Northern Ontario Canada. Most of the footage shows Rosemary (bow) and Ray (stern). You may notice Rosemary is frequently using draw, bow draws and cross bow draws to ‘complement’ Ray’s steering from the stern. There are some easy canoeable rapids in this video as well as examples of portage around and lining down rapids.
Canoe Training 2020-07-25
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