Master the J-Stroke & Goon Stroke

J Stroke in canoe
J Stroke in canoe

Two strokes that will have your canoe traveling in a straight line and essential for soloing a canoe or SUP.

The J Stroke

What is it?

The J Stroke is a combination of forward paddling with a correction stroke (turning) to help steer the canoe and keep it on course. It is the most effective way to keep your boat going in a straight line while keeping your momentum.

Edging - another essential skill

Edging is a controlled balance of the canoe on its side. It involves heeling the canoe in a controlled manner by shifting our weight sideways but keeping our head over the boat (different to leaning out).

Learning the J-Stroke

  • It is important to get the boat running forward to allow the canoe to pick up speed to track in a straight line.
  • Learning these skills in a sheltered non-windy environment will speed up the learning process.
  • The top hand rotates downwards (thumb-down) on the J stroke to control the steering phase.


Once we have mastered this we can develop our J stroke further with more traditional longer J’s and modern J Strokes with more power and a shorter corrective phase using the gunnels for more leverage (high power phase and shorter corrective phase).

Goon Stroke (Canoe / SUP)

• The Goon Stroke is a useful stroke in the solo canoeists repertoire usually offering quicker delivery of power than the J stroke so is often used to power into an eddy (still water areas on a fast-flowing river) or getting onto a wave to surf your canoe.
• This stroke more obviously shows off the components of forward paddling stroke linked to steering stroke (called a pry) pushing the paddle away from the canoe off the gunnel.
• The top hand rotates upwards (thumb-up) on the goon stroke to control the steering phase.
• As you get more proficient try to experiment with active movement of your body to reach further forward to improve the rotation and extend your power phase.

Handy Hint: Imagine the motion of pull and plaster with your paddle. Pulling the water towards you until you reach your hip and then rotating the paddle 90 degrees to ‘plaster’ the paddle on the side of the canoe (to engage steering).