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The beginner's guide to canoeing: Basic strokes for paddling folks and everything you need to get started

Before you canoe a hundred miles, you'll want to get a grip on the basics. .  

Where to start

Tandem canoeing is the best way to start  ̶̶ keeping the boat straight is much easier with two people versus paddling solo.

Many Canadians never take formal lessons, learning from friends or family on summer vacations at cottages or while camping. You can also learn through trial, error and YouTube. However, a basic skills course can cut down on the frustration of zigzagging (not fun), as well as the tipping (refreshing on a hot day, but otherwise, not fun).

Equipment you'll need

Many parks, conservation areas, outfitters and campgrounds in Canada rent canoe packages, providing everything you'll need:  

1. A canoe: Generally canoes are quite stable, but the longer and wider it is, the greater stability the canoe has. For two people, common sizes range from 15 to over 17 feet long.

2. Two paddles: Determine the right paddle by turning the paddle upside down, with the grip on the floor. The throat of the paddle, where the blade begins, should reach between your chin and nose.

3. Two life jackets: You require a personal flotation device (PFD) for each person, but Transport Canada does not make you wear them. However, they work much better when you do!  

4. Safety equipment: Transport Canada also requires you to have a whistle to call for help (often comes with the PFD), a bailer and a buoyant rope at least 15 metres long.

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