Canoe Draw Stroke

Canoeing Draw Stroke. Photo Credit: Becky Mason

The canoe draw stroke, along with the j-stroke, is one of the most important canoe strokes to learn yet many recreational canoeists don’t even know it exists. It is for this reason that they are forced to constantly switch the side from which they are paddling. Learning the canoe draw stroke will help to keep the canoe moving in a straight direction, thereby eliminating the need to switch sides frequently.

The gist of this stroke is that you begin by pulling the canoe to the side and then as the paddle gets close to the boat you rotate it into a forward stroke.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: A few times out on the water

Here’s How:

Canoe Draw Stroke: Maintaining Proper Form
Be sure that you are holding the canoe paddle properly and that you are sitting up straight throughout the draw stroke.

Canoe Draw Stroke: The Beginning
Raise the paddle up, bringing the top hand to about head level while keeping the shaft of the paddle out to the side and not angled across the body. As you are bringing the paddle up and out, rotate the paddle blade parallel to the boat since you are going to attempt to pull the paddle toward the boat.

Canoe Draw Stroke: The Catch Phase
Push the lower hand further out to the side and in front of your position. Reach the paddle blade as far away from the canoe as you can while still maintaining a good upright posture. Place the blade in the water with the blade parallel to the boat.

Canoe Draw Stroke: The Draw Phase
Pull the paddle toward (perpendicular to) the canoe. As you are pulling the paddle toward the canoe you are actually pulling the canoe toward the paddle.

Canoe Draw Stroke: Twist the Canoe Paddle

Once the paddle is close to the side of the canoe twist the paddle to be perpendicular to the boat and move right into the next step..

Canoe Draw Stroke: The Power Phase
The remainder of the stroke is completed similar to the forward stroke.

Canoe Draw Stroke: Upper Body Involvement
Use the torso and upper body rotation to aid in the stroke to give maximum power. You shouldn’t be using your arms as much as you use the rotation of your torso.

Canoe Draw Stroke: The Recovery
Remove the canoe paddle from the water by slicing it out and rotating the body to go back to step 2.


  • The draw phase and the power phase of the stroke should flow into each other as one complete stroke.
  • This stroke should look like the opposite of the j-stroke from above.
  • The draw stroke can be employed by both the bow and stern paddlers as needed.

What You Need:

  • Canoe
  • Paddle
  • PFD