Banning the “goon stroke”

Stern rudderBill Mason says it’s “to be avoided like the plague” but when I’m canoeing and want to take a break from paddling yet still maintain a straight course – perhaps to observe another paddler’s technique or simply to enjoy the scenery around me – I will deliberately allow my blade to drift into a “goon stroke” as I too often hear it called.

It seems to me a great shame that the term “goon stroke”, with its many negative connotations, is given to such a useful technique with the result that many paddlers deride it. As well as being equally good for holding a course while cruising and running rapids, it’s just the stroke to have up one’s sleeve when surfing a wave, crossing a current or, dare I say it, performing steering corrections at the stern of a tandem canoe! Indeed, for many paddlers new to canoeing it’s the main steering stroke they use.

And yet it’s demonised! Even Bill Mason goes on to acknowledge that the stroke has its uses in white water canoeing and if we accept that, surely it makes sense to include it in a beginner’s repertoire from their earliest days on the water. If we’ve introduced a learner to a stern rudder in a kayak why not transfer that learning to canoe and then progress to the wonders of the J stroke family?

Ray Goodwin takes this fresh approach to the stern rudder in his book Canoeing and it was great to see Karl Midlane also recognising its role as a corrective canoe steering stroke in last month’s Canoe Focus.

So how about a ban on the use of the term “goon stroke”? Wouldn’t it be “new school” for us to reclaim the stern rudder as a valued canoe technique and consign the term “goon stroke” to history?

5 responses to “Banning the “goon stroke”

  1. Funny enough doing my 3 star today and the assessor Phil Hadley said the same thing. The name goon is derogative to a stroke that can be useful, especially in a white water environment.

  2. Yep Andy, it certainly is a useful option, and of course has been used recently in modified form – the (jabbing) stem pry, for quick acceleration, especially in a tight space like punching out of a small eddy.
    The name I find less unhelpful, when I remember it is named not after some kind of incompetent buffoon, but the beautiful national bird of Canada, and other Canadian national symbol (far eclipsed of course by the maple leaf).
    The Loon is of course a beautiful water bird, and it’s doleful cry provides a classic backdrop to many a river & lake journey.
    The image of a goon used to be on the Canadian dollar coin (if I remember rightly)
    Hope that helps reassure you of the iconic Canadian heritage of that very useful stroke.

  3. Both strokes have their uses so it’s only a naming problem due to the UK implication of the word goon. Why not call it the ‘G stroke’ ?

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