CANI E-zine 12th May 2020

Open Canoes- What a Pole Should be Made Of!

By John Wilkinson, 12th May 2020

John Wilkinson with his pole

So, lets start of with some intentional good-natured hackle raising.  

Those of us that know, know that the only style of canoeing for development of maximum skills is open canoeing.  Every style of boat has is pros and cons, but the open boat would have been Da Vinci’s choice.  The open canoe is the realm of the paddlesport polymath.  What other style offers us the opportunities to develop such a wide range of paddle strokes and combination, our utilisation of knowledge of trim and edge, our need to pick and choose the route to avoid the worst of prevailing weather, the chance to run churning white water (within reason), to pole our way upstream, or snub our way down, to carry the kitchen sink when we go camping, to sail solo or in rafts, to understand and manage long portages in back country (with that kitchen sink!), to expand all of this to include another in the boat, and to do all this on small streams, river, lake and sea.

Sadly the truth is that much of the breadth of this skill set has eroded away in recent years and, in my opinion, some of the most enjoyable and challenging elements have been relegated to form little chunks of open canoe training and then shelved as oddities – namely, poling and sailing.   To address this, it was to be part of the Paddle- for-Sport plan this year to bring in some poling coaching and competition and potentially a sailing event.  However, both are clearly on hold!

John Wilkinson on the water

The intention of this short article, other than to annoy the non open boaters, is to raise some points for thoughts and discussion on canoe poles.  In this instance I’d like to focus on one area, the obvious one of materials.  This is not about selling anything so brand/makes/ retailers is not relevant.

Materials.  In short we have the commercially available options of aluminium/alloy, Carbon fibre and wood.  Each with its own benefits and failings.  These fall into feel, flex and durability

  • How the material feels in your hand is significant and in our climate the key tends to be how cold it is.  
  • Flex is a debateable one and worthy of discussion.  Too much flex and the pole has no power, too little flex and it is sore on the body.  A little flex also provides a nice bit of spring.  
  • Durability.  Traditional wooden poles were always seen as short-term investments – often cut when needed and discarded afterwards in a countryside with loads of trees.  The life of a pole clearly hangs partially on the skill of the owner and the ability to quick release when it is trapped.   Most poles die with their tip trapped between rocks and a heavy canoe refusing to obey the polers directions to stop.

Alloy poles are cold on your hands and feel hard to the touch, they have little flex so bend under serious strain.  They are the cheapest and usually come as splits at 12ft and around £65-70.   They float because the ends are bunged and they have air inside.

Carbon poles are warmer on your hands and have a softer feel than alloy, they flex a little but can be prone to snapping when trapped.  They are the most expensive and usually come as splits at 12ft and around £90-105. They float because the ends are bunged and they have air inside.

Wooden poles are the warmest on your hands, a softer feel than Carbon and have the most flex, and are less prone to snapping when trapped.   However, wooden poles in the UK are rare, are invariably one piece long and therefore, for postal reasons, tend to be 10ft.  You can get a wooden pole for around £70.  Wooden poles float.

John Wilkinson with his open canoe

As a traditionalist in paddle sports it would not come as a surprise that I personally use a wooden pole.  I have two, both of which have seen a good deal of service over the ten years I have had them, and one or the other of them goes with me on every open canoe paddle trip.

Please see the full report here.

Many thanks to John Wilkinson for providing this fantastic report!

What Does Paddling Mean to You?

CANI are keen to find out what paddling means to you! If you have a few spare moments during the Covid-19 lockdown to write a short paragraph on what paddling means to you we would be very keen to hear from you and please send it to CANI Chief Officer, Lauren Smythe, at Please also feel free to include a photo if you give us permission to share alongside your comments. 

We will aim to include as many short articles from members and stakeholders in as wide a range of paddling disciplines as possible in upcoming editions of the CANI News Splash. Whether you are a recreational paddler, a coach, a committee member or an experienced paddler please help us by getting involved and help inspire, entertain and engage those of all ages and backgrounds in the paddling community in Northern Ireland with your thoughts and experiences.

We look forward to hearing from you and please stay safe!

NSPCC Helpline Campaign

Home isn’t always a safe place. Schools closing could put some children at greater risk of abuse and neglect and that’s why we’re supporting the NSPCC. If you’re worried about a child or young person, or if you notice that something just doesn’t seem right, the @NSPCC is here. You can talk to their helpline team who offer free support and guidance on 0808 800 5000 (8am-10pm Mon-Fri / 9am-6pm weekends) or you can email 24/7.

Northern Ireland Sports Forum (NISF) Webinars

NISF partners 2into3 are hosting a series of Webinars, each one will be a deep dive into a selected Fundraising method.  They will take place on the dates below.

  • Thursday 21st May Topic: Fundraising in a Covid-19 World
  • Wednesday 27th May Topic:  Understanding Impact
Paddle Clubs can register for the webinars here.

British Canoeing Paddlecast Series

Following the success of the Paddlers Podcast Series last year, British Canoeing will be recording a new video Paddlecast series, that will be available for you to watch live on social media every week for the next six weeks (to 4th June 2020).  Some episodes will be streamed live.  

Submit your questions and tune in here.

Canoe Kids

The International Canoe Federation and British Canoeing have launched Canoe Kids, a web page especially dedicated to the younger members of the community and featuring activities suitable for children of all ages.  

To find out more click here .

4 Paddling Related Things to Do in Lockdown

Not being able to get out on the water at the moment might be tough. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use your time wisely to help you learn, gather skills and knowledge, and keep connected with your paddling buddies.

For ideas on what to do if you’re twiddling your thumbs, the British Canoeing Paddlers Portal here has a few suggestions. Stay safe, stay home and use this time for planning future adventures or brushing up on skills and knowledge to put into practice later in the year.

Here are the top 4 paddling related things to do in lockdown.

1. Get into some theory

There is some great advice in the digital library here.

2. Plan your biggest, best adventure to date – with all the trimmings

Plan, plan, plan… and plan some more! Use your spare time from not being on the water, to plan for a paddle trip instead. You might want to undertake a challenge or trail. Or you might fancy planning an adventure from scratch using Paddlepoints here.

3. Host a paddle related quiz for friends and family

Virtual quizzes have all of a sudden gone viral! Use google hangouts or zoom to set up a quiz with your normal paddling buddies. You could all pick a topic, doesn’t have to all be padding related, and see who will be crowned ‘King or Queen of the Paddle!’

4. Think about your Next Steps

Is there something within paddling you’ve always wanted to do? Perhaps you’d been eyeing up a course, or wanted to get more into a certain discipline? Use this time to consider your next steps in Paddlesport.  

Check out courses here.

HSCNI Fact Sheet, 12th May 2020

Please find the latest HSCNI fact sheet here for your information.