Canoe Poling - ACA

Canoe Poling

Canoe poling is a fantastic way to navigate relatively shallow, rocky bottom rivers. Since polers push off the bottom most of the time, it is easy to go both upstream and downstream. Historically, most polers used wooden poles with either a metal shoe on one end of the pole, or a metal spike at each end of the pole. Wooden poles are still a good place to start, however it is now more common to use an aircraft aluminum pole with a delrin plug and a metal spike at each end, so both ends of the pole can be used interchangeably. The poler stands in the canoe usually about a foot behind the center thwart when going upstream, and can move forward as needed to trim the canoe differently for going downstream slower than the current. Traditional polers stood with one foot further forward than the other, and poled on one side of  the canoe.  Recreational polers usually stand square, and pole on both sides of the canoe. In either position, the polers’ feet are located near where the floor curves up to the side of the canoe, with one foot on each side, and the poler’s weight is centered over the keel-line of the boat. By weighting feet differently, polers can lean the boat for a turn while still staying balanced.

In 1965, the ACA held its first National Canoe Poling Championships on the Meramac River in Missouri. Two types of races are held: Wildwater and Slalom. The start and finish line are usually the same location. The Wildwater race has a buoy upstream and a buoy downstream of the start/finish line, and the racer chooses their path around each buoy and back to the start/finish line. For Wildwater, each racer only gets one run, if they fall out of the boat they can get back in and keep going. For the Slalom, buoys are setup to navigate the canoe through river features such as eddy turns, peel outs, reverse gates, forward gates, and circle buoys. Each racer gets two chances on the slalom course, where the best time counts.

National Championships - Past Results

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Canoe Poling Photo Archive

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Canoe Poling Equipment

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