River-surfing a canoe is one of the ultimate whitewater moves. It’s like you’re dancing a waltz with the river.
Just keep in mind that if you don’t know the proper dance steps, you’ll end up going for a nasty swim.
You first must be able to read the water if you’re going to complete an extended and controlled front (upstream) surf, with perfectly timed side-to-side and back-and-forth motion. At first, the surf wave appears static and constant. The trough doesn’t move and the depth of the wave stays the same.
However, the moment you ferry into the wave and position your bow into the crest, the weight of your boat flattens the wave and changes the shape of the churning water. More importantly, the stern of the canoe forms a gaping groove trailing downstream, which quickly reduces the wave’s grip on your canoe.
You may be better off if you keep moving to different positions in the wave, rather than staying unvarying. Holding the same place on the face of the wave between the crest and trough can be a real challenge.
A breaking backstroke usually stops your bow from plunging down and filling your boat up with water, or worse, spinning you around and off the wave. Simply dragging your paddle blade on an angle on the surface of the water will create enough friction to pull you back up on the surf.
A floating rudder stroke, combined with titling your weight, will keep your boat moving side-to-side, which is the best manoeuvre to keep you surfing longer. The main trick, however, is to work with the wave as it changes beneath you, not constantly fight against the force of it. Changing your position up and down and side to side you’ll be able to stay on the face of wave and not drop down into the trough.
Remember, the longer you ride the surf the better you look… and the more fun you’ll have.