Anyone who has tried canoeing will know that it looks much easier than it actually is and the most important factor if you are sharing the task with others is communication.
It is best to agree on commands and hand signals before you even get in the water, with everyone knowing exactly what they need to do.
One person will naturally come to the fore as the leader and let them take charge, rather than find yourself in a situation when everyone is differing about.
As a rule, someone is at the bow or front of the boat, with another at the stern or back. You notice the bow seat is set a bit back and this is because the paddler here will require plenty of room for their legs. The down side of a lack of space is that the canoe will start to go backwards instead of forwards.
Whoever is paddling in the stern should take full responsibility for the direction in which you are going.
However you need to communicate with the guy at the front because he is the eyes of the operation. This is where well practiced hand signals come into play; it helps if everyone knows what they are doing.
Another factor of the person paddling at the back is to make sure that the boat stays stable. In basic terms if you paddle to your right it will take you left and consequently paddling left goes to the right.
Everyone should have the utmost trust in each other as once someone’s judgment is questioned everything will just go to pot.
As already mentioned the paddler at the front is the eyes and must be confident what they are doing and never falter. They should be always on the look out for danger in the form of logs, rocks and shallow water, making split second decisions based on what they see around them. All this must then be communicated to the paddler behind them.
The elements will be against you in terms of wind and other background noise so if necessary turn round to be heard easier. There are many incidents where with the two oars people must work very closely together, for example when maneuvering around an obstacle.
On top of everything else paddling against a strong wind is exhausting not to mention extremely exasperating. It is quite literally a battle against nature and quite often the fight will be lost.
The challenge of canoeing is what attracts people to the sport and once the basics are learnt there are plenty of more advanced techniques to master.