Test your knowledge of canoeing skills

Tippy canoe? See if your paddling know-how will stay afloat in this canoeing quiz.

WHEN I WAS A SCOUT in the 1950s, my greatest thrill was summer camp and the overnight canoe trip. Only Scouts who passed their swimming requirement were invited. If you knew how to run waves and steer around rocks, you were considered a hero. Hitting a rock — or worse, capsizing — drew laughter. As in life, good skills were rewarded, and bad ones had consequences.

Before heading out on a canoeing trip with your troop or crew, test their knowledge of the sport. Choose the best answer.



  1. We could use this as a training session during a troop meeting if the correct answer were displayed right after the scouts make a selection, instead of having to go to a separate site for the correct answer.

  2. This quiz was truly terrible. Some of the questions did not have enough information to give an answer (example: If a train leaves Memphis at 10AM, and another train leaves Nashville at 11 AM, how many tea leaves are in a cup of Earl Grey tea?), others had no reasonable answer available, while others were so badly worded there was no way to divine what the heck the quiz’s author had in mind. One of them had two right answers. I am a veteran of 4+ rapids and know what I’m talking about when I discuss whitewater. This quiz had no merit.

    • I disagree with you. This test had some difficult questions that required experience and prior experience. But overall, its very good information. Part of the purpose is to inform the reader there are things they are unaware of.

  3. I wonder how one can do a backstroke when they’re swimming with their feet pointed downstream? Whoever wrote this quiz needs remedial A)English and B)Canoeing classes.

    • This one is very easy. Your life jacket keeps you afloat, the paddle is a tool to help steer as you approach. your feet protect you from hidden rocks when you aren’t managing obstacles. your arms are used to just stroke backwards to help steer you gently to the shore as you can manage. it’s not a “textbook backstroke”.

      • I’m having difficulty picturing holding and using the paddle and doing the backstroke simultaneously. Am I managing the paddle with one hand and stroking with the other?

      • Peter: the backstroke can be executed to move you straight back, or on any angle backwards. In its simplest form you just hold the paddle like for a forward stroke, reach back and push forward. For more control and complete control of the angle, you turn your body (twist it) to face the river, like you’re executing a “draw”. Then you DRAW powerfully, adjusting the angle of the stroke to accomplish the move you want. The stroke may vary from a classic “draw” (produces dead sideways motion) to a precise “backstroke” (produces dead back motion). There are really only about ten or so canoe strokes, but by changing the angle and blending them, you can make the canoe move in any direction you want, alone or with a partner.

  4. And, it would also be nice if the web site didn’t throw your answers away and make you start the quiz over if you left a comment before reviewing the answers. .

  5. The page preceding your quiz says, “See if your paddling know-how will stay afloat in this canoeing quiz. To find a full list of answers and explanations by the author, please visit: http://wp.me/p3QeI3-33j“; but, when I enter “http://wp.me/p3QeI3-33j” into a browser, it redirects me back to the quiz or to the “https://scoutingmagazine.org/2007/11/” page of your archive.

    I *really* wanted to read the answers AND the explanations. Somebody needs to check the links you post.

  6. When you print a quiz in the magazine, have the decency and common courtesy to print the answers in the magazine. Don’t use the magazine as a shill for your website.

  7. It has been 40 years since my last canoe trip. I thought that the gray in my hair would help me divine the correct answers. Not so. I need a refresher and will read the canoe mb book just “for fun” and of course to be a better informed scoutmaster. Thank you for the chance to test my knowledge/skill.

  8. Thanks for reminding me of some of the more subtle aspects of canoeing. Good job posting a link on-line and providing a nice on-line test that is graded when you complete. I found this article very interesting and helpful.

  9. Thank you all, for your comments on this quiz. Admittedly, I wrote it for paddlers who don’t have much experience. Hence, I avoided essential whitewater maneuvers like eddy turn’s, peel-outs and “day-saving” strokes like high and low braces. For example, advanced paddlers know that there are other ways of avoiding that ledge in question 3. You could “back ferry” around it (preferred); “forward ferry” if you have a canoe that turns easily; possibly back ferry to the right shore and ground there if the shoreline permits. What’s best, of course, depends on many variables which can’t be well defined in a quiz of this nature. Similarily, it’s one thing when a canoe begins to surf, another if that surf is driving you into a bouldery shore–in which case, breaking the surf may be your only option–even if it may mean a swamped canoe. At any rate, thank you all for your comments, and most of all, for giving your heart to Scouting.
    Cliff Jacobson

    • in 50 feet you cant reverse the canoe in fast current:: bow move left by rudder, draw, on left
      stern rudder on right. after 30+ annual week long wilderness canoe trips i’ve done all the situations including dumping, lots of fun – but – don’t text while paddling!

      • Rich:
        With due respect, you won’t spin a canoe sideways fast with a rudder. If the bow is paddling on the left, the stern on the right–both would do a powerful draw. This should snap the canoe 90 degrees left. Then, the stern either does a powerful diagonal draw or a draw while the bow powers forward. Now, you’re facing upstream, about 30 degrees to the current. The angled canoe + forward motion move you sideways, directly across the river to river left. Congratulations! You’ve cleared the ledge. I’ve done this maneuver hundreds of times. If the current is less than strong back paddling speed (as in the example), downstream drift should be little more than a canoe length–that is, if you have a good team.

  10. Ok, gang, I just took my own quiz and missed one question (#9). The problem was that one of the original choices was omitted when the question (which originally #8) went up on the web-site. Our apologies here. I couldn’t access the “rationale” for the answers either, so this must be a web error. The expanded rationale addresses other variables and options so it’s important to read. Also, many of the questions had more than one right answer and credit should have been given to any of the correct ones you got right–not just one. When it comes to canoeing, there is often more than one good option.

  11. I found an error in my quiz.Question #5 should be choice (a). Choices (b) and (c) may result in a capsize. There are times when turning broadside on a surf can save the day–like when the surf is driving you into a bouldery shore. But a swamping or capsize is likely. Best plan is to have the bow keep paddling while the stern holds a strong rudder to hold the course. My error; sorry.

  12. The program marked wrong some questions that I had selected the right answer. I kept a separate sheet with the number and corresponding answer I had selected.

  13. Overall a good review. However, I wonder if you are aware that as of April 2014 Royalex is no longer being manufactured? Last year PolyOne, a plastics company in Ohio, purchased the company that produced Royalex and decided to end production due to low volume. The last sheets of Royalex were shipped from the factory in December, 2013.

    • There are other materials close to royalex. My old towns take a severe beating and still hold up extremely well. I do make a gaurd for the bow. My canoes get dragged on to the shores of missouri streams. I spray truck bed liner on the bow . Some of the canoe rentals do other things to protect the bow. I have two the guide 169 and guide 149. They are going on ten years and several thousand miles on them.

  14. Cliff,
    Thanks for the “continuing” education. When I was in high school back in the ’80s, my dad was a big fan of yours and I have a signed copy of your book “Camping Secrets” that he passed on down to me. Your other books are now part of the troop library.

    When I was in BWCA with my son’s troop in ’12 heading down the portage trail with my bungee cord portage tump, another dude with gray hair called me out: “Hey – that’s an old Jacobson trick!” and I agreed.

    Thanks for this great quiz. Taken from a scouting perspective (safety first), I thought the questions and answers were appropriate for the intended audience. I enjoyed taking it with my daughter (13). We just made our first overnight canoe trip this summer to the Willow Flowage and maybe a BWCA trip is in her future.

    I return your comment to my dad:
    “Wishing you the wonders of the back country”

  15. RE question 6: Sitting in the canoe will provide the best stability by lowering the center of gravity the most but, good luck trying to see anything ahead of you!

    RE: question 8: Either define “upstream V” and “downstream V” or ask the question in terms of the point of the “V”. If the point of the “V” is upstream (as I interpreted it) there is most definitely a rock or other obstruction below it, hence answer (a) would be true.

    • Sorry, Val, I must disagree. Whether you sit or kneel in rapids in a canoe depends largely on the height of your seat. Hot cruising canoes have low mounted seats for stability. These seats are too low to safely kneel under–your feet may get trapped under the seat in a capsize. High volume canoes (most Royalex, polyethylene and aluminum models) have high seats–your feet won’t get caught when you kneel. Sitting in a low seat can be very stable in rapids if you brace your knees against the sidewalls of the canoe and lock them just below the inhale (inside gunnel). You can literally roll the canoe on its side and you won’t fall out. Try this on grass–you’ll be surprised. Bottom line is that if possible, it’s usually best to kneel because you have “three point” stability and can control the roll of the canoe–more so if you have knee straps and foot braces. As to the “upstream” vs. “downstream” vee, question, my apologies here: I used the vernacular of river runners. As you observe, a simpler description probably would have been better.

    • My apology. The terms “upstream and downstream V’ are standard terminology in the canoeing literature. I should have defined the difference for my audience. Your point is well taken and appreciated.

  16. This was a lot of fun. Thanks for creating it.
    Maybe the questions weren’t all worded perfectly but it certainly was thought provoking.

    • Eric, unfortunately, it would take too much space in the magazine to explain in detail why an answer is right or wrong. If you have a specific question, please write back and I’ll do my best to provide the rationale. Thank you for writing. Best, Cliff

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.