Flat or Lakewater paddlers often refer to the River J by another name, the “Goon Stroke.” Maybe this is because they have plenty of time to practice in an empty canoe. Or plenty of room to change critical canoe angles toward intended lines of flow, to avoid obstacles or get to docking sanctuaries.
But on guided canoe trips - to the Bowron Lakes Chain for instance – there is limited knowledge of client canoeing history, personality, or diversity. Loaded boats, local shorelines, flat and moving water conditions, local winds and wave patterns all provide a more varied context for helping canoes maneuver in a reasonable fashion. There are often two in the canoe who may not have known each other previously! (And that may be a good thing!)
The River J has many applications in both flat and moving water, with loaded and unloaded canoes. Novices or paddlers returning to the activity may struggle with the nuances of the standard J. Add a poorly trimmed canoe or a little wind and novices can be easily frustrated.
Guiding loaded canoes on otherwise flat water requires efficiency of power and steering strokes. A shoreline may be narrow on each side or you may need to stay close for safety, or away from it because of wave reflection.
The River J is efficient and timely when maneuvering in open water with increased wind or waves, crossing eddy lines with increased differential, or front ferrying with varying current speed and changing angles of flow.
The River J might be jerky but it gets the job done. It can bridge novice or rusty skills to more advanced paddling. It keeps a group together when needed. It helps those relearning how a canoe reacts to water, wind or a new bow partner. Then later, with patience, time, a neutrally trimmed canoe and calmer water, the Standard J, or Canadian J, or any other J can be learned.
Add a good understanding of the River J to your canoeing experience quiver! You won't regret it.