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April 29, 1993|ANNE KLARNER

That's it! It's the perfect family activity. We'll get a canoe, toss the kids in and paddle out to the middle of the lake, or maybe even shoot some rapids.

Or maybe not.

A canoe is "the hardest boat to paddle well," says American Canoe Instructor Ric Taylor. "You shouldn't be in a canoe if you're not willing to get wet."

Taylor will be giving a seminar on the "Basics of Canoeing" tonight at the REI Store in San Dimas. He agrees that canoeing is a great activity for families, especially in calm waters.

"You can put the kids in the middle and the parents in front and back. As long as they wear a life jacket, it's not very dangerous in a lake," he says. "It's very, very safe if you stay about half the distance you can swim from the shore."

Taylor's point is that you have to know what you're doing. Just getting into a canoe can be well, farcical.

"You think, what an easy boat, and then you take that first step and you take a swim," he says.

That's because most people try to get in a canoe feet

first and tip it over.

"You have to put your weight onto your hands," he says.

Then there's the stroke.

"Most people get tired because they use their arms a lot," he says. "You twist your torso; you've got much more muscles there."

Nor is there just one stroke. Taylor says that advanced canoeists use 27 to 30 different strokes.

But once you learn what to do, canoes can do just about anything you want.

"It's the most adaptable craft in the world," Taylor says. "I've sailed my canoe (with a special rig). You can put a motor on it. You can go on any type of water. I've slept under them. I've slept on top of them."

Taylor has even used canoes as tables and, with a tarp and some hot rocks, made a temporary sauna out of one.

The free talk starts at 7 p.m. at the store, 602 W. Arrow Highway.

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