seat pulls vs tractor pulls

What is the difference between seat pulls and tractor pulls? I've heard these terms used now and then but never seen these methods in action. Is one better for a team to use than the other? We are a senior masters women's team. Would we be well advised to start using one of these technique as part of race seat assignment criteria?

Submitted by ho'okele on Sat, 07/05/2014 - 5:14am

Since no one responded to your question..figured I would give it a try since I think I have participated in "seat pulls." pulls are when everyone is in their respective seats....and seat one pulls through a one else paddling. Then seats two pulls through a one else paddling...repeat through seat 5 (steersman exempt).,. Everyone gets a good idea who is pulling the canoe for the farthest glide. But it is not as objective as an actual tractor pull where the paddler sits in seat one or two (big paddlers may have problems in seat one due to width) and then go on a set course and timed distance using the same steersman and in as neutral water as possible. It also has nothing to do with the timing and blend that a crew needs and that a good coach can be counted on to put it all together. But at least it is somewhat objective and helps the coach figure it out.
And by the way..if tractor pulls are part of the equation...make them at least an 1/8th mile so it is not bluster and thrashing but a consistent pull where technique and conditioning also count.

#1 Sun, 07/06/2014 - 6:44pm

Thank you poidog, that's very helpful and useful to know.

#2 Sun, 07/06/2014 - 6:58pm

Ho'okele ...what you are going through is what every canoe club and respective crews go through...when there are more paddlers then seats and who gets to go, I know there are great coaches out there who go through this every season and I am hoping one of them will chime in to your question,...because paddletics creates ill feelings. and an objective approach helps to eliminate that.

#3 Sun, 07/06/2014 - 7:07pm

As poidog points out, there is no perfect measure, and, in fact, the measures are pretty bad, but, it's all we have, and it helps in some small way. Also, doing the exercises, and timetrials, should not be wasted time. Paddling almost always is good for paddling. My take on your specific question is this:

Seat pulls are not a timed event. Seat pulls, where all six paddlers are in the canoe, and paddlers change turns paddling, wether it's one paddler or two at a time, is an exercise and not a timetrial. Seat pulls, like pulling a tire, help with resistance training and help with efficient strokes. Once the water starts to cavitate the canoe looses speed. This is pretty good feedback for the paddlers.

Tractor pulls are when there is one paddler and one steers person. It is a timed event over a specific distance. It measures a certain type of paddling efficiency and strength. This does not measure finesse, or timing, or many other aspects of paddling. An ideal person to excel here are very strong individuals who also can apply the paddle deep without slippage (cavitation). There is a certain finesse to get the canoe up to speed but change is very slow.

Once man time trials measure a different aspect of paddling. Someone good here might be a lighter paddler who can respond very quickly to changing forces while still having an efficient stroke. Still doesn't measure the ability to blend (timing).

How someone works with others is a more difficult thing to measure but it is very important. In my opinion it's not as simple as "do they all look good and in time?"

#4 Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:58am

Some good info here and I didn't know what a tractor pull was. Here is my take on a seat pull:

Say you have two paddlers you want to evaluate. You build two crews with one of those to-be evaluated paddlers in each crew in the same seat. For example, paddler A is in crew1 in seat 3 and paddler B is in crew 2 in seat 3. Each crew paddles the exact same course, say around 3 miles, in a stretch of water that will offer little change as far as current, obstacles, etc. crews should be paddling at 75% and the canoes leave about 1 minute apart and are timed. After that lap paddler A moves into seat 3 in crew 2 and paddler B moves into seat 3 in crew 1. Both crews repeat the same course, leaving about a minute apart and are timed. At the end of two laps you have data in the form of time each crew took to cover the same course with the only variable being a paddler swap. This should be a more or less objective measure of who makes an oc6 go faster.

I know there are some flaws inherent in the process. It's the ocean after all, and conditions can change. Steering is another factor as lines could change. Also if one paddler is better liked than another the crew could pull a little harder, but in my mind that counts as a factor in blend. Anyway, that's what seat pulls mean to me.

#5 Mon, 07/07/2014 - 11:55am


We always called that a "seat race". Often times very telling. There are variables, but if you switch back and forth a few times and the boat with paddler A always wins, you kind of know who is better for the crew.

#6 Mon, 07/07/2014 - 1:20pm

I thought tractor, seat and tire "pulls" were discontinued a long time ago, for according to some coaches, these methods only "taught you to go slow?" They're fine for developing a stroke for towing steamships into the harbor, but useless for developing speed and swiftness. However, an old fashion tool, called the high knee Olympic canoe, still exist today, that's great for developing speed and swiftness.

#7 Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:34am

koacanoe, when I posed the question asking for clarity about seat pulls vs tractor pulls I was not so much looking for methods of developing speed on the water per se but rather for methods of determining who pulled the most water in an OC6 for when creating race crews.

I have noticed that in the OC1's often the lighter, slighter women, at least on our team, are faster than our heavier more muscular women. And the more muscular women have complained saying that though lagging in our OC1 workouts they state that they're pulling more water than our featherweights when in an OC6.

So, I was casting about for a way to establish a paddler's ability to move the canoe when in a six person boat.

Do you have some more current methods of isolating a paddler's specific ability in the OC6 that is more reliable than the ol'skool 'pulls'? If so, please share as I am really interested in knowing them.

thanks in advance.

#8 Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:36pm

I'm sorry hookele, but this is a technique problem and all the fooling around inside the 6man will not solve it. Isolate the stroke defects first with the complaining "muscular" paddlers and work on that, for you'll see tremendous improvement after 2 weeks. Hint: an obvious defect is the focus on pulling more water. Maybe if they pulled less, like the lighter paddlers, the canoe would travel faster?

#9 Wed, 07/09/2014 - 2:19pm

Ho'okele , what your asking for is the holy grail of outrigger crew selection criteria.
Tractor pulls , seat swaps , OC1/OC2 time trials , blending , experiance , technical skills , race results & sleeping with the coach are just a few ways to establish a paddlers ability to make a 0C6 go fast.
And each method needs to be taken into account with all the others.
Good luck.

#10 Wed, 07/09/2014 - 4:03pm

Thanks guys... I'm getting the picture...

really appreciate your insights and advice.

#11 Wed, 07/09/2014 - 7:18pm

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