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November 27, 2020

Woman on a Podoscaphe, ca. Late 19th Century

In 1858, an article in L’Illustration relates a podoscaphe navigation on the Rhine, from Rotterdam to Cologne. On August 19, 1878, the American JA Fowler crossed the Channel in a podoscaphe paddle in 11 hours.


The paddle podoscope is sometimes considered as a precursor of stand up paddle, a modern water sport where the practitioner stands on a board and propels himself with a long paddle.

A podoscaphe is a leisure craft made up of two floats (in wood or metal), linked together (by slats or rods), on which the practitioner puts his feet to stand. The podoscaphe was typically propelled using a long double paddle. Used especially in Europe in the middle of 19th century to the early 20th century, the practice of podoscaphe has disappeared in favor of other recreational boats (canoe , kayak...).

A paddle podoscaphe in L’Illustration, 1858.

Crossing the English Channel, 1878.

Crossing the English Channel, 1878.

At the end of the 19th  century, the podoscaphe also designated a pedal boat rudimentary, driven by one or more paddle wheels or propeller . This boat intended for the walk, also called “nautical velocipede” was inspired by the invention and the improvements of the first bicycles, from the 1860s. In the United Kingdom, the Prince of Wales would have sailed on this type of podoscaphe in 1879 on the waters of Windsor Park.




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