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  The Forward Stroke
  Posted by: ADNelson on Jun-05-13 8:01 AM (EST)
   Category: Kayaking Technique 

I am having a bit of a problem with it. After watching many Youtube videos and reading many articles, I knew that torso rotation is essential to good technique. I attempted to utilize it, and found that I can move my boat at a very good speed, both all-out and when cruising.

The more I paddle, however, I noticed that I probably am not rotating my torso as much as I should, and I am certainly not holding my arms in a box (my elbows come past my body). I endeavored, therefore, to really rotate myself, so that, when keeping my head aligned with my body, my field of vision was about 120 degrees. I also kept my arms in a box.

It did no good. I just became dizzy from moving my head so much, I tracked very badly, and I did not go as fast as when I used poor form. Not only this, but my arms were more tired from holding the paddle in the same position than they were if I used my poor technique.

I suppose that practice makes perfect and all that, but is there anything wrong with letting my elbows past myself?

(I only really kayak on relatively small lakes with waves only 6-8 inches high. I don't think that I am at risk for shoulder injuries.)

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Messages in this Topic


  new muscles
  Posted by: CapeFear on Jun-05-13 8:52 AM (EST)
I think it's another thing you have to get in shape for, or work your way up to. It's all about perfecting technique that allows you to apply the most power. Your arms got more tired holding them in a different position because you're using new muscles at a higher level. If you paddle often enough to get those muscles in shape, that part will be fine. Other than that, you're right, practice makes perfect. You were slower and not tracking straight, so it's obvious enough that good technique wasn't there.
Bent elbows don't cause shoulder injury. Having your shoulder rolled back with your arm extended straight is where you really put stress on the shoulders. So be careful not to substitute rolling your shoulder back in its joint while rolling the opposite shoulder forward in its joint as a substitute for actual torso rotation. If your shoulder is rolled back, you would be better off with a bent elbow than with a straight arm as far as shoulder injury is concerned.
  Welcome to the club.
  Posted by: Jackl on Jun-05-13 8:56 AM (EST)
I have been paddling a kayak for over fifteen years and cannot rotate properly.
No matter how I tried, it was just too uncomfortable.
I seemed to be able to do it fairly decent on my right side, but not on my left.
I finally gave up and have been a happy paddler with a poor stroke ever since.
The plus side, is I have great upper arm strength now.

Good luck,

Jack L
  Videos and DVDs
  Posted by: Dr_Disco on Jun-05-13 9:04 AM (EST)
I strongly recommend the Brent Reitz Forward Stroke Clinic Sea Kayaking DVD. It is easy to get confused and over analyze things given the amount of information, both good and bad, that is out there. The Reitz DVD is clear and what he says is correct. You don't need anything else. Having said that there is no reason for your arms to get more tired if you are rotating properly. Put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your belly. Rotate counter clockwise. Does your left hand move? If not, you are shoulder rotating and your arms will get tired. Repeat the rotation only this time push with your left leg to move your belly around. That is torso rotation.
  second Brent Reitz dvd
  Posted by: RavenWing on Jun-05-13 9:20 AM (EST)
also OP your head should not be swiveling which is making you dizzy.

You keep your head facing forward while your shoulders and torso pivot. So you can see where you're going ;)
  Good tracking can also depend on
  Posted by: shirlann on Jun-05-13 9:24 AM (EST)
the length of your kayak along with your height, weight, etc. variables.
So many folks get caught up in their desire/need for speed that one can miss the beauty of nature and a good physical workout.
Just go and enjoy.
  Posted by: Celia on Jun-05-13 10:46 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jun-05-13 11:29 AM EST --

Move the torso, leave the head looking where you are going.

Pedal with your feet to help get the hips into it, frees up the lower back a bit. Push forward on the right pedal (or foot if you have simplified with solid bulkhead blocks) when paddling on the right, left when pulling back with the left paddle. Also keeps hamstrings and hip parts that tend to want to stiffen up moving.

Try starting the paddle in the water further forward and making the stroke shorter. A good forward stroke that ends a little early is better than anything that pulls the paddle too far back. If you want to get more speed, increase cadence with short strokes rather than lengthening the stroke.

Recognize that unless you are a perfect paddler and/or 20 years old, one side is probably going to rotate better than the other. Or maybe you can be if you have never left the yoga studio. So you probably will have some correction going on here and there regardless of your best efforts.

  Posted by: magooch on Jun-05-13 12:00 PM (EST)
If you assume the paddlers box and concentrate on pushing with the high hand while maintaining the box, you can't help rotating a little. The opposite hand will pull without thinking about it. It might take a lot of paddling where you have to fixate on the pushing hand, before it all feels natural, but in time you'll be glad you did.

Some will say that your pulling hand really shouldn't be pulling at all and should be just a pivot point, but I think that depends on your pace.

I had a very experienced instructor try to demonstrate the proper forward stroke. I realize he exaggerated the movements, but even so, I've never seen anyone use that form. For me, it all has to flow and not be jerky.
  forward stroke drills
  Posted by: nickjc on Jun-05-13 12:25 PM (EST)
1. paddle with straight arms. get ALL your paddle movement from body rotation
2. pause then aim at the water and stab the paddle in while still rotated
3. keep the center of the paddle centered on your chest.
4. keep the top hand level as it comes across and drive it across as if you are pushing open a big door.
Getting the blade in early and FULLY before pulling usually makes the biggest difference in efficiency. Most people pull too early and end up with a very short stroke that ends too late.
Not sure why your head is turning side to side. Quit watching your paddle and look straight ahead.
In my sea kayak I tend to paddle with my knees off the braces and back not touching the back band. Being all locked in is nice for really rough conditions but limits your leg drive and core rotation.
  No dizzy head
  Posted by: pikabike on Jun-05-13 12:38 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jun-05-13 12:40 PM EST --

Look where you're going but don't stiffen up. Loosen up so that the upper body moves independently of the lower body; you'll need that for real torso rotation. By upper body, I mean above the hips--not just up from the chest.

Brent Reitz and Ben Lawry DVDs are both good places to start, but for me it took live coaching to finally break the bad habits. Also, realize improvement is a constant process (does not end after coaching or after a certain amount of time), checking mechanics every paddle.

At least now, it's a case of looking for smaller things instead of major problems. More importantly, I can evaluate it myself because I know what "doing it right" feels like. For example, sometimes I find that the boat is veering very slightly to the right in the absence of wind or current. I immediately know that I'm not rotating *quite* enough on my right side. It's an easy fix for sure, but I have to realize why what's happening is happening.

(The veering could also be caused by other things, including differing amounts of foot push, but from experience I know it's usually a matter of a tiny bit underrotation on the right side. And I do mean tiny. Once I fix it, though, it feels like the boat and I are flying.)

In other words, study the DVDs but expect that coaching will be part of the solution, if you have long-ingrained bad habits. They take diligence to correct but it is NOT impossible, though some of the comments I've heard imply it is.

  Posted by: poleplant on Jun-05-13 1:08 PM (EST)
Don't over think this. People have variable physiques. There are many ways to get the job done.
  Arm-paddling gets the job done
  Posted by: pikabike on Jun-06-13 1:32 PM (EST)
Just not as well.

Most people, including me, started off arm-paddling. It will result in forward motion, yes. I guess you could stop right there and be contented. But the OP asked about improving his technique.
  slightly different stance
  Posted by: Peter-CA on Jun-05-13 1:18 PM (EST)
I take a slightly different stance - do what is comfortable and lets you move your boat for the distances you paddle. I paddle with some advanced paddlers, and on the whole, few have good form. The true torso rotation and leg pushing is mostly only used by the racers. Can't recall a time I saw recreational paddlers (or even expedition paddlers) do it. At most they "shoulder rotate", not torso rotate.

What was really eye opening to me was the video clip in one of the This Is The Sea videos where they paddled with Paul Caffyn, the first person to circumnavigate Australia. He is an arm paddler - with no torso rotation at all. We are all taught that we must torso rotate, or the small muscles in our arms will get too tired. Didn't seem to bother him.

So I think the better early goal is to work toward shoulder rotation, rather than full on torso rotation. Keep the arms from bending much, set up a good box of space in front of you (the beach ball or pizza box), and have your shoulders move (so those larger muscles get involved) rather than using the arm muscles. There is very little actual torso rotation in this, more your shoulders moving forward and backward. This will help you move away from arm paddling, but isn't as much of a leap as going to the difficult full on torso rotation. And if you do get this, and you do want that full on racing torso rotation stroke, it is a much smaller leap.

But if you don't get this and still arm paddle, don't fret. If it worked for a lap of Australia, it would definitely work for a lap of the local pond.
  Posted by: Celia on Jun-05-13 1:27 PM (EST)
How would you tell if an expedition paddler was pedaling, short of asking them?

Racers often have quite high and visible knee action, and the visual clues on their action tend to be quite strong. For sea kayakers like myself, using probably less measured effort and likely a slower cadence than a racer, in boats with often lower decks - I can't figure out how you would be able to tell for sure.

FWIW, I haven't had a forward stroke class or section of training in a few years now at least where pedaling has not been mentioned. I assume that the coaches who are telling the class to do it are doing it themselves.
  lookm for rotation
  Posted by: Peter-CA on Jun-05-13 6:06 PM (EST)
How would you tell if they are pedaling (pushing with their feet)?
Even in a touring boat, you could see it in their body. If they are pushing with their feet, their lower body will be turning some (a hip shift). If you don't see any lower body motion, then they are not pushing (much, if at all) with their feet.

Now, I can see how my post might be read as saying that torso rotation shouldn't be a goal. If that if what you read, that is mot what I meant. Competitive racers and the like have an absolutely need for it. Going for long distances, it very likely would be very useful. But if you aren't in these categories and you try and it isn't coming that easily, don't sweat it that much. That is more what I am trying to say.
  Doubtful about it being easy to see
  Posted by: Celia on Jun-05-13 7:06 PM (EST)
I first questioned your comment because of your saying that you hadn't tended to see expedition paddlers pedaling. But for example in our winter pod, everyone is. As for many training groups I have been in. My experience cannot be so uncommon. We are not elite paddlers. My best guess is that you are seeing more of it than you can recognize.

But - and I think this is where the break is - by the time you have someone in a dry suit, a layer or two underneath and a PFD, in a neo deck skirt, it is going to be very difficult to spot lower body movement unless someone is sticking way up out of the cockpit and has prodigious action in their middle part. I have low decks on my boats, but by the time I am loaded up with those layers at 5'4" in height no one is going to be able to tell if the lower part is pedaling. The only visible evidence will be the quality of my torso rotation overall.

In summer, with also warm water, in more form fitting clothes, maybe. But in the northern part of the country, that is not the majority of the year.
  Full Torso Rotation is Not Hard
  Posted by: Dr_Disco on Jun-05-13 2:09 PM (EST)
And it is not done only by racers. Like any paddling skill that is not natural at the start it takes time to develop. But if you practice and do so consistently you will eventually do it automatically and never return to arm paddling. The one thing that is hardest for people to do, in my experience, is to not bend the lower arm. It should be in a relaxed, straight position until the paddle is lifted out. The top hand should travel across the bow at about eye level and should add push to the stroke. If you do both these things you will find rotation comes more naturally. Beware of people who tell you the paddle blade goes in at the toes and travels in a straight line close to the kayak. It does go in at the toes but travels gradually away from the side of the kayak. That happens automatically if you keep the lower arm straight.
  Ditto that.
  Posted by: seadart on Jun-05-13 2:27 PM (EST)
Find what works for you and stick with it.

Several years ago there was a regular poster here who was a very fast paddler and had exquisite form. He came out to San Diego on a trip a few of us here went paddling with him. He spent about a half hour with a constant critique of my paddling technique it was apparently driving him crazy that I was not finishing my strokes properly. After about an hour of this I excused my self and took off from the group. This "expert" is no longer kayaking and has never done an expedition or paddled anyplace but his home harbor in flat water. So my advice would be don't worry so much about achieving perfection, but find what works for your body -and get some instruction from some good live teachers, learning by video is a lot different than paddling in rough water and wind.
  if you're really interested
  Posted by: kwikle on Jun-05-13 3:41 PM (EST)
in improving your technique, video tape your paddling,and have a good coach look at what you're doing, and then begin improving one thing at a time.

  Forget Rotation And Try Using GPE
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-05-13 10:42 PM (EST)
Or your body weight as a power source. This is how I've paddled for the past 10 years after injuring my back, and rotation only aggravated the condition. Simply paddle as you normally do, but instead of rotating and pushing with your legs, just drop your weight onto the blade and see how effortless paddling can be. Yes, free effortless power or GPE (gravitational potential energy) is always available in considerable abundance. Save your back and energy, so you can paddle for hours without fatigue, and go much faster than those paddlers rotating their paddles like windmills on the water.
  Tell that to Oscar Chalupsky n.m.
  Posted by: Dr_Disco on Jun-05-13 10:53 PM (EST)
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-06-13 3:51 AM (EST)
Does he have a sore back?
  I was referring to this interview
  Posted by: Dr_Disco on Jun-06-13 12:24 PM (EST);wap2
  Thanks for posting that link
  Posted by: pikabike on Jun-06-13 2:20 PM (EST)
"For experienced paddlers, technique training can be done just by controlling the workout a little more, staying conscious of your blade placement, hip rotation, etc."

Nice to read that his emphases apply to non-racing paddling as well as racing. Also the emphasis on flatwater work for technique refinement. I've always felt it was necessary even though not sufficient.
  Yes, I Agree, For 30 Years, Oscar
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-06-13 3:23 PM (EST)
Has been my paddling hero and inspiration, and I'll always remember him and his brother Herman using flat "euro" blades to beat all the elite paddlers, including Olympians that were all using wing paddles in the 1989 BANKOH Molokai Kayak Challenge. All I'm suggesting is an alternative to the three principles of paddling: rotation, rotation and rotation.

Simply drop your body weight on the blade at the "catch" and feel the boat accelerate forward. No additional effort from your muscles are necessary, other than the reset for the next stroke. Adopting this technique has enable me to extend my water time from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Trust me, it isn't fun to be 2 miles out at sea when your back goes out.
  Posted by: bowrudder on Jun-06-13 6:25 AM (EST)
Isn't that more work?

If the potential energy is equal to the work required to lift the object, aren't you doing a lot more lifting? It's less on the way down, sure, but what about the way back up?
  Maybe Half?
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-06-13 3:39 PM (EST)
  Posted by: suiram on Jun-06-13 9:17 AM (EST)
Would you be able to post a clip of your technique in action? - I have difficulty visualizing it
  Sorry No, But Do Check Out Videos
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-06-13 3:35 PM (EST)
Of elite outrigger and SUP paddlers that appear to have adopted this technique.
  Potential energy is a state function
  Posted by: seadart on Jun-06-13 1:21 PM (EST)
you only get out what you put in - 0 sum gain. How does this help anything?
  True, But this Technique Packs a Bonus
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-06-13 5:50 PM (EST)
Of being able to use half the effort. And when coupled with a lightweight shaft with a bit of flex, you gain an additional bonus of EPS or elastic potential energy.
  Sorry, no free lunch
  Posted by: scombrid on Jun-07-13 11:14 AM (EST)
Not even a 1/2 off lunch.

You can put your entire body weight onto the blade but you have to use muscles to oppose that force and transfer the work to forward motion. Maybe some OC and SUP paddlers get more use out of the big trunk muscles by using GPE as a visual but the muscles are still doing work.
  Only The Water Opposes the Force
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-07-13 4:14 PM (EST)
Which is simultaneously transmitted to move the canoe.
  But you have to pick yourself back up
  Posted by: clarion on Jun-07-13 4:17 PM (EST)
... in order to do it again.

I think that's what is meant by "no free lunch" in this context.
  So Really,
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-07-13 11:40 PM (EST)
How much of an effort is that? Not very taxing compared to pushing 100% with your muscles against the water. It doesn't hurt to paddle with a little help from GPE.
  amount of GPE available
  Posted by: scombrid on Jun-10-13 2:05 PM (EST)
Amount of GPE available is only equal to the work that your muscles did to lift the weight of your body to where it could come back down and leverage against the water.

Plus, you don't go forward by pushing straight down on the water. The force has to be transferred to the board through your feet. That is accomplished using muscles.
  I See Your Point
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-10-13 7:42 PM (EST)
However, my muscles appreciate whatever help they can get from GPE. They don't mind sharing the workload.

And I prefer applying that help straight ahead (with muscles), in the direction of travel, via top hand, and transmitting the resulting opposite and equal force via my bottom arm to the canoe/kayak. You're right, the board doesn't go straight when pushing down, for it should go down, or in the direction of the force.

Anyway, I experimented yesterday paddling with and without GPE, and my muscles preferred the help from GPE.
  clyde, that's a very good description
  Posted by: ezwater on Jun-09-13 12:16 PM (EST)
of how it feels when one has snuck the blade quickly in at the catch, and then applies power.

It feels as if one is loading body weight, through the top hand.

This is true both for kayak and canoe. In my case, as that loading feeling commences, my torso is twisting through a relatively short arc. Couldn't be enough to aggravate an injury sensitive to torso twist. There's also a limited range contribution from the shoulder girdle, and a modest amount of downward flexion of the trunk, in canoeing, but not kayaking.
  I use 3 ways of paddling
  Posted by: Kocho on Jun-06-13 1:36 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jun-06-13 1:40 PM EST --

One is the "traditional" wing technique (regardless of weather I use a wing, greenland, or a euro paddle). Paddle starts at the boat and swings out and back. Works best with a wing paddle or a greenland paddle. Works OK with some euro paddles. Top arm moves sideways parallel to the horizon, crossing the center line quite a bit as the stroke progresses. Exit of the paddle is early. Similar to the race stroke for short sprint races. Strong leg drive, not much twist but a lot of rotation. Generally, for longer distances I relax some of the components a bit but the overall form remains the same. It requires good shape and a fast boat to have a satisfactory experience with this technique. But it gives the most top speed and power for me.

Another is a forward "crunch" technique, usually use that with my greenland paddle and alternate with the wing stroke to change what muscles I use. Less rotation, some body twist, power comes from the crunch forward.

Third I mainly use for white water with a short euro paddle. That uses some rotation and body twist. Powerful leg drive but not a long one so there is very little lower torso rotation. There is also some crunch component. The blade stays very close to and parallel to the boat all the time (white water boats don't like it when you have the paddle way to the side - they turn). Exit is very early (no dragging the blade behind the hip).


Many touring sea kayak paddlers seem to use a mild form of the third technque the most. Rotation there is not huge (butt barely slides on the seat, if at all), leg drive is there but not exagerated (short and not too powerful), pulling arm tends to bend, pushing arm does not cross the bow much and stays lower than chin level through most of the stroke (going down towards the end), etc. There is some upper body twist, but not much.

This is just an easy stroke to maintain for a long time with a euro blade, as long as you are not pushing your speed limits. When you want to put in a burst of power, you revert to what I described above for my third option (you will tighten-up your form and lift your front arm, make it cross the bow at chin level, exit the water with the paddle early, more powerful leg drive, perhaps a bit of but sliding, etc.)


Here is an interesting thread with plenty of videos on forward stroke:

  since I first saw myself
  Posted by: CapeFear on Jun-06-13 2:59 PM (EST)
Since I first saw myself paddling on video with a go pro about a year and a half ago, I've really been trying to put some focus on removing the "crunch" component from my forward stroke, although I'm not sure we're talking about exactly the same thing, but probably similar. I've noticed others doing it since noticing myself. The interesting thing is that I starting focusing on eliminating it for two reasons - to encourage better rotation (appeared and feels to me I was substituting one for the other), and I feel it's healthier for my back. So my feeling was that it was just a formed bad habit. Not sure if there's truly sound reasoning behind it, but I seem to have consistently slowly eliminated a little back soreness that seemed to be developing at times. I'm figuring the constant twisting for hours on end with a straight, somewhat properly aligned spine is helping over a habit of twisting for hours on end with my spine in something of a somewhat bent position from incorporating a sort of crunch motion habit. Seems to feel better & better over time?
I don't know if it's truly bad habit or a good enough substitute, but my experience tends towards the bad habit side of things. Who knows? It hasn't been a quick habit to break, but hopefully I'll keep getting closer as long as it feels healthy.
  What kind of seat and back band?
  Posted by: pikabike on Jun-06-13 2:11 PM (EST)
A low, loose back band (more like a hip band)--or none at all--allow freer rotation. A slippery seat surface also helps.

It sounds like you haven't "felt" what torso rotation is, but your backband and seat types might be making it harder to achieve.
  In kayak, torso rotation is a bigger
  Posted by: ezwater on Jun-06-13 3:34 PM (EST)
issue, but if you look at real-life, good paddlers, not at Greg Barton, you may find that they're moving smartly along without exaggerated rotation.

It seems not to occur to torso rotation proponents that:

a.) there is a good bit of frictional energy loss in exaggerated torso rotation.

b.) if the arms and shoulders are used correctly, exaggerated rotation is not needed.

What is needed is a firm pulse of torso rotation, combined with appropriately limited arm action, right after the catch, and continuing until the lower hand nears the hip. You don't want to keep rotating the torso as long as you can, because well before that, you should have extracted the blade.

Shorter, firm torso twisting, shorter, firm arm action, getting the work done in front of the hip. It's the same basic approach in canoe paddling and kayaking.
  Yes, but ...
  Posted by: Dr_Disco on Jun-06-13 6:41 PM (EST)
for a different reason. The amount of force you can apply to the paddle is maximal at the beginning of the stroke and declines shortly after that. That is just a function of how our bodies are constructed. So you want to extract the paddle just after the maximal force if you want to go as fast as possible. But for typical sea kayaking you can use a longer stroke so long as you do not bend your lower arm, keep rotating, keep the paddle vertical, and slice the paddle out to the side. That period of lesser effort but not increased effort from lifting water provides a short recovery period.
  Posted by: poleplant on Jun-07-13 8:08 AM (EST)
Kocho and g2d. Those were great posts. This illuminates the strength of this web-site. Lots of good info from experienced paddlers.
  I don't entirely agree with that. When
  Posted by: ezwater on Jun-07-13 3:45 PM (EST)
I paddle for cruising in a kayak, I don't change the spectrum of my force application. I just ease it up. I ease the catch a bit, and I ease the rest a bit.

Actually, without focus and practice, it's easy to lose the firm catch, and to fall into yanking the paddle thereafter. I wish the most force did occur immediately after the catch. As in competition rowing and sculling, something devoutly to be wished, but not at all easy to achieve.

With a very long torso from hip joint to shoulder joint, I am wedded to a high angle style. I have to yield to those who *can* use a lower angle stroke, where pulling longer through the stroke makes sense.
  Different strokes for different folks
  Posted by: Jaybabina on Jun-07-13 8:08 AM (EST)
I paddle with a lot of groups being a member of an active kayak club. Wings, euros, GPs - some have taken stroke courses, some not etc. We all seem to travel along at the same efficiency and speed - all arrive at our lunch stop together and nobody seems to have any great advantages. Stronger people can just paddle stronger. No doubt, if you are training for serious racing, then proven methods will work better but... you need to be in great shape to use an extreme body rotation like racers do. Big muscles take big energy to operate. Personally, I feel your body will adapt to a very efficient stroke for you with regular use and not a lot of distortion. You can be conscious about incorporating more torso rotation as it pleases you but you described the frustration with that very well in you initial post. I also feel having a few different strokes and varying them can give muscles a break during longer paddles. Most important - enjoy yourself.
  Probably the best post here !
  Posted by: jackl on Jun-07-13 8:16 AM (EST)
Well said.
I whole heartedly agree

Jack L
  "Not a lot of distortion" is key.
  Posted by: ezwater on Jun-07-13 6:12 PM (EST)
An efficient distribution of effort across various parts of the body.
  Technique is king
  Posted by: gstamer on Jun-07-13 10:32 AM (EST)
Improving technique often yields more dramatic gains than improving fitness or strength, although all are important if you want to perform at your best.

I view forward stroke technique as a lifetime goal. If you work at it you improve each year. If you don't, you don't. A big torso rotation needs time to learn -- both mentally and physically.

I try to rotate all the way to the bottom of the seat, not only on races but also on expeditions. The longer you sit in the cockpit the more important it is that you have good posture and mechanics, otherwise you are just setting yourself up for discomfort or injury.

The key, IMO, is to learn the fundamentals and then apply them to your physique. We all have physical issues and that might prevent you from making some movements, such as an extreme rotation or lifting the paddle vertically. It's not always easy to find the wisdom to know what limitations you must accept and which ones you can conquer (such as limited or poor motion caused by poor flexibility, strength, etc). I see a lot of paddlers who are very inflexible; a lot of common problems can be addressed by a good stretching or Yoga program.

Club paddles are not a good gauge of technique, IMO. A group will (usually) travel at the rate of the weakest link. Races give a better view of performance, but are distorted, because the goals of a racer are not usually the same as a long-distance paddler. That said, even an expedition paddler can grow tremendously as a paddler through racing, as well as other skill-intense activities like whitewater and surf kayaking.

Greg Stamer
  Great Post! (NM)
  Posted by: suiram on Jun-07-13 10:37 AM (EST)
  Posted by: poleplant on Jun-07-13 11:31 AM (EST)
OK OK. Stamer's post was all right. But not as good as Kocho's !!!!
  Mine was certainly longer ;)
  Posted by: Kocho on Jun-07-13 4:44 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jun-07-13 4:47 PM EST --

But I put my money on Greg's advice, if I had to bet :) I'm a newbie compared to many other folks here who posted good stuff...

  Thank you all!
  Posted by: ADNelson on Jun-07-13 1:57 PM (EST)
All of the responses were wonderful!

I do seem to be "shoulder rotating," and I will try to incorporate the torso more.
I use a rec-style kayak with a full seat, so I will be consious of that when I attempt to rotate by setting the back rest lower.
It is true that one of my biggest problems is bending my lower arms.

I have gone out once since the original post, and I agree that it will take a while to gradually adjust my form. I did notice a slight improvement, however!

Thanks again.
  Using the back rest
  Posted by: Celia on Jun-08-13 6:41 AM (EST)
If it is a real seat back like in most rec kayaks, they usually tilt backwards. So relying on it at all for positioning will tend to leave you sitting too far back and not sufficiently erect to get decent torso rotation. The most effective hip to torso angle for that is usually straight up or tilted a bit forward from your core.

That is why sea kayaks tend to have back bands, which sit lower and just mostly support the pelvic girdle. The bulk of the torso support should come from the abdominal core.

Try this sitting on the ground, not in the boat, and you will find there is an optimal angle both between hips and back as well ans between hip and hamstrings where you can get the fullest rotation. Then see if you can get the same angles seated in your boat.
  I have tried
  Posted by: ADNelson on Jun-10-13 11:21 AM (EST)
to set the back rest at an almost 90 degree angle to promote an erect posture, and at the same time I will try sitting on the ground I order to expand freedom of movement.
  I'm Sorry, But I Missed Your Question
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-08-13 2:31 AM (EST)
About the elbows and I must say no! There is nothing wrong about the elbows passing yourself, for they only indicate the distance traveled as you pivot past your paddle blade. Most paddlers short change themselves by prematurely exiting their blades before deriving the full benefits of the stroke.
  Posted by: suiram on Jun-08-13 5:22 AM (EST)
"elbows passing" usually means that elbows travel from the front of back/shoulder plane to back.
It one were to rotate around torso with elbows fixed, the "proper" torso rotation, elbows would remain fixed in relationship to the back/shoulder plane.
  For Most, "Proper" Isn't Practical
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jun-08-13 2:52 PM (EST)
And doing it "wrong" works just as well, even for elite racers.
  What's the goal?
  Posted by: Jaybabina on Jun-09-13 9:47 AM (EST)
I have often made this analogy and I hope I don't bore those who have read it.

Years back when Jimmy Connors (champion Tennis Player) used a two handed backhand, the elite and learned tennis community was horrified. Of course he became a world champion many times. And now the two-handed backhand is taught by the same official tennis community and is totally accepted.

I think the question with the paddle stroke is "what do you want?". I would think it's always efficiency and that's a tricky word.
  It seems to me...
  Posted by: rjd9999 on Jun-11-13 11:51 AM (EST)
that you have an invalid image in your mind of what you are doing vs. what you think you are doing (ie. what examples you have seen). This is common in physical activities and even great athletes form habits that aren't "perfect" in form unless someone can capture it and demonstrate it to them.

If you can have someone take video of your stroke, you will probably be able to compare that video to, say, that of a proper stroke of a paddler on youtube or other video source.

Right now, you are probably watching your paddle stroke more than the horizon and this is likely the factor causing dizziness. The torso rotation should stop at the neck. It's okay, even good, to look around, but if you are rotating to the point where your head is moving as well, you are either rotating too far for your range of motion or following your stroke with your eyes. At the end of your stroke, you should still be able to look to the left for potential traffic or activity when the stroke finishes on the right.

  don't force it
  Posted by: harry0244 on Jun-12-13 8:38 PM (EST)
Try to do smooth easy movements to develop form. Speed comes naturally as you improve. I use a mild rotation where I point the center of my chest at shoulder level at one foot. Then stick the other end of the paddle in the water next to the other foot. A simple turn of the upper body to face that foot, and the paddle is near my hip, so I stick it in the water on the other side.

With this technique, I have had my CD Whistler doing 6.3 mph for forty seconds according to my handheld GPS. That is slightly faster than the number reached using the square root of the waterline length times 1.55 formula for so called design speed.

I started learning this going slow and gentle. Speed just appeared after about six hours of paddling time over five or six days. I did spend time just floating and watching wild life, I did not work at this constantly.



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