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.
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer
Reflective Hull Decals
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