More Concepts of Paddling
There are some fundamental concepts to consider for many of the strokes in our skill set. We will be describing many of these in more detail when discussing the finer points of each stroke but here is a summary of some basic concepts to get your hear around.
• Edging by weighting the Sit Bone (NOT lifting the knee) – we edge the kayak to help us turn by reducing the waterline length of the kayak, releasing the keel and utilizing the increased rocker when the boat is tilted to one side. If we edge the kayak by lifting the knee it ties up the tummy muscles and reduces our ability to rotate. Focusing on weighting the sit bone and relaxing the tummy muscles allows us more rotation and thus a more effective stroke.
• Edge versus Lean – when we edge our kayak we are try to keep our head and torso over the center line of the kayak and our weight on our sit bones. It is sometimes referred to as the J-Lean. We are creating a letter J with our head, torso and pelvis.
Think of edging as something you can do whilst remaining in balance without using your paddle. Once we move our head and torso away from the center line we are most definitely leaning and if we don’t do something with the paddle we will capsize. When moving slowly we should only edge and thus stay in balance. The faster we are moving the more we can lean, using the paddle blade on the surface of the water for support. As we lose speed we need to bring our head and torso back over the center of the kayak and get our weight back on our sit bones to get back into a balanced position.
• Control Blade Face with Elbow – the wrists are the ‘Achilles Heel’ of the kayaker. Imagine all the force we are applying to the paddle blade going through the tiny muscles, tendons and ligaments of the wrist. Keep the wrists straight to avoid over-use and repetitive strain injuries such as tendonitis. Control the blade face by keeping the wrist locked and guiding the blade angle with your elbow.
• Climbing Angle for Support – From our discussion Newton’s Third Law we know that a vertical blade, perpendicular to our direction of travel is the most powerful position for the paddle blade but often we need to use the blade for support as well as propulsion. During a propulsion stroke, by angling the top of the blade slightly (twenty degrees) in the direction we are pulling or pushing, can put weight onto the paddle blade and get a tremendous amount of support from the blade, so long as the blade is moving through the water. Try skimming the back of the blade across the surface of the water. Then try lifting the leading edge of the blade, just as if you were spreading butter on toast. Start putting some weight onto the paddle blade and feel the support you get in return, so long as the blade is moving! Try doing the same thing with the power face.
• Move the Boat not the Water – When performing any strokes, try to minimise the amount of splash and bubbles that you generate from the paddle blade. The boat will only move as quickly as its design allows. By creating lots of splash and bubbles you will not be making the kayak move any more quickly. Instead, focus on anchoring the paddle blade in the water and moving the boat around the paddle using your whole body to do so. Imagine you are moving the boat through thick treacle, so thick that the paddle blade will not budge. The only way you can move the boat is by pushing with your foot during a forward stroke or pulling with your knee during a reverse stroke.