Edge control is the important skill we use to help us balance and control the boat. It can involve holding the kayak tilted on one side (edge) or moving it from side to side (edge to edge).
Often when kayaking we need to use edge control at the same time as performing other paddling strokes. For example when you start to paddle in white water and surf waves, it will be important to be able to use your lower body to stay balanced, whilst at the same time using your upper body to paddle the boat in the direction you want to go.
This concept is called upper and lower body separation. In essence we separate our upper body and lower body movements allowing them to work independently but cooperatively with each other.
Here is a sequence of exercises that will help you develop your edge control.
How to develop Edge Control
1. Whilst keeping your body over the middle of the boat and sitting up straight, in a good neutral paddling position, start by rocking the boat side to side on the water.
2. Now, whilst keeping good neutral paddling position, stop the boat on a slight edge (tilt) to one side.
Take a moment to think about what you are using to keep the boat in this position. You should feel a connection at several points in the boat, your knees, hips, feet and through your butt cheeks. If you use just one connection point, for example our hips or knees, it is easy to get tired and difficult to maintain good edge control. So instead we use a range of different pressures on all the contact points in our boat to help us control the movement.
3. Go back to flat and then switch to an edge on the other side.
You should notice a difference in the pressures on the contact points you are using to control the boat as you switch sides. You should still be sitting up with your weight over the centre of the kayak.
4. Try alternating back and forth from one edge to the other.
5. Play about with different speeds and different amounts of edge (tilt) How far can you edge the boat?
Remember to keep in a good neutral paddling position with your body and head over the middle of the boat so you don’t fall over!
Combining Edge Control and Paddling Positions
1. Using the same techniques as you explored in exercise 1 try to intentionally hold the boat on edge for 5 seconds. Start with just a little tilt for 5 seconds,
2. Then go a little farther for 5 seconds,
3. Next hold it as far on edge as you can.
4. Repeat on the other side.
5. Now practice rocking the boat side to side and holding the boat on each edge with your body forward in an aggressive / forward paddling position.
6. Then try it in a neutral body position again.
7. Finish by rocking the boat side to side and then holding the boat on each edge with your body leaning back in a defensive / backward paddling position.
Notice how your balance, stregth and control changes in each of these different positions.
Edge Control whilst paddling
1. Once you’ve learned some of the basic strokes, go back and try practicing them with the boat on edge. You want to become a master of your kayak. Practise edging the boat on different angles whilst performing different strokes and skills. Test your strength and balance whilst developing this new skill.
Edging is a concept and skill we use constantly whilst paddling. Practice these drills regularly as part of your warm up and sessions and you will be amazed how quickly you become a much stronger and more controlled paddler.
It is definitely worth spending that little bit of time thinking about exactly what you are using inside your kayak to control your edges. Ideally you want to be using a whole variety of muscles to control your boat and not just one muscle set or connection point for example just your hips or just your knees.