The High Brace
The high brace is the next progression in the brace sequence. It is the skill that will get you back stable and upright when you lose your balance beyond the point of the low brace. The high brace is typically used when you have tilted pretty far over to one side. It involves a similar concept to the low brace in that you reach out and use the power generated by the blade connecting with the surface of the water to provide enough energy for you to do a strong hip snap and bring the boat back upright.
The main difference between the low brace and the high brace is that for the high brace you are under the paddle blade and pulling down for support as aposed to the low brace where you are over the paddle blade and pushing down.
How to do a High Brace
1. Keeping your elbows down below your shoulders, to prevent shoulder strain, get into a ‘chin up’ style position under your paddle shaft with it horizontally across your boat.
2. Now reach out to the side perpendicularly to your boat. The blade should be close to the water, power-face flat and face down.
Both arms should remain under the paddle shaft and close to your body throughout this move. Your outside /upper arm (the one on the opposite side to the brace) should remain tucked in close to your body with your hand near your chin / face / chest and your other arm. The leading arm, should remain under the blade throughout. You need to reach this arm out to the side, slightly, to complete the move but you need to make it it remains bent so it doesn’t get hyper extended.
Stay within the range of your ‘paddlers box’.
3. Keeping your eyes on your active paddle blade, lean over and put the boat slightly off balance. As you do this pull the blade down onto the surface of the water for support
4. When you feel the support from the water use a hip-snap to flatten the boat back to upright.
5. Once the boat is upright move your body back over the boat, sit up and continue paddling.
6. Try it again, this time lean a little farther over.
Keep in mind that as your head and body lift up, the boat will want to fall over. So as you start to lose your balance, focus on pulling the paddle down to the water, then actually push your head down into the water, keeping it close to your shoulder, as you flatten the boat with your hips. Only THEN, once the boat is completely flat, roll your body back over the boat to finish. Keep looking at your blade throughout. The goal isn’t to get your head and body out of the water, the goal is to flatten the boat completely, then finish by sitting back up.
7. If you get really good at this, you can eventually reach out in the brace position, then flip all the way over before hip snapping back upright…this is the basics of a kayak roll!
Just remember to keep your elbows below your shoulders and in that safe range, and focus all your energy on relaxing your upper body as you roll the boat to completely flat with your hips and knees. If you shoulders start to feel sore while you practice this, you are probably either reaching out and high with a straight arm, and/or pulling on the paddle to lift your body, rather than flattening the boat with your hips with your head in the water.
Even though its called a high brace everything still happens ‘low’ so make sure you keep your elbows below your shoulders in that chin up position. Build this up as a progression using the exercise above. The key is to rely on technique rather than just strength, keeping your shoulders safe.
This is a really useful skill to develop as it will keep you upright on the rivers especially when surfing.
A successful high brace will have a strong hip snap and will see you keeping your elbows below your shoulders, looking at the paddle in the water and keeping your head low.
The high brace is also a big step towards learning how to roll.