Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Perfecting your forward paddle stroke for kayaking, rafting and canoeing
In the post Going the Distance (http://www.wetexit.com/blog/) aivasyuk has some good pointers for improving the forward paddle stroke. I agree that torso rotation during your forward paddle stroke is the most important rule for power and endurance in all styles of paddle boating, including river kayaking, river rafting, sea kayaking and canoeing.
Some additional factors in a good forward paddle stroke are straight arms, paddle held far forward and good separation of the hands when gripping the paddle. These techniques apply to both single and double-blade paddles. They will help to ensure that you get your paddle power from torso rotation rather than from elbow bending. Kayakers should set proper hand positions on the paddle with elbows at 90 degrees when the paddle is held on top of your head (mark this position on your paddle with tape). Most of the beginners that I have taught seem to instinctively hold their hands too close together on the paddle, hold the paddle too close to their bodies and get all of their paddling power from elbow bending. This provides weak, low endurance paddle strokes and puts you at risk for developing tendonitis in your elbows. One year I got "tennis elbow" from too much elbow bending while paddling. It took a long time to heal and I lost many days of boating. Then I learned how to power the paddle with torso rotation and I have not had any more problems with sore elbows.
The key for success
Perfecting your forward paddle stroke is a key for fun and success in all forms of paddle boating. Power and endurance in the forward paddle stroke are obviously critical for flatwater canoeing and sea kayaking where the paddle stroke provides all of the propulsion. River boaters don't need as much endurance because the river provides much of our propulsion, but powerful, efficient forward strokes are often needed to make a critical move or to get on a surfing wave when kayaking or rafting. The key to success in paddle boating is good stroke mechanics to ensure that you are using your torso muscles for power. Boaters who try to overpower the water with arm muscles and elbow bending will get less performance and have less fun than boaters who develop better stroke techniques.