Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Forward Sweep Stroke - Kayak Paddling Technique

Good technique will give good performance on whitewater river trips.

Whitewater kayaks are designed to turn quickly and easily. Waves and currents in a whitewater river will often spin the boat in undesirable directions if you let them. Sweep strokes are important to keep the kayak turned in the direction that you want to go.

1. 90 Degree Rule. Set the hand positions on the paddle. With paddle held on top of head adjust hand position so the elbows are at a 90 degree angle. It is a common beginner mistake to hold their hands too close together on the paddle shaft. Correct hand position sets you up for good power and endurance while paddling and for minimizing your risk of injury. IMPORTANT - mark this position on your paddle with tape if necessary. Don't let your hands drift closer together as the day proceeds. See previous post on Principles of kayak paddling strokes.

2. Paddler's Box. Straight arms, paddle shaft and your chest make the paddler's box.
a) Maintain straight arms through the power phase of all paddle strokes. Hold the paddle extended as far as possible from your body. Don't be a paddle-hugger !!
b) Power the paddle with straight arms and torso rotation - not elbow bending !!!
c) Most paddlers bend their elbows a little at the end of a paddle stroke (i.e. during the recovery and setup for the next stroke).

3. Rotate your paddler's box to one side and plant the paddle in the water. Paddle blade should be completely submerged in the water (mistake in the video). Keep arms straight. Paddle should be kept as low as possible and nearly parallel to the water surface.

4. Execute the sweep stroke. Sweep the paddle in a wide arc from the bow (front end of kayak) to the stern (rear end). Keeping your arms straight helps to ensure that you will power the paddle with big, powerful torso muscles, not skinny little arm muscles. See previous post on Sweep Stroke for Turning Your Kayak - Animation.

How good is your technique when kayaking?

Nowadays most digital cameras can take a short video that will quickly show you what your paddling technique looks like. Those who take the time to perfect their paddling techniques will be rewarded with greater performance and more fun on whitewater river trips !!

More about: Whitewater River Kayaking Techniques.

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