Monday, August 24, 2009


Ultimate Guide to Whitewater Kayaking, 2004 - book review.

An excellent reference book that covers a wide range of whitewater river kayaking skills and techniques.

The Ultimate Guide to Whitewater Kayaking provides "detailed illustrations, stunning photos and literary contributions from the world's most notable paddlers. ... this manual covers everything from the most basic skills and concepts to the most advanced, cutting edge paddling techniques. .... You'll learn: to choose the right equipment, the essential strokes and paddling techniques, the art of reading whitewater, river running techniques, river safety and rescue, playboating techniques, creek boating skills, big water skills, surf kayaking technique, squirtboating, slalom and much more."

In its 288 pages this book does a great job of describing a wide range of whitewater river kayaking techniques. It includes chapters on: Equipment, Before Hitting the Water, The Essentials, Strokes, Rolling a Kayak, Anatomy of Whitewater, River Running, Big Water River Running, Creeking, Playboating, Whitewater Racing, Surf Kayaking, Squirt Boating, River Safety & Rescue, River Etiquette, Tips for Women, Travelling & Kayaking, Overnight Whitewater Trips. The book is very well illustrated with B&W photos and diagrams.

Shoulder safety principles - Power Position and Paddler's Box.

The book describes good techniques for maintaining shoulder safety (pg 26-28). It is very important for kayakers to keep their hands in front of their shoulders in the "power position" when paddling. Another way of describing the same concept is the "paddler's box kayaking technique" that I have advocated previously. The critical principle is that the hands (or elbows) should never be allowed to move behind the shoulders because this body position greatly increases the risk of shoulder dislocation when paddling a kayak.

Problems with forward sweep stroke kayaking technique.

These shoulder safety principles are totally violated just a few pages later in this book in the description of forward sweep stroke techniques (pg. 41-43). The book describes first turning head and shoulders in the desired direction of the turn and then reaching far back on the other side of the kayak to make the sweep stroke. This inevitably puts the hand far behind the shoulder in a very risky shoulder dislocation position. This may be the high performance turning method that many advanced kayakers are using to turn the modern short kayaks. Nevertheless, I don't advocate teaching this very risky technique to beginning paddlers whose shoulder muscles may not be strong enough to survive the risky shoulder dislocation position. I think that beginning kayak paddlers should be taught the traditional method of turning the head to follow the paddle blade in the water when doing the sweep stroke. This provides the best shoulder safety and helps the beginning kayaker to focus on first learning to engage torso muscles to make the boat turn efficiently.


I have great concerns about the description of forward sweep stroke technique, but other than that everything else in this book is quite excellent. I rate this book as a great resource for whitewater river kayakers (**** 4 stars out of 5).

More about:
Principles of kayak paddling strokes, The Paddler's Box - BRT Insights.
Sweep Stroke for Turning Your Kayak, the traditional method - BRT Insights.
Book reviews for whitewater river kayaking, rafting & canoeing - BRT Insights.
White Water Kayaking Skills & Techniques - BRT Insights.

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