What is the “best” way to perfect the balance brace? When trying it I do manage most of the time, but the boat constantly wants to “slide” off the side it’s balanced on and flip me over. Of course I immediately pop back up, but is balance brace supposed to be pretty effortless, or are you supposed to really work on keeping balanced? I’ve always assumed the former - and I’m not going to blame the boat this time!
I cannot come remotely close to balancing. I cannot get my shoulders flat on the water at all, nor can I get my back anywhere the rear deck. I deduce that the balance brace is a mathematical impossibility for stiff person, even after years of yoga.
A roll is no problem.
Some Time Back
I asked the question, “What is a balance brace for?” The answers I got were something like it’s a learning tool to help you roll and it’s a relaxation technique. Since I can roll well and I can stretch and relax well without it I don’t see the value of it.
(I think for a lot of folks it’s a trick for show.)
What he said
if one can do it great. the key is to get both shoulders flat in the water and finding the sweetspot/right angle of the boat. Its much easier with a little greenlandkayak since you lie much lower. less twisting of the spine. i often use an avataq for rolling gymnastics stretching and warmups in the kayak.
Everybody Can’t do it
Generally women do it easily because of the lower upper body weight and usually shorter plus the ratio of buoyancy to their PFD is way greater than a large male. If you’re a big type of body guy it’s tougher. You can try this: twist your hips in the boat before you enter into the water so you are going over on your back and not your side. You will have more flexibility that way. Ease yourself into the water so you don’t sink right away. Keep the head leaning back so the water is right across your face. The tendency is to lift the head a bit and that curves the spine causing you to sink. Stretch the arm out using the paddle buoyancy for flotation. - good luck.
I do it easily in salt water in fresh I have to squirm and bend back noticeably more.
Agree with Jay
It is much easier for those where the weight is balanced on the boat's end of the equation, especially smaller women in bigger boats. I am out of practice now, but when I could just flop and do it I did find that there was a slight diff between boats in its ease. The straight-sided Romany or Explorer was very happy to lie on its side without moving, my Vela with more of an inward angel to the side needed better form from me to not fall over on me again. The way the boat wanted to lay on the water was not quite as helpful.
The purposes that Jay pointed out are useful - it is halfway to a roll, especially since the second half is coming up on the back deck without having to rely on the anything more than a slight downward push from your hand. And it encourages relaxation and overall comfort in not-upright positions. Good way to cool off in a hot dry suit too.
Those who find it impossible to do tend to write it off as a party trick. Those who can do it find ways to make it useful. Thus far anyway, everyone I have heard call it a party trick is of the male persuasion.
By the way - on a stiff day, what Jay says. I don't capsize until I have parked my rear hand on the outer edge of the boat behind the cockpit and the other arm is ready to stretch out.
Balance brace is definitely boat dependent. Blame your boat ;>)
Balance brace is a good tool for learning one element of Greenland backward leaning rolls. It not only teaches you to keep both your shoulders on the water, but it makes you think about how you engage your core to swing your trunk out over the water and back over the boat. My son hit his first standard layback roll a couple of days ago. Balance brace was the first step in that progression.
The balance brace works a bit different
for each person and kayak. The balance brace is a good technique for rolling. Without the ability to balance brace you are either upside down or right side up. It gives you full control of your roll and greatly improves the dependability of a roll. Most kayaks aren’t designed to balance brace and limits the rolling techniques you can use. The ability to balance brace gives the paddler the feeling of being a duck in the water. Your not either right side up or up side down, your one with the water and the kayak. Finding a kayak that balance braces takes time. Jays Outer Island design is great. If I can’t balance brace in a kayak then I feel like I’m paddling a barge. The middle area of a roll is the sweetest part. Keep searching, you’ll get it.
I have North Shore Atlantic LV - it’s the smallest boat (volume-wise) I could find for sale locally - at 150 pounds and 5’8’’ I’m too small for full-sized unloaded boat. It rolls OK, and apart from annoying tendency to surf any wave taller than 10’’ I like it.
Never was able to do this
with my sea lion. The boat just really doesn’t seem to mind being completely upside down. Either I’m really top-heavy or the hull just wasn’t designed for this. Rolling up was something I learned pretty quickly, so it hasn’t been much of a concern.
I saw someone during a rolling class in an old Arluk III and the damn thing just didn’t capsize - it just lay on its side like a ripe banana (it WAS bright yellow) and went no further. The design had lots of rocker and decent volume at stem and stern, so it just did not want to capsize like a decent boat should :). I tried the boat and was able to simply hip snap it to vertical, slide my torso over the rear deck, and then sit upright, all without a paddle.
So design is a definitely a factor. If you have the flexability and a boat that allows a balance brace, a case can be made that all you really need is immersion protection and you’re never too far from an easy recovery (as long as the hull is intact or isn’t shipping water).
Those who find it impossible to do tend
...to write it off as a party trick. Those who can do it find ways to make it useful."
Easier in some boats than others, easier for some people than others.
I find it relaxing, a nice way to cool down on a hot day,a calming reassuring skill, a way to hone my boat skills and comfort.
I was just the opposite, learned to roll
then the balance brace. Once i got a kayak that fit me well , then i was able to get the balance brace 1st time out. So for me the roll came 1st then the balance brace. But then again i never liked to be the same as anyone else. :o)
I don’t think of them as a trick, but
rather another skill that helps me build my comfort zone. I paddle mostly alone and all of these small things give me something to work on and look forward to each time i get out on the water. I also practice solo rescues a lot, keeps my skill up and keeps me from being bored. I love my boat and all that goes with it.... no matter how insignifigant they seem.
ARCH, get that arch in your back
1st , be sure you have the best fit in your kayak as possible, snug in the thigh braces is what helped me most. If the fit is there, then try the following. Start by laying on the back deck as flat as possible, relax and then slide off to the side, stay relaxed and flat , core strength comes in here. Open up your ribs and push them toward the sky as if they have a string attached pulling them upward. Head back, chin pointing up as with the ribs, shoulders should be as flat on water as possible. if you have 1 shoulder that continues to be higher up out of the water think about sinking it as you are raising the opposite shoulder up. sometimes it is just the slightest change that can make a world of difference. If you can have someone video you and then review it and you might see what is holding you back. Study the ones that can do this skill and then study your own video footage. It can be a great tool to use. Keep us posted
I also learned to roll first, as did my son, who learned a C2C roll this fall). But when he mentioned that he felt some strain in his shoulder, I felt that trying some Greenland technique would help him avoid muscling his roll. The balance brace showed him that the core and the “water knee” are what drives the action, not the arms. He then performed his first layback rolls with a GP and was amazed at how relaxed his entire body felt.
A helper is really useful. They can stand on the opposite side of the kayak and hold the coaming so the boat doesn’t collapse over on you as you find the sweet spot. Less and less pressure from the helper until you are doing it.
Like others say, shoulders flat on the water, arch your back then arch it some more.
My hint: don’t push your head back - lift your chin up (it amounts to the same thing but is a better visual IMO because it reinforces that your mouth, ideally stays out of the water:)
When you twist your hips, don’t bother to keep your feet on the foot-pegs. Push down on your top leg and up with the lower one. You will have to hold the kayak in the tilted position to prevent it from tipping over.
Practice. A high and low brace takes paddling to the next level.
best way to fine-tune
I’ve found that the best way to help someone find this, or fine-tune it, is to stand in the water at their head, and give them tips.
pressure on your bottom knee, relax the top leg completely, arch your back right here (poke them in the lower back), shoulders flat, use your back arm to rotate your torso away from the boat, etc.
After a few tips you can often lower your hands away from their shoulders, so they’re doing it on their own.
Being there to support them as they figure it out and get all the pieces in place is much more helpful than them trying to improve it while constantly sinking and struggling to breath.