Bracing Article in Sea Kayaker magazine

-- Last Updated: Dec-23-04 9:31 AM EST --

Did anyone else notice the bad technique documented in the latest issue of sea kayaker?

In the bracing drills, the photo shows the guy who is bracing back up with his ear stuck to the wrong shoulder, (ie the shoulder away from the water). Shouldn't he have his head rolled towards the water as he comes back up? As your head weighs as much as a large bowling ball, it is alot easier to brace back up if you loosen your neck and allow your head to come towards the water when you brace and then snap your hips and roll your kayak back under yourself while using your paddle for support against the surface of the water.

Perhaps this is nitpicking, but if they are going to run it as advice for bracing shouldn't the technique be as close to flawless as possible?

Static Pic?
Could be that the pic is of the head just before the head dink?

I don’t read Seakayaker. But I am getting curious and perhaps should drop by a bookstore and take a look. This same article was talked about at the NSPN site.



I noticed that too, but…

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 9:57 AM EST –

As a long-time subscriber, I've come to see the technique articles as opinion pieces instead of definitive statements. To the magazine's credit, they are clearly presented that way -- the author usually states "I like to ______" instead of "______ is THE correct way", and the author is his/her own model for the photos. I like it that way -- it's like being with the person instead of some homogenized paddling advice dispenser.

A good way to handle it might be for the magazine to let the article(s) run as is, but add a sidebar with comments from the staff or other instructors. It'd be a bit like a print version of what we do here...

It certainly isn't the first time I've seen an instructor not practicing what they preach. They're human too.

ok so I’m not

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 10:04 AM EST –

crazy about this article. I may be crazy about other things, but you saw it too!

Yes no one is perfect you're right. And they aren't offering a definitive guide. But they are pretty much the only major periodical for sea kayaking in the US. So I think their information will see a lot of press. And maybe beginners will see it, try to follow it, and have a much harder time of learning to brace. Or maybe they won't...


– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 10:10 AM EST –

I like your sidebar idea. There is nothing like having more than one perspective at looking at things. I hope someone from Sea Kayaker picks your tip up.

I understand

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 11:12 AM EST –

I certainly did that when I was starting-- studied one article, took it as gospel, and felt confused when someone suggested a different technique. "But the article said do it this way!"

Now, with more experience, I'd rather see a variety of techniques presented -- warts and all -- and try to figure out what parts work for me. The author's apparently sloppy head position doesn't negate the usefulness of his paddle- and body-position ideas.

It's a problem for any sports magazine -- if every article is focussed at beginners, you lose your advanced audience. And do you always show things the way they ought to be done -- full safety gear, perfect technique, etc., -- or the way people actually do it?

But no, you're not crazy -- I suspect the letters column will be full of letters like your original post!

haven’t seen but…

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 11:15 AM EST –

this is a common concept that is lost in the application.

the ol' j-lean/ head dink, one of my 'least' favorite teaching tools.

It basically teaches us to use our head as a balance tool. Like Keith says it's like having a bowling ball attached to the top of your spine and when it gets to swinging it can create some amazing leverage~ both good and BAD.

I concentrate more on a whole body balance, centered on the belly button and keeping it over the hull, not your HEAD. The head is then free for rotation/ vision/ etc. Look at your working blade is the extent of my 'head dink' drill.

I'm anxious to see the new edition. =:-0)


That’s the don’t-do-this picture!

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 11:37 AM EST –

I'm pretty sure that you are talking about a picture that was meant to show the WRONG way to do a high brace... paddle diving, head on the wrong side, etc. (It's the upper right shot, iirc; I'm at work without the mag.) Unfortunately, the captions and article did not make that clear. But the rest of the pictures look like the right way to do it.

BTW, the technique in this article appears to address what's probably the main reason I've never really mastered a deep high brace, despite having a reliable roll. I can hardly wait to get in a pool and try it.


see I thought I checked the article
to see if they mentioned that picture as the way not to do it, but I don’t think that’s how it is written. I may have to look at it again.

It’s not the best technique article.

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 12:30 PM EST –

The idea that someone could be taught such an extreme brace before they could roll is highly questionable to me.

I do not see an extreme portrayal of the head in the wrong place. This guy is way leaning back as he recovers (questionable technique), (images 5,6c,6d,) so his centered head position is less crucial (and his abs are less engaged in the hip snap). Not really the best technique as it will take him a bit of time to sit up and engage in a powerful stroke (See Jed I'm listening).

The bizarre head position is pre-brace (images 2,4,5(middle)6b,7, 8).

I think an intermediate paddler (which to me means "has a decent high brace") can learn from the back flop technique and might well benefit from some of the other exercises.

Image 6 D (highly questionable technique) shows his elbow badly out of position, this could easily dislocate someone's shoulder if used in a wave. His paddle is also at a pretty high angle to the water. Not the marks of an expert.

The author is a BCU three star paddler ( a respect-worthy accomplishment but hardly proof of sea kayak mastery) and works in upstate NY. Lack of easily available highly dynamic sea kayaking venues encourages heavy development of certain types of skills, amongst those so inclined. A two star coach, He probably want to have a summer career as a kayaker, coach etc, (a great match to an academic career) and might well have published this article a bit before his time. I think a magazine like sea kayaker woud be able to find better authors, and to have photo's better edited to avoid dangerous technique, (image 6D).

I look forward to the Author's later contributions; he IS trying. The question is one of humility, and resiliancy to the drubbing he will take for publishing such radical exercises with such an obvious error.

Like I said…

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 11:50 AM EST –

... the article did not make it clear that that was a "wrong!" picture. But the description of "wrong!" in the article and that picture match up perfectly. So I assume that's what the author meant. Looks like the editor was asleep, or not really reviewing the article with their instructional mind in gear.


You know
what the folks at Sea Kayaker will think, even if they don’t say it: “If you can do better, we’d love to see your article! When can we expect your first draft?”

Anyone who’s ever edited a publication – from a club newsletter on up – knows that getting enough good material is a continual battle.

Different Strokes and Different Folks…
On the “extreme” high brace (and/or similar C2C type roll), the problem most folks have is in keeping the head down. You bring the head up either the high brace and/or C2C roll, it’s doomed. So, a head dink forces them to think about keeping the head down (the scrunch that happens also forces a bit of the hip up almost automatically).

When talking about being “centered” or the center of balance around the navel, I find that more most folks get totally confused. I think there is a real “disconnect” that some folks have with their body. That’s why it’s so hard to get across concepts about “tanden” or “tan tien” (Japanese & Chinese terms for the body’s “center” of balance). However, if you talk about head dinking, folks seem to be able to understand and do that more readily.



it is hard
I tried doing an online literary review and publication. It’s still up at , but getting good writers and subject is hard work. And to Sea Kayaker’s credit, they do have good stuff. The article isn’t bad, I just wanted to know if everyone saw what I saw.

It’s funny someone over at qajaq usa was having some confused notion of the article too, but I think I read the caption and didn’t associate it with the picture correctly. So maybe it is my fault for reading it wrong. Or is it just slightly confusing editing?

Why haven’t I heard this before?
OK, Peter… yes it’s an error. But let’s be clear that it’s most likely an ~editing~ error, not a technique error. Well, I too thought his elbow was a bit high in one of the shots, but the basic “wrong!” picture was intended to be just that, just badly labelled. And the technique and other pictures seem basically sound.

Actually, I’m more interested in why this apparently excellent teaching technique for deep high brace (set up with a with vertical paddle; make your head hit water before the blade) was not already imparted to me by any of the nationally known instructors with whom I’ve worked on high bracing. Any thoughts?

Bracing Break Through

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 2:00 PM EST –

Have not seen the article but have you seen Eric Jackson's videos?

Probably not useful to all you five star BCU types but Eric Jackson's video on bracing and rolling really helped me out. Changing the mindset from " oh my god I'm going to have to roll" to "I can stay upright through almost anything" has really helped. I now use my body's impact on the wave surface to recoil and brace up keeping my head way low in the water and back, not how I was taught in a seakayaking class but it really works.

Try It First…

– Last Updated: Dec-23-04 2:06 PM EST –

you looking at pics and thinking that it will definitely work for you. Maybe and maybe not.

Also, I can't help but read your message here and at NSPN as some sort of implicit criticism that some instructors have failed you somewhere because they don't know about and impart this new "miraculous" high brace training technique.

Think about it... Plenty of folks have learned to high brace effectively through a variety of approaches.


video’s are pretty great. disgusting in that I have to watch someone do everything I’d like to be able to do effortlessly, but I can live in awe and envy of him. :slight_smile:

I apologize if I gave that impression
Yeah… I guess I ~am~ giving that impression (instructors have failed me) aren’t I. Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than that – and maybe a subject for an entire thread of its own.

It’s really the state of instruction in kayaking in general. It’s not a failure, certainly not a failure of any individual. But I think it’s a kind of immaturity in the field of kayak instruction on the whole, especially as it moves from an extreme sport for the athletic to more of a mass sport, like golf and tennis. Being not particularly athletic (nor unathletic) myself, I’m pretty sensitive to the borderline area. I was also a fairly accomplished teacher in a previous life, and these things interest me.

So, I apologize again (as I did on NSPN) if I give the impression of being let down by anyone in particular.

As for trying it myself… of course! But I can tell you now that the symptoms I have fit the diagnosis in that article perfectly… diving paddle, no leverage for hip snap, etc.


I thought it was a
great article, and I’m looking forward to warmer weather so I can try the technique. Last summer, I was working on what I call my “short roll” which is similar to what was shown in the article, but with my head completely immersed, for a slightly longer time.

My goal was to capsize and brace/skull/hip snap back up before the kayak (and me) turned completely turtle. This appears to be a shorter version of that, with the head/ear maybe not even getting wet on one side.

The picture, Image 2 is captioned" A novice will often lean away from the capsize and push the paddle down, making a capsize inevitable". FWIW, the author’s intent with the photo, showing the wrong way to lean and the head and paddle position, was crystal clear, to me anyway.

What bugged me more about the article than anything else was the shameless plug the author made advertising for Epic paddles. I’ve seen quite a few paddles made by Epic, but never seen one labeled like the one in the pictures. When turning the page to the next section, I was expecting to see Epic kayaks printed across the bottom or sides of the capsized kayak!