prevent a roll situation

In both ww and sea kayaking, we’re taught to brace. Both a low and a safe high brace are stressed as a skill needed to prevent capsize.

Yet I am finding it difficult to put these controlled lessons into play, especially in ww.

Is this simply a lesson only learned through experience, and practice in difficult situations? It seems that students cannot really grasp how to use the brace in a capsize situation,(me included). I have a bomb proof roll on both sides, I can scull all day long laying on my back etc. Yet when off-balance in a wave train or in rough water, I will simply rely on my roll.

So my question is: what is the best method you folks are using to teach students, and yourselves bracing?

Conditions, Pool, and on Placid Water
Well, being in lumpy enough water to need to brace is maybe the most effective practice. Nearby we have the Sacandaga which provides a nice array of choice in its run from placid, class I & II as well as two features often referred to as class III.

One can learn a lot in class II whitewater…

Another useful is to have someone throw your boat around from behind. This works in the shallow end of a pool.

Among friends out on placid paddles we often run over each others sterns unannounced. Done this in both sea and ww boats.

i remember one of the bcu coaches
would stand behind me, that way i didn’t know which side i was going over on…

there is another philosophy to bracing in sea kayaks and that is dont high brace-dont risk the shoulder injury…this philosophy from the Greenland influence which shows that often there is less energy spent rolling back up then in bracing/failing/rolling…so go ahead and let the water take the blow

I find that playing around
side surfing in 1-2 waves is great way to develop bracing skills.


– Last Updated: Nov-29-07 5:15 AM EST –

when I paddle with a newbie in ww and I think the person is likely going to flip, I tell him/her to "Paddle! Paddle!, Paddle!" when going through the rapids or wavetrains (usually I am right behind behind him/her screaming that to make sure s/he doesn't forget or freeze). The act of stroking has a brace or stabilizing element. This works to a point with smaller stuff. But in bigger stuff, a slight adjustment makes a difference and that is, instead of using a good forward stroke, you use a bit of the face onto the surface of the water. Kinda like a "strokebrace" for lack of a better term. These days, especially in surf, I find that when paddling out in big waves and foam piles, I use a normal stroke but as soon as I feel I am going off balance, the stroke instinctively becomes a strokebrace. Having said this, in some situations in WW, it's far better to just tuck and roll rather than try to brace because of the possible danger of shoulder injury because of obstacles. This is not normally the case in surf unless you're a true daredevil surfing and not lily dipping through a rock garden.


I have often wondered what…
a “brace” really is ?

I assume it is what I am doing when I am starting to go over in some humongous seas and just throw myself back up again.

When I am with another newer paddler who is not used to rough seas, I find myself yelling the same way that you do.

I have never capsized since the day I started kayaking, and I have been in conditions where I thought I would in more times then I can count.

But then every so often, in calm flat water I will try laying the boat on it’s side, and before I can get it there I will either have to go up with a strong forward stroke or I’ll go over.

Is that strong forward stroke a brace?



Is it a Brace
At the risk of offending the classically trained, I would vote that any time a stroke is used for stability, you got a brace working. The blending of strokes in my opinion is much more important than knowing the names of all the parts. Practice also helps a student know to protect shoulders and other body parts before showtime . . .

The illustrated high and low brace that is often shown is a guide to basic use of hand positions. What I show people to do as well is paddle your boat and lean a bit with each paddle stroke. After a while you can lean quite excessively and just recover with the paddle stroke. That is the brace that is used all the time while paddling.

This Is The Difference Between

– Last Updated: Nov-29-07 7:32 AM EST –

uncritical acceptance of "philosophy" and go-out-do-it and learn-from-it experience in actual situations. The latter makes everything greyer because it's contextual.

Yes. Sometimes it's far better to just go with the tuck and roll. And sometimes the idea of a "relaxing sculling and rolling" down a class III set of holes/rapids, or doing the same in the impact zone of a decent size surf break, just doesn't match my experience of it. That approach may work sometimes and other times it may just get you hurt/killed. However, if you have actually been able to relaxingly scull/roll your way through those contextual situations in the real world, power to you.


PS. The day I see a greenland guy relaxingly scull through multiple breakers in the impact zone of 4' plus wave day, I will kiss his GP and bow in deep respect.

Thanks guys.
I always kind of figured that, but never was quite sure.



Paddle! Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!
Yeah, I spent a lot of time in ww this past season with coaches behind me yelling PADDLE, PADDLE, PADDLE!

Two apphorism from ww:

When in doubt paddle harder.

and, my favorite,

Paddle like you hear banjos.

Glad You Got That…
now think of this… If you’re at the top of the Gap and you feel yourself losing your balance, would simply just tuck and roll, or would try to stay up with a brace. If you don’t know the answer, next time there spend about an hour and more and watch the carnage.


Echo DonG
Find an inlet with bars that produce 2 and 3 way zippers. One second you’re flat, the next you’re 4 feet up in the air, over and over again. The whole experience is that everything is a brace: forward and reverse strokes, low/high/balance braces, sweeps etc. And sometimes you get flipped and roll up. Eventually, it quits feeling like an exercize in preventing flipping and becomes just dancing. The difference is relaxation and connecting with the water rather than fighting it, and that only comes with practice.

Making it real
I also took the longest time to do a “real” brace, long after it was an easy habit in practice, and even after that it has still been a crap shoot whether I’ll brace or have to roll. It’s something I need to work on. Actually, I was planning to try and convert my rolling up response to getting to the sculling position and holding there in hopes that it’d make my emergency response more flexible. From what Sing said above, that might work.

Part of the issue is what those above have mentioned, that you often capsize with the paddle in a poor position so the body memory with a setup from the pool won’t apply. Having someone stand behind you in the water and just toss the boat all over the place is great for that part.

The other incentive is when capsizing is going to create really difficult or risky situations. My best couple of braces have been when I’d already seen someone get cut up in the same location from capsizing. I’m not sure that there is a way to replicate that other than to go into places where capsizes are seriously risky, maybe not the best idea for a daily paddle…

There are lots of kinds of braces
The traditional high (C to C style) and low braces are not necessarily the best or easiest to employ. As indicated above, any paddle stroke is a brace. So is any sculling or sweeping movement. In WW I often use a brace that mimics my usual roll – a C to layback (EJ). Wherever your paddle is there is always something you can do and it is not always the same thing. One additional note. Never practice rolling by setting up on one side and rolling all the way around. That simply trains you to go first to the roll rather than the brace. Always practice by capsizing in a realistic way (e.g., by missing your brace). If you have a buddy with a mean streak, have them tip you over repeatedly in random directions with your paddle in various positions. Have fun!

Gap Carnage
A good view of the carnage was why I didn’t run it after the two days of WW training this last June, even tho’ the instructor thought we were ready it at least survive it…

It’s probably a poor goal, but after watching a number of sideways and out-of-boat methods of running the Gap my cut was to wait until I could manage to not capsize until just before the last drop. I figured I could will myself to stay in the boat for long enough to go thru that upside down and take the fairly easy roll in the runout. The out-of-the-boat technique, which was demonstrated by a few people who lost it right at the top, looked painful and scarey.

Whether that point is achieved by bracing or sculling seems to come down to how late in the day it is and whether there is any water available under the blade.

Gap Carnage
I’ve spent time watching an array of paddlers hit the Gap… good spot to witness different approaches, witness great boat control, see what happens when people freeze, see expert use of throw ropes, see paddlers aid each other, and the applause when a newbie makes it through upright or at least still in their boat.

“Always practice by capsizing in a realistic way (e.g., by missing your brace).”

A nice little exercise I practice in sea kayak is miss a low brace, and convert it to a high brace. Another is miss a low brace, convert to a high brace, miss that, sweep the paddle forward and you are set up to roll up. so, low brace, high brace, roll up.

Another thing that might help you learn instinctive bracing is to raise you seat and inch or more and then go paddle in some conditions. Totally will change the character of the boat you are used to. I found this out on a recent paddle, got knocked over twice, save a third capsize with a brace and removed that extra foam spacing when we stoped for lunch! Also a good way to practice rolls!

I like that
Good post. I was thinking the same thing regarding setup and being out of position for muscle memory.

This summer I would go out in relatively calm (1’-2’ waves) conditions and just dump; in position, out of position, miss a brace; and find the setup once I was capsized. Then once in awhile I would toss the paddle aside so I would have to reach for or swim to it. I’m continuing that in pool sessions but it’s a good drill (and fun!).

For bracing the person behind you rocking the boat works good to implant that muscle memory. Also having a small kid on the rear deck in moderate conditions in a safe place is good practice. Somewhere along the learning curve and exposure to conditions, I just found myself bracing without knowing it. We made a few hairy crossings on trips where every paddle stroke was a brace, and some were more braces than strokes.

Get Eric Jackson’s Rolling and Bracing

It sounds like it would help you a lot.