forward stroke help

Another vote for edging

– Last Updated: Apr-21-11 8:04 AM EST –

If you get comfy with popping the boat onto an outside edge, just a bit, to make minor direction changes it'll reduce the correction needed from your paddle.

You can sit into the the bilge too, same as with a canoe except the space isn't so big, and just leave the boat on an outside edge to counter wind. You just need to get comfy with finding the secondary hang point, where the boat will sit quietly as long as you stay relaxed. I have hit times with cross winds with any boat I've been in where either the wind direction or the force of it meant that it was that or do a sweep every other stroke. Sitting on edge is a lot easier on your body.

You don't want to be bobbing all over the place because it reduces forward momentum of course, as pikabike says below. But learning to sit quietly on an edge can take a lot of wear off your paddling.

smaller blade
Dress warm for when you first get in the boat. This is the warmup process where you have bllod flow. Then there is a good footbrace so you are using your legs like a rower. Lower the source of the force. Some kayaks with a rudder have no foot brace.

maybe you should go back to the canoe until the shoulder heals. Listen to your body. Canoeing is more aerobic with the small blade. Kayak blades can move huge water with some shock to the joints.

I know I was mighty tempted to suggest you loose the euro paddle but I know there are lot’s of euro paddlers who paddle pain free. I went for a different style paddle and it did the trick for me.

Figure if you were a distance swimmer your in pretty good shape. You’ll hear a lot about using your core muscles to power the boat. I often heard that advice and being a strong hiker I figured sure I had plenty of core muscle…but what I found was I had plenty strong legs.

These days when I exercise I work on my “core muscles” and any exercise I think will help with body rotation.

I don’t go for big weights though I go for repetition.

in the times of the year when I am out of shape (I cannot deny that being in shape last season is sometimes only wishful thinking this season) it seems the core are the 1st to go weak… I don’t know if that is true but it sure seems it to me.

Either way good luck. I’m sure it will all work out for many an enjoyable kayaking adventure.

Exacting question, onno!
“what is your paddle length”?

Not a surprising question, and very astute.

I think I can guess where onno is going with this, and may be informative.

The OP stated that the goal was a “high angle” paddling style. I find it amusing that there are many paddle manufacturers that classify paddles as a “high angle” vs a “low angle” type, mostly based on the…blade design???

C’mon, anyone can paddle effectively with either type of blade design, at any angle. Hmmm, a “high angle” blade design, when used for a sweep stroke (which is a low angle stroke)…is that blade somehow inefficient for that purpose? Nope.

Length of paddle is the major determinant. Too long of a paddle shaft, and you are relegated to using a low angle forward stroke only. This is the reason, I think, for Onno’s pertinent question.

If, during an attempted “high angle” forward stroke, the length of the paddle shaft required the upper hand to be well above the paddlers shoulder, the result is that the path of the blade in the water may be very efficient, but forces the paddler into extremely inefficient biomechanics. One gain in exchange for a significant loss.

To understand this experientially, work with a partner. Create a significant difference in height- stairs, a street curb, etc. Face, and then extend one arm towards each other, placing palm against palm. One person should have their arm extending straight out from their shoulder, the other should find that their hand is noticeably above their shoulder. Now push, hard. The person with their arm straight out, will have a massive advantage over the person with their hand higher than their shoulder.

If your paddle length puts you in this disadvantageous position, you have a choice. Get a shorter paddle, or lower your shaft angle.

Sounds to me like, at 215cm, the OP is likely in the ball park.

YMMV, but for example, at 6ft, I use a 205-210cm paddle for sea kayaking. I could use a longer one, but I like the easier gear ratio, especially with a loaded boat. For racing and workouts, using a wing paddle, my favorite length for distance (determined by heart rate monitor and GPS for efficiency) is 212cm.

Just stay wit paddlin’ a canoo…

Jus’ goes ta show yer… paddlin’ one o’ dem 'yaks be bad fer yer health, amongst utter thangs!


paddle length
I’m 6 ft, maybe a shade over.

I have pretty long arms (I mean my knuckles don’t drag or anything but I sometimes buy shirts or sweater in the xlt size because of my arm length).

I got my paddle at Canoecopia and was fitted by the Werner staff.

I’m sure they got it right because they were wearing lab coats.

What helped me
I like a lot of the advice above, but I also wanted to add something that helped me a lot when I was moving from an Arm/Shoulder paddler to a full body paddler driving with the legs.

If you are paddling high angle style you want to plant the paddle fully by stabbing the water at your feet then you bring it back to your knees and lift it out well before you get to your hips. It seems like a really short stroke but in reality you are just pulling the paddle out at your hips. The blade also moves out from the boat to the side as it comes back almost following the edge if the v ripples coming off the bow.

Now imagine a string from the center of you paddle and the top zipper of your life vest. keep the string tight while paddling slowly and pay attention to the perfect short stroke and fuller rotation.

Now the only thing that seems to get tight for me is my calves unless I grip the paddle to tightly which cramps my hands or I try to steer a lot with stern draws which hurts my shoulder.

Hope this helps. It also helps me to look at this video at:

A lot of good info
A lot of good info on stroke mechanics above, much food for thought.

At the risk of sounding like an engineer, if you’re tweaking your neck by engaging in too many corrective strokes, you might try using a rudder. It will help you concentrate on developing a bilaterally symmetric, proper forward stroke without having to worry about continuously correcting what sounds like a somewhat squirrelly boat. Once that is a more natural and less damaging activity, then you can go without the rudder and incorporate edging and whatnot.

string good analogy
I like the string analogy:

“Now imagine a string from the center of you paddle and the top zipper of your life vest. keep the string tight while paddling slowly and pay attention to the perfect short stroke and fuller rotation.”

That along WITH keeping the paddle shaft parallel to the chest.

Short strokes that get the paddle out at the hip doesn’t mean to stop rotating for the set up on the catch. The video posted clearly shows that.

need to step back, heed the signs…
of what your spiritual leader & body are trying to tell you SlackerV = stay in the canoe…:wink:


Alternative view
From the view point of motor skill learning, and kinesiology, I offer a different view that paddling with a rudder is a potential solution to “tweaking your neck by engaging in too many corrective strokes”, or “developing a bilaterally symmetric, proper forward stroke”.

Here is my reasoning.

One, if the student is “tweaking their neck” by using corrective strokes,whether those strokes are “too many” or appropriate is immaterial. There simply should not be a tweaking of the neck, in particular for the OP who complained of upper trapezius. A mechanical device is not a solution for simply poor body mechanics.

Of greater disagreement is the use of a rudder to develop that symmetric stroke. I would make a bold claim that the opposite is true.

Here is an example. I used to coach junior development flatwater sprint kayaking. Kids often started at about age 9-13; we would not let them use a ruddered boat for at least a year. The reason? Because of the poor feedback. With a rudder, the kids never learned if their stroke was efficient or not- the rudder compensated! Far too many of adult students in my forward stroke classes who paddled for years in a ruddered sea kayak had more inefficiencies than those who paddled rudderless boats. Easy to develop energy wasting stroke mechanics.

The reason for this has to do with an important aspect of motor skill learning. The best retention of a skill (independent of whether it is the correct skill) is through maximizing internal feedback, instead of external feedback. An example of external feedback is a coach saying “yes, that is correct”, “no, that isn’t correct”. Internal feedback is when the learner senses the outcome (sinking a basket- no coach necessary to tell the student they did something). Using a rudderless boat to improve a forward stroke, for instance, employs an internal feedback loop. Too many corrective strokes, after awhile, become fewer and fewer as the student learns from the outcomes what to do, and what not to do. Give them a rudder, and any poor performance becomes obscured.

Long term/short term
In the long term, I tend to agree with you, especially as you have experience with training others.

In the short term, this specific paddler is experiencing injury, so I think removing one cause of stress is prudent for a little while, at least until some healing occurs.

For myself, when concentrating on a forward stroke with a rudder in the water, I don’t generally move the rudder at all. It’s there to improve the straight-line glide of the boat so I don’t have to worry about it. In that respect, I guess I’m using it as a skeg - I should have included that above.

not to mention deviated septums