Heeling the rail to the water

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and I need to stay local, so I took my Wildfire to a nearby pond to practice some freestyle moves. I spent a lot of time trying to “heel the rail to the water”, but could never quite get it there. I know you weight one knee and unweight the other, but rail was still 3-4 inches from the water.

I’ve seen descriptions of coming up off the seat, and I tried that, but coming off the seat completely seemed to shift my weight forward burying the bow and slowing me down, and I still didn’t get the rail to the water. I tend to kneel with my butt on the front edge of the seat. Maybe I need to move back so I am not burying the bow?

I also tried moving both knees into the same chine. That worked better, but the boat definitely bobbled as I moved my knees from one chine to another.

So what’s the trick to getting the rail to the water? Maybe I am just being too conservative.

Just a side note, I also spent some time doing the wedge (bow pry) and cross wedge. Coming more from a whitewater background, that’s not a maneuver that I have used much. Wow – what a great turn. I was pretty easily getting to 180°, although you are dead in the water when you are done.

The Fire series of boats

– Last Updated: Jun-26-16 9:47 AM EST –

all heel, with relative ease to the shoulder. It sounds like this is where you are "stuck". With a bit more effort, they can be heeled, the rest of the way, to the rail. Try moving both knees into the chine before shifting weight from your butt to your knees. That should help with the bobble. Experiment with how high you place your knees in the chine. You should be able to kneel, with your torso erect and have the rail at the water. Another issue with folks learning to heel is BOB or butt out back syndrome. I commonly see students "counter balancing" by sticking their butt out back, thus negating the pressure exerted by the knees in the chine.

As to the wedge, stalling your forward momentum; it does, if you carry it to conclusion. In real world (functional) paddling I rarely hold it for that long. Usually, I use a wedge or cross wedge to nudge the bow around a bend, then convert to a forward stroke. The 180 deg. (or greater) turn is fun but rarely necessary in the real world. A true wedge, like most pure FS moves contains 3 parts. The initiation (an uncorrected forward stroke or a sweep) the placement (blade turned inward someplace forward of the center of rotation) and the conclusion (a sweep to the stern). When used in functional settings, a forward stroke is often substituted for the sweep.

I hope this helps.

Fire boats
Require a little oomph to get totally to rail and frankly it’s not needed. The boat will not spin more

To the rail is a holdover from the olden days of touring boats when you had to get the rail down to free the stems

Bobble can be alleviated by wardrobe. Bare feet and shorts are grippy

I hate to scare you but Lycra pants and hiking sock liners do help

I watched Karen Knight do a ballet
and it was absolutely beautiful how she could heel the boat to the point where the water was just about to come in.

You need to take a few lessons from her

Jack L

To the rail
is not necessary in a shouldered boat like the Wildfire. Performance will be maximized if you heel to the top of the shoulder. To the rail is more for competition or just looking cool. Kim is right that it came from the olden days when we had to heel touring boats to free the stems…before shouldered designs were popular and their benefits commonly understood.

The wedge is the easiest way to turn a canoe that is moving forward. Just use whatever amount of rotation you need then pull out with a forward stroke. Or for fun, make a reversal (going into a maneuver in one direction and coming out in the opposite) out of it by riding it to the 180 position then sweeping to the stern just before you come to a complete stop and then blending to a reverse stroke! Practice til you come out in reverse on the same line you were traveling on going forward.

As Kayamedic correctly points out
it generally is not necessary to heel those boats beyond the shoulder (especially in functional settings)but it is fun, totally doable and the spin rate does increase. A few years ago, at the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous, I experimented with this, while someone timed the turns. There was a consistent increase at the rail. That being said, unless you are exhibiting or doing it for fun, there is no practical reason to do so. In the real world, leaving a bit of freeboard is a good thing. It provides a margin for error.

Kudos on first wedge attempts
My first was ugly unintended

Boat came to stop

I didn’t

Consequences of trying to heel too much and too open an angle

There were six fish under there that fled

used to paddle
with a couple of coastal canoeists- we just kept meetin’ on the river- me bein’ a c1er back then I guess they felt a kinship- they paddled whitesell boats but they would heel them to get the water out from the rapids- paddled new river gorge at over 12 ft with them, upper gauley, middle meadow- solid splashy ww rivers with big waves and holes, when they heeled they splashed the water out with their paddle- no pump required. One of the dudes name was Greg and he was always with a bud. Then they just stopped showing up. Good good paddlers.

Heeling can be functional.

Heal to the shoulder
Pretty sure that I was getting it down close to the shoulder - especially for the onside heal where you have the added security of the brace. I was probably a little more tentative on the offside heal. With both knees in the chine, its was definitely at the shoulder. It’s the transition of getting both knees into the chine, and then back out that’s tough.

Done the wet exit over the rail before
and I was careful to avoid it this time.

I went back and looked at the videos in the functional freestyle thread, and I was doing it different. I wasn’t using an in water recovery, so I was jamming the paddle in from above rather than sliding it into position. I was also placing the paddle very far forward at the bow - much further forward than in some of the videos. I also wasn’t finishing with the sweep, which might have rotated me beyond the 180° that I was getting if I just let the turn go until I was dead in the water.

More to try next time.

Heard of healing away from a wave
to block water from splashing in. Never heard of healing to get the water out. Whatever works. Off topic, but I need to get a pump for my WW boat. I’m not very good at blocking those waves.

Freestyle paddle
Another observation. I have gotten into the habit of using my WW paddle (Werner Bandit with T-grip and spooned blade) all the time. It’s great for the cab forward style of paddling that I usually do, but obviously not so good for this. I was using a Bending Branches Explorer Plus the other day. Don’t know if that is a good freestyle paddle, but the straight blade and palm grip do give a lot more options.

It’s fine
no need to spend hundreds. That’s called a want

What’s important is that it fits you and is wide for this slow cadence stuff , is symmetrical with a symmetrical grip that’s sort of roundish to allow Palm rolls

Make sure the length is approximately correct as well. While in your normal paddling stance;

Place the blade fully into the water, up to the throat. Your grip arm, fully extended, should be nearly horizontal or running slightly uphill from shoulder to grip. An inch or so one way or the other is no big deal. Since the blade is buried, it is only the shaft length that matters.

In-water recovery and paddle length

– Last Updated: Jul-03-16 6:42 AM EST –

I went back to the lake yesterday and spend a lot of time practicing the forward stroke with an in-water recovery like you guys do. I think I was doing it right - at the end of the J stroke flip the hand and slice the paddle forward. Those bow pry's are easier from an in-water recovery, but I've gotten to the point now that I can do it pretty reliably either way.

I'm using a 58" paddle, and when I put it in the water in my normal paddling position, the blade is buried a couple of inches beneath the surface. As I did the in-water recoveries I noticed a lot of noise as that couple of inches of shaft cut through the water. Should I go to a shorter paddle. I do have a 56" that I can try.

It was too windy to practice turns, but I was easily healing both sides pretty close to the shoulder. Get the rail to the water not only required both knees in the chine, but pretty far up the side of the boat. I did it a couple of times yesterday, but I can't imagine how you guys get in and out of that position gracefully during a competition.

If the throat of the paddle

– Last Updated: Jul-03-16 6:53 AM EST –

is in the water, it is buried too deep. The gurgling sound it makes is called piffeling. I think the term was coined by Kim Gass. Either the shaft is too long, your grip arm is too bent or you're hunching over. It's hard to know which without observing but I suspect it may be hunching over. The reason is, hunching over would also be the same/similar to counterbalancing your heel by sticking your butt out back (bob syndrome) and that would be making it difficult to heel. One cause, one cure for both issues. Again, this is just a theory because I haven't observed the problem.

As for the slice forward, at the completion of the J stroke, slice forward without "flipping" the paddle. Instead, palm roll so that the blade stays vertical in the water, with the same side of the blade facing the hull. Perhaps this is what you are referring to when you say flip the hand.

Stationary paddling position
I checked out the paddle length while I was stationary in my normal paddling position, and it was still a couple of inches below the surface. I’ll try the 56" paddle. I could also be hunching over, which would make it worse, but probably not while I was doing the forward stroke.

As for the in-water recovery, at the end of the J, I flip the thumb from down to up before slicing back through the water. The same power face is facing the boat - I think that’s a palm roll.

I may need to do some video.

Correct, that is a palm roll
It’s used in many maneuvers to keep pressure on one face of the paddle continuously so power is uninterrupted. You said you in water recovered into a wedge (bow jam position). Another palm roll from there into a sweep for the conclusion keeps the same face loaded, power and movement constant, and helps smooth the transition between strokes. Sounds like you’ve got it.

Cool - got it
I’ll try that next - with the 56" paddle.

Thanks guys.

no I never coined the word
piffleing… I passed it on learning it from Becky Molina

You know we need a comprehensive book addressing some of the arcane and some would say “why” vocabulary!