Help me with teaching...

… teaching my girlfriend to paddle. Over the weekend she got her first boat, Impex Force 3. Lovely boat, fits her just right. She is a beginner at this, and we paddled over the weekend. She was doing a lot of “S’s” while paddling, to the left, then to the right and so on. I have been trying to explain what I am doind and how Im going straight… but she found my “explenations” overwhelming. Too many things to think about.

How would you go about this? What would you have her concentrate on and what would you add as she progresses (body rotation, puting in the paddle at the same spot, take it out at the same place, hands the same height, push on the foot peddles)…

What would you do?

honestly -
I’d send her for a lesson with a really good instructor. Or better yet, take a lesson together. I’m sure there are things both of you could gain from a good coach.

Teaching girlfriends/boyfriends/spouses can be contentious, plus, a good coach can simply be a much better teacher and save a beginner some frustration.

Spend some cash, and save your relationship! :slight_smile: Works for me and my wife.

Eyes Forward

– Last Updated: Apr-27-09 5:18 PM EST –

Ask her (very nicely) to focus on a spot in the distance and paddle toward it. Ask her (nicely) not to look at her paddle. Tell her (nicely) that she doesn't look at her damn feet when she walks so don't look at the damn paddle when she's on the water. Say this nicely, of course.

Your significant other will not learn from you.

Forward Sweep Strokes
Teach her correction strokes so she will know what to do when she starts to veer off course .

Make sure she doesn’t pick up the bad habit of using reverse sweep to correct when paddling forward .

I agree formal classes may be less frustrating though I know my wife preferred me to teach her skiing so you mileage may vary.

So if you teach, be patient. Don’t have her work on more than one thing at a time at first (less confusing and helps to learn the affect of each move). Play games and exaggerate motions (reach WAY far for the catch, edge lots when turning, etc.) so they can see the affect and get muscle memory. Play follow the leader where you exaggerate motions so it’s clear what you’re doing. Only teach for a little any time out then just have fun the rest of the day. Start with learning about the boat like wagging the boat left and right to feel how your body connects and how primary and secondary stability works. To some extent you want them to discover what is correct seeing the affect of all the little parts.

Lacking an instructor, get a good
video and watch it together. Then you can critique each other. Lovingly of course.

Use some balast in the rear hatch.
Also have her put the skeg down. Not much else you can do to the boat to stiffen the tracking. Now make sure she is not holding the paddle off center. Last watch her paddling and see if she is rocking her hips with each stroke. Some paddlers tend to lean into their stroke causing the kayak to go on edge enough to veer. Hope some of this helps. Jaws

Wow, does that ever hit the nail on the

I know it from cycling. If your are eye balling that hole in the road, you will hit it. - If you are eye balling the side of it where you want the bike to go that is where the bike will go.

If you are in white water and are eyeing the big boulder, you will hit it. If you are eyeballing the clean run through the side of it that is where you will go.



yep… funny story
I was skiing down some easy moguls once and notice a hole on the side of one maybe 6"-9" wide and deep. Seemed odd so I noticed. Well damn if my ski tip didn’t go right in launching me down the hill. I couldn’t have hit the hole better if I tried.

Drop the skeg
Then get into a pond or lake and have fun.

A canoe or white water kayak will expedite things but you don’t have that.

Something I teach (as taught by Mark Dykeman to a slightly more advanced friend at the time) try to make each forward stroke positive, forward strokes are forward and always correcting, slightly, gently:

Don’t do reverse pry’s and rudders to fix your course you will wear yourself out. Most aircraft spend almost 90% of their air time in some state of correction, why would a kayak be different?

A course would help, leans, bracing sweeps and all the cool stuff but practice in safety can be lots of fun.


Less is more, if you tell someone too much they can get overwhelmed. I took a “How to Teach” class with Karen Knight several years ago and it really taught me to stop talking so much and think about what to say.

A good exercise is to limit yourself, try to teach her without talking, or teach the forward stroke with 10 words, no more.

forget the mechanical remedies
she should be able to paddle without the skeg and weight in the rear hatch on flat calm water–having her concentrate on a distant target is a good idea—even better idea is to get some lessons(bad idea to try to teach a wife or girlfriend anything) if she can afford an Impex Force Cat 3 as her first boat she probably has enough cash to take a quickie starter course.

knowledge is power

– Last Updated: Apr-27-09 9:55 PM EST –

with friends, boy and girl friends and spouses it is best if both have the same knowledge and then help each other

So, why do boats go straight and why do they turn when paddling forward.

Good image is the bow is in wet cement and the stern is on marbles when going forward. Why? Because the bow pushes water apart creating high pressure which keeps it straight, while the stern is an area of low pressure in the wake of disturbed water, so it slides back and forth easily.

When a new paddler paddles they KEEP THE PADDLE IN THE WATER TOO LONG, that is they keep paddling past their hip and past the center of the boat. This creates a semi sweep stroke on that side. Thus, the back of the boat starts to slip to the other side. It looks like the front is turning but the back is SLIPPING.

Now the boat is slipping one way. The paddler takes a stroke on the other side and same deal, keeps paddle in water past hip, and now the boat slides the other way.

If the new paddler can simply learn to reach way forward to start the stroke and stop way earlier, the boat will magically go straight!

Actually what a correction stroke is IS DELIBERATELY keeping the paddle in the water past the hip. This corrected the stern slipping on that side.

Try it it will work

Michael…one of the best posts here ever

oh boy
1.Don’t teach her, learn together

2.suggest she read these responses

3.get a video on the forward stroke

4.practice, don’t teach

The following is directed to her.

You’re zigzagging comes from paddling too hard without awareness what the blade does in the water.

Like Tideplay said you’re dragging your blade in the water too long introducing more turning effort and less forward effort as the paddle goes past your hips. So each stroke ends up finishing with a turning effort.

you’ll need about a 200yd straight run where you can go back and forth over the same course with the same reference point in the distance. Like Kudzu said look forward while your torso twists with each stroke , it’ll take looking at the video to really get it.

Slow down 50% and see how the kayak responds with each stroke,s l o w down more,pause between each stroke. For reference the bow of your boat is 12:00 and stern 6:00. Shorten the length of your forward stroke so your blade goes in at 1:00 and starts to come out at 3:00, in at 11:00 and starts to come out at 9:00.

If your boyfriend is too focused on what you’re doing and giving hints suggest he practice self-rescues for awhile as you practice on what you need. If he doesn’t want to do that suggest he practice draw strokes that take his boat sideways 30’ in either direction using all three draw strokes for each side. After he does that have him do sculling draw strokes that transition to sculling braces. After that have him do sculling draw strokes at six different positions, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00. That should keep him busy.

If your hands are relaxed then your whole body will orient itself from wrists to feet in an efficient posture letting the blade and water teach you. If you grip the shaft tightly you won’t feel how the blade is working and you’ll force your arms and wrists into inefficient postures. What comes through your hands is a push/pull effort with the linkages all changing angles to make that work.

If all of that is too much to think about, get a video, have relaxed hands, slow down and confine your effort to the forward portion of your stroke.

since each of her strokes is a turning stroke she should learn how to actually turn.

Paddle too long?

– Last Updated: Apr-28-09 9:37 AM EST –

If her paddle's too long, or the blades are too big, it makes everything harder.

When I've helped teach a beginning whitewater class we start on a pond, and at the first class nobody can go straight more than a few boat lengths before spinning. We don't spend a lot of time hammering on the forward stroke -- just the very basics, and then go on to sweeps, draws, and other maneuvers that help build awareness of the boat/body/blade interaction. But every few minutes we move the group around the pond a bit.("OK, let's paddle over to that big rock. _____ you lead, everyone else single file behind, I'll watch from the back") By the end of the session they've spent a lot of time paddling straight and most have dramatically improved.

Eyes up
Sit up straight, slight forward lean
Don't pull hard
Keep the blade close to the boat
In at your toes, out at your hips

One exercise for rotation is to try paddling with your elbows locked, or with a big beach ball in your lap.

One way to look at upper arm position is to look at wrist alignment. Most new paddlers drop their elbow when they push forward, causing an obvious and eventually painful flexing of the wrist. If you raise your elbow your forearm will align with the paddleshaft, allowing you to push forward with a neutral wrist and relaxed hand.

Teaching sweep stokes to turn is a good way to build awareness of why the boat might be turning.

slow down
learn the basic forward strokes… also how leaning or edging effects the strokes…

I’d say that’s pretty successful start on an advanced boat…

Yes. slow down

– Last Updated: Apr-28-09 9:04 AM EST –

The most important thing is having a good time and enjoying paddling. You could have her drop the skeg as she learns so the frustration is gone. Years back, Derek Hutchinson used to tell people to do the crawl swim stroke and now put a paddle in your hands and you got it. Just don't cram too much information at her and enjoy paddling.

Also don't paddle to fast - making her work to keep up. That will only distort her stroke.