Hi Brace vs. Low Brace????????

Okay, I know the difference between a classic high brace and a classic low brace, but I have a question.

I was watching one of the University of Sea Kayaking Videos and Derrick Hutchinson made a comment that made me think. He said that the only difference between the high and low braces is whether you use the power face or the back of the blade, and that the “height” of the brace made no difference.

Why then even use one vs. the other? I really only use the low brace myself as I find it to be more natural for me, even when bracing into a wave when broaching.

What would be the advantage to my using the power face to brace vs. using the back of the blade given that by what Hutchinson says I can use the back of the blade regarless of the “height” of the blade?



Tip all the way over
and lean your ear in the water …

you’ll be doing a high brace , to come back up

It depends on which face you use,
but you always want to maintain a correct paddle grip. In order to brace with the power face, you have to use a “classic” high brace. The only way to do a low brace with the power face is to change your grip.

I feel it depends where the paddle is
/ is not in the water, where you are getting knocked and from which side… for me, ( when on the move) the blade just gets slammed down and I honestly do not even know which it was 'till it’s over. Guess when you have time to prepare it’s different.

The Way I See It…
low brace gets used more in pretty flatwater conditions, or you’re just sitting there, and you sort of have a moment of unsteadiness. You quickly slap on a low brace on the water.

The high brace gets increasingly used more as chops and waves get bigger. You’ll more likely stick a high brace into a beam wave in the middle of a stroke than a low brace. The motion from mid stroke to a high brace is a little more “natural.”


I agree
The choice of which face of the paddle is down / used to brace (and hence low vs high brace) is often determined by where you paddle is when you need to brace. If you just finished a forward stroke on the right (starboard) and lose balance to starboard a sweeping low brace (from aft to fore) on the right would be the most natural response since that’s where your paddle is when you needed the brace. If you just finished a forward stroke to port (left) and lost balance to starboard a high brace to starboard would be the most natural.

This assumes that you don’t take the time to rotate your paddle grip (typically frowned upon). Either low or high braces can be used over a wide range of degrees of capsize with the low brace typically being used to cover the low end and the high brace used to cover the high end of the scale. But there are few hard and fast rules and you can use whichever makes sense to you in that moment. Often high braces are used when the paddle moves fore to aft and low braces are used when the paddle moves aft to fore. Note the low brace use during an aft to fore stroke is much safer for the shoulder than a high brace moving aft to fore (a classic dislocation scenario).

Some paddlers tend to use fewer distinct bracing strokes, instead favoring feathering varying degrees of support into all of their other strokes on an as needed basis. By way of example, my sweep strokes incorporate some lift (bracing) such that I lean into the paddle a bit during the sweep and am pushed back over the boat at the end of the sweep. A forward stroke in conditions can do the same thing by dropping the elbow a bit during the stroke. These are subtle combined strokes that don’t look like braces at all, but provide enough support to allow deep edging.

The best thing to do is to experiment for yourself as see what makes sense for various situations for your boat, your body and your paddle. It’s not how someone else paddles that should be of value but rather what techniques work best for your particular paddling and skill level. In either case the body mechanics out-weigh the differences in the paddles ability to grip the water between the power-face or the back of the paddle.



If I’m falling over in lumpy water, it seems easier to raise my hand and drop my elbow into a relaxed high brace with the power face. Beyond a certain angle of lean, it’s difficult to get the back face underneath you, and the arm angles get very uncomfortable.

in addition
a sweeping high brace can instantly be transitioned into a sculling brace which is really effective in messy water.

another addition
a failing low brace can be converted to a high brace. (and then onto a scull if needed)

The reverse is not often the case.

Actually it can happen
One rolling technique is to finish a C-to-C roll (a high brace) with a forward movement of the body and a sweep forward of the paddle with the back side down.

Spreading Peanut Butter
can be smooth transition either way.


a little different
I too finish my roll with a sweeping low brace to get back to a forward stroke.

But that’s after a successful high brace / roll. A failed high brace (with the body deep in the water) leaves little value to conversion to a low brace. At least in my experience. YMMV



For me the low brace
is used primarily when I’m just floatin’ around not really doing anything. When underway, the high brace comes most natural to me as it can so easily be incorporated into a stroke.

On textured water, the high brace is easier to exit the water with, again due to being part of a linked stroke.

I’ve probably used the low brace more in shallow waters where I’m getting into my boat from the water instead of terra firma. Or, when I’m messin’ with my footpegs, etc.

I use a low brace on some river stretches where I want to control the boat using mild rudder strokes as well as the low brace support.

Both great strokes to have but when I’m capsizing its the high brace to the rescue!


How “Technically Conditioned…”

– Last Updated: Jul-12-05 11:30 AM EST –

is the paddler when we talk about converting low brace to high brace, or from high brace roll followed by a low brace scull to stablize? If the paddler is pretty technically competent, the failed high brace can be converted to a back deck roll on the other side. The back deck roll is really a low brace roll.

PS. I should say the back deck roll is easier with a white water or surf boat. With a longer boat, the paddler can just capsize with the momentum, after a failed high brace, and than convert to a Styr roll on the other side. The Styr is a high brace roll.


You use both - but may not realize it
You may think you only low brace, but I’d pretty much guarantee you are incorporating some high brace into your forward stroke and using the low brace in between when the blades are out of the water.

A related post from Nick Schade on the QajaqUSA forum that says it better than I can. Response is to a GP brace question, but applies to all:


based on the original post
I tried to frame the response based on the original question. There are certainly many, many variations that came come into play for very experienced paddlers but I doubt the original post is asking for every variation.

For instance, I doubt a back deck roll is in the original poster’s quiver. Of course this shows that I have made some assumptions about his skill level based on his question. Possibly a dangerous assumption to make.

At any rate we don’t disagree on the specifics, just on the level of detail / variance that makes sense to consider in this thread. To some extent, it’s the nature of the media that given a long enough thread, every variation and opinion will eventually surface. I subscribe to the less is more philosophy and try to avoid responses that reach beyond the scope of the question. YMMV



Actually, You Right…

– Last Updated: Jul-12-05 1:17 PM EST –

though I do know that Bowler's has stated in other threads that he got his roll(s), reentry and roll, and self rescue, etc. and is working different stuff.


Agree, too
I almost never have to high brace but the few times I did, there is no way a low brace could have been done instead. I honestly can’t imagine doing a low brace at those heights (waves higher than head rushing at me). Seems like a good way to yank a shoulder out.