Hip rotation conundrum

So of course I can see all the training tape and the experts doing the foot pump thing to increase hip rotation. But here is the deal.

“Proper” paddling teachings say we should exit the blade at our hips. Not sure if this means when the blade reaches the hips, the hand reaches the hips or if maybe the hand reaches the imaginary line extending through both hip bones to the hand or paddle.

At any rate, I can easily, very easily rotate my torso enough to achieve any of the above without rotationg my hips. Getting the paddle to the hip bone with the lower arm straight requires very little upper body rotation. Getting the hand to the hip bone requires only minor hip rotation. Getting the hand even with the imaginary line extending through the rotated hips joints means the paddle is WAY behind the paddler, a situation not recomended.

I have read where good torso rotation will allow someone from the side to read something like a number on your chest or back when properly rotated.

So are these pros actually rotating to exit the paddle well past the hips? If I rotate my butt and my torso so that you can read a number on my chest or back, my paddle will be well behind the cockpit before slicing out.

So what gives? What am I not understanding?

In my mind, I see all this hip rotation in the seat causeing only yawing of the boat which is undesirable. Why upset a perfectly flat running craft to create excess drag just so that one can pull the paddle past the recomended exit spot?

Rotation after blade leaves the water
Rotation doesn’t stop when the blade exits the water. It continues as part of the setup for the catch phase of the next stroke.

First, when you reach forward for the catch part you are rotated away from the stroke side. Second, the higher the angle you hold your blade the more you can rotate as you stroke without that meaning the paddle goes behind you. Finally, you can always do any of this with or without the blade going behind you without rotation, but forcing a more rigid “box” with your arms/paddle you can do what little (or lot) of paddle movement using more core muscles.

common concern
Most people trying to increase rotation have a very hard time letting go of that feeling of the firm arm-pull. It just doesn’t feel right if you’re not pulling the arms back.

Now if you’re exiting at the proper spot, you increase rotation, and you do the same thing with your arms, you’ve got the idea of where you end up.

So your arm is straight at the plant. For demonstration, don’t bend your elbow at all and rotate. If I turn 90 degrees, and keep my blade alongside the kayak, my hand is still quite a distance in front of my hip.

So instead of giving that full tug with your arm, and limiting rotation to tune in the proper exit, you focus on giving that full rotation, and limit arm use to tune in the proper exit.

Man am I ever glad you posted this
I have been questioning the “proper stroke” for years and every time I dwell on it, I end up feeling so uncomfortable I say freak it and just do my own thing.

I’ll be in the middle of a race, and be reminding myself to “rotate, rotate”, and as I concentrate on it, I’ll be watching my speed drop a 1/10 or so MPh



It’s not hip to rotate your conundrum
in public.

I’m just comfortably paddling, it’s pretty much arm stuff. But when I really dig in, “The Stroke” comes out. If you really reach forward at the catch (spear the seal), your torso rotates when you reach. Try and reach for that last pork chop at the dinner table without rotating your shoulders and torso. Someone else will be sitting there eating if you don’t. So, reach forward, and, as you pull back, your stretched torso muscles unwind. It’s that unwinding that gives you additional power since, essentially, the back muscles are retracting to a resting state.

Pulling out at the hips is a good idea if you have a very vertical stroke since your paddle is actually lifting water then. If your stroke is more horizontal, it becomes less critical. Not unimportant, just less because your paddle is more horizontal to the water and it’s still pushing water. Although, since it’s coming back in toward the boat, it’s also providing steering.

Nigel the Gelmaster
Nigel Foster even says something to the effect… if you’re just futzing around going slow … you don’t need much torso rotation but if you’re need a powerful stroke to move fast or to get through the elements then you need to have a great stroke technique…

Not the only one
I struggle with how to do my forward stroke as well. I’m sure with practice things will get better but even in most of the online videos I see posted it looks like the blade is coming out behind the hips.

When canoeing with a bent shaft I have no problem pulling out at my hips, but with my double blade (euro) I find it very difficult to pull it out there. Not only does it feel unnatural but I find it hard to physically do, like the blade just doesn’t want to come out there. Maybe it’s the difference between a wing and euro paddle and maybe it’s just technique that needs to be refined.

I don’t doubt those that say remove at the hips, just that it’s easier said than done in my opinion. Looking forward to getting on the water again next spring with a wing paddle and ironing things out a bit more.


trying to use torso more when going slow
It’s easy to get a pretty good form when pushing. I’m trying more to do so when going slow. One big reason is to make it so natural that when things get rough I still have good form. I’ve found in many sports that when you get nervous you revert one or two steps back to technique you were more familiar with (even if not better). So I try very gentle foot pumping and rotation. I also figure this helps avoid lower back pain for me on long but slow paddles.

It depends…
A big part of forward paddling technique is aimed at getting a good shaft/blade angle (blade traveling straight backwards with power face perpendicular to that line of travel).

In terms of your hands, you don’t want the blade-side hand very far ahead (toward the stern) of the offside hand. If it’s too far ahead, rather than propelling the boat forward, you are either lifting water (with a high stroke) or drawing it (with a low stroke) or a combination.

In those terms, you exit when you can no longer maintain that optimum blade/shaft angle.

Hip/torso rotation is a factor because the more you rotate, the farther you can go with that optimum angle and the longer the effective part of the stroke is. That’s because when you rotate, you can keep your offside hand more in line with your blade-side hand.

(Easier to demonstrate than to write about.)

watch this video
watch this video and then you can understand what really good technique is for making a kayak go fast and efficiently. It can take a long time to perfect the technique, so if you are trying to improve it, go paddle and focus on one aspect for 5 minutes, then another, and so on. One at a time. Push hand at eye level, push elbow not above shoulder, leg/hip motion, maintaining a solid box/triangle btwn your torso/paddle shaft/arms, etc.


Look at many of those racing vids.
Even the gurus with the lesson vids. Notice their K1’s rocking side to side while they pump their feet and throw their weight from one side of the boat to the other.

I am wondering if upsetting the boat counters the few extra inches of stroke? Of course these are Barton and other world champions, they are obviously doing something right.

That makes sense
Someone had asked what I paddle. I might be in any of

Eddyline Fathom

OT Cayuga

Heritage 9.5

But I do like the person above and practice slow mo perfect form. But it is true you don’t get the same feedback doing that. I do pretty well when I crank it up for an old guy. There is a certain feel though, you know when you are hitting it. I tend to still want to bend the lower arm. I practice a lot of completely straight arm paddling to break myself when I catch it.

Anyway, I find I can sufficiently rotate without all the hip sliding. I do still apply pressure with the feet, but no extreme flexing of the legs is necessary as I see many of these skinny boats doing.

what might help
Forward stroke improvement seems to be a chronic effort.

To begin to get the feel for a good rotation, hold your paddle almost parallel to the water and stroke as if it were an oar and you were in very shallow water. The rotation comes very easy. now gradually move your paddle to a vertical position a bit at a time and try to maintain the hip rotation. It should get you started.

Kemescy’s power circles
that’s some amazing stuff, especially from a biomechanics standpoint. easier to understand if one has a degree in it (i don’t). i took a course from one of his disciple’s a couple years ago and it was pretty cool, working through each theoretical circle. i like to think it improved my paddling ever since. however, without a wing paddle, i’m probably limiting my incremental improvements.

frankenstein straight armfor Halloween
Start wirh arms straight. Throw your belly button out to the right and then to the left. Lower the source of the force, like rowing http://kayaksport.net/technique/indextechnique.htm

Liwowski is going 13 mph

Good throw should help level things…
… but realize you are likely watching really high power sprint paddlers too. Things are gonna move!

Correct link
should be:


And then navigate from the left menu…

Sweet Video
Great visualization of torso rotation.

I especially like the Jan Hammer / Miami Vice music in the middle of the video.

Good stuff.