I want to paddle faster!

-- Last Updated: May-12-10 7:43 AM EST --

I took the Magic out last night to see how fast I could go. Per the guide book, I paddled 9 miles, 4.5 up and back on the very flat Concord. I used my Zav bentshaft, kneel and switch.
It took me 2 hours and twenty minutes. Comes out to just under 4 mph. Dang I'm slow.
I think I ought to be able to get that up to 5 mph. But I need help with my technique.

Paddling bow I can go hard enough to be breathing hard. I won't say I make it easy on the stern man but I don't really know.
Paddling solo when I try to push that hard I have control issues. My paddle is noisy on the right side. I get too much yaw so I have to switch more often.
So I find myself backing off to where I'm just starting to feel it in order to maintain control.

Any thoughts on how to paddle harder without losing control?
Since I'm kneeling (no choice about that) would I be faster/have better control with a straight shaft. That would move my strike forward.
Suggestions for making my switches faster?


Are you sure you aren’t bragging?

Racers seem to do 6-7 mph
looking a race times, 6-7 mph in marathon boats seems pretty much what folks do. I hope I can get the Magic up to 5 mph consistantly.

So no, as a 51 year old man in moderatly decent condition who paddles an average of twice a week I don’t think I’ll brag about 4 mph.

Magic and speed
The Placid boats guys were comparing Magic and RapidFire a couple years ago w/ GPS used as speedometers.

We got Rapid the to 7.2 mph, Magic to 7.0 with double blade paddle in short sprints.

You’re probably bringing the paddle too far aft, which slows cadence and induces yaw.

The control aspects of switching sides are subtle, most of us doing better on one side than the other. Variance in paddleshaft verticality probably the greatest issue there.

You’d easily blow me away.

– Last Updated: May-12-10 8:12 AM EST –

Have you tried a 10 or even a 7 degree bend?

I haven't been on the Concord/Sudbury/Assabet in years. What stretch?

Yes there is stuff you can do.

– Last Updated: May-12-10 8:31 AM EST –

Getting the paddle well forward and place it well for a good catch. No splashing. You kind of slice it in. Next, pulling the paddle straight back, in line with the center line of the boat, not following the gunnels. This is where most folks could use the most improvement. You must pull straight back with the keel line of the boat. This will really help control. Keeping the paddle as close to the boat as possible without smashing into the hull will also help. Keep the paddle shaft absolutely vertical during the power phase. You really have to reach out there with the top arm. Rotate the torso and pull straight back with a straight lower arm. Remove the paddle by slicing quickly out to the side after you finish pulling straight back. The lower hand should not go past the hip bone. Get the paddle back forward quickly. The time you spend in the air is no good. No stern rudder, C strokes etc. Switch sides every 3 to 8 strokes. Steer by leaning the boat to the outside of your turn and or paddle on the outside of the turn. Perfecting your switch will save you much time. Understand that most of those boats going over 6 are specialized racing hulls. Even those elite athletes can't hold them there forever. You should be getting your craft over 5 soon by perfecting your technique.

I think the Gilespie video shows the really good stuff. A lower quality production buy high quality information.

Have you any idea of what your
cadence is ?

A nice blend of power, 60 plus stokes a minute and practice should get you up a bit on speed.

If you seriously want to get the right technique, pick up a copy of “marathon Canoe racing” by Mike and Tanna Fries.

Got ours from J & J canoe in NY.

You’ll pick up a new tid bit every time you watch it.

Jack L

Yes, that is a very good video too.

– Last Updated: May-12-10 8:37 AM EST –

Much higher quality production. Same type of information. I think I relate better to the Gilespie video because he is kind of older like me and he kicks our butt each race we run into his team.

Having seen Tommy paddle
he is way past that. What I think happens with lots of us when we get the cadence up is we lose our precision with the plant…and also as speed increases perhaps the paddle also is entering too far back and exiting too far back.

Just musing. I know that at a certain point of speed (around 5 mph for me ) I lose precision when the cadence gets high.

It may well be that switching to a straigh might help.

You sure you’re not a tad bow heavy?

Just a thought. I can’t imagine you having control issues caused by a lack of stroke form. Kneeling in the Magic … I’d bet a fiver now that you’re a touch heavy up there.

At least in my boats, and with my big
feet, sitting biases the boat trim forward more than kneeling.

You must have toes like a couple packs

of bratwurst!


Actually, trimming bow down
slightly is preferred. There is a point of diminishing returns however.

I feel better now! Using my Garmin, laid down face up on my kneeling mat I had my Old Town Pack up to 4.2 mph using my loooong kayak paddle. I was kneeling, and I was giving it all I had lol. I kept up that pace for probably 10 minutes and then decided I was just being silly.

Tommy - about that guide book…
…Do you know it to be accurate? The one I use for local rivers (the only one I know of) is not too close on mileage, when checked against a gps. Generally, it underestimates the actual distance on the river.

I think you are right.

– Last Updated: May-12-10 3:49 PM EST –

I failed to notice he said according to guide book. You probably did much better. Plus you say paddled up and back on the river. Even a calm looking current is adding distance to your efforts. You are probably doing better than you believe.

In my case. I was apparently believing I was doing better than I was. When less experienced recreational paddlers watched my efforts, they were all quite impressed and very encouraging as to my skills. Then when I actually entered a race and watched everyone evaportate before my eyes, I was just as amazed as they were watching me. After all their wakes dissipate and I quit getting tossed around, I make it down the river OK. mmmmm.. crow... yummy...

Can you paddle faster?
I’m not trying to be a smart aleck but to paddle faster you need to paddle faster. I’m certainly not an instructor but I’ve said to paddlers that wanted to go faster to paddle faster.

That means more strokes in a minute. It also likely means shorter strokes. Often beginners try to go faster by making longer or more powerful strokes; don’t try that! Try making more stroke in a minute. if you can reach way forward,but take the paddle out of the water soon. If you think you have it out at your hips you probley do not. If you think you have it out at your knees you probley have it out at your hips.

Also make certain to get the blade fully submerged before you pull it back. Stab it all the way in, pull the boat forward 10 or 12 inches and pull it out. The boat moves forward through the water the paddle only moves through the water a little bit. the faster you go the more less the paddle moves in the water.

Hope this helps.

Faster than I used to…
not nearly fast enough. Another trick in the coaching book was to use a paddle with blades too small or even a stick. You need to move the body faster or rather train the body to move faster. Your boat will obviously not go faster during this drill. But your body will. Eventually, that will translate to more speed with the regular paddle.

However, despite me practicing all this. I can tell you the people kicking my azz are using significantly slower stroke rates. That totally blows my mind. To think I suck so bad that I am paddling at nearly double the rate and they smoke my doors. Do I have perfect form? No. But much better than many. Really sad part is when I see someone and identify four things they are doing wrong, as they slowly disappear before me. Pretty humbling.

Rt 225 to Egg Rock and back (NM)

I’m running 4 mph too
but wish I could go faster. One thing I am wondering is: On a river loop, does that necessarily equate to the same speed on flatwater? For example, I am doing 12 mile laps on the local river, and they are running 3 hours +/- 10 minutes. If I were to go out and paddle on flat water for the same effort, would I still get 4 mph?

Has anyone done any testing of this? Discrepancies in my speed upriver and down, VS the speed of the current suggest that it is not the same as flat water. Haven’t actually checked it, but I suspect it is true. Then again, maybe I am just making excuses.