key stroke elements

Even though my stroke is still mediocre after 30 years of paddling, I think I have arrived at four key elements (not in order of importance) of a good stroke:

  1. Erect posture. The lower back should only make light contact with the seat back.
  2. No splash at the catch; full immersion before power application.
  3. Maintain the arm ‘box’, with both arms almost straigt. No change in the elbow angle during power application.

    4)Rotation from the hips and lower torso, not just shoulder, i.e., power from the lower torso. My boats have tight thigh pads so it is difficult to get power from the legs.

    These are equally important with my wing, GP, and low angle Euro paddles. (I don’t have any high angle Euros and don’t know about them.)

    Variations due to paddle type:
  4. Deeper initial burying of the blade with the GP.
  5. Pulling hand stays at chin level with the wing; goes a bit lower with GP or low angle Euros.
  6. Wing blade more vertical at the catch, and throughout so the wing’s leading edge can actually lead and develop lift. Very important.

Wing paddle stroke question
I am no expert with a wing, but am confused with this statement:

“2) Pulling hand stays at chin level with the wing; goes a bit lower with GP or low angle Euros.”

Don’t you mean “pushing hand”? The “pulling hand” is the one nearest the water applying power…

Also could note that the path through the water for a wing paddle doesn’t follow parallel to the hull but angles away as it is pulled through.

Sit up straight & forward in your chair
… keep the wrists elevated off the keyboard

(sorry, couldn’t resist :slight_smile:

"wing paddle doesn’t follow parallel"
Also true of Euro-paddle.

You are correct. I mis-typed.

Parallel Is In, Lateral Is Out

– Last Updated: Jan-20-12 4:12 AM EST –

Check out the ending sequence (4:26) to this video and observe the modern parallel wing stroke in slow motion, and judge for yourself:

Remember swimmers were the first to jump on the "lift" bandwagon and a decade later kayakers did too. Today, swimmers have abandoned lift and the "S stroke" in favor of the "I-Pull." Kayakers still lag behind, but are reluctantly and slowly changing back (like myself) to drag.

If you got an old VHS Bud Greenspan video of the Seoul Olympics, you'll notice the difference right away.

Giving and Receiving
Are my two elements of the stroke, whether it be canoeing, kayaking or rowing. Unfortunately, all the focus is on the giving or application of force element, and nothing on the receiving or transfer of force back to paddler/boat element.

which is where alternating leg extension
…comes in when kayaking

Watched it
The paddle does not come back strictly parallel to the boat. It still moves away from the boat but not as much. Strictly parallel would simply make the paddle go under the boat and tip it over.

I don’t follow what you mean by giving and receiving. Or did I just miss a joke?

Anyway, that parallel slow motion stroke in the video does not seem like effective wing technique to me. And hard to do because the blade does not want to move that way.

question for everyone here
Well, maybe not for racing junkies.

Have you ever been in the midst of a paddle and realized you’re doing all of this stuff correctly and at the same time intuitively? IMO, once you capture it, it’s not like a golf swing where you have to keep reminding oneself. Just a question.

little by little it gets there
Still not perfect but it used to be that when I focused on my stroke it was pretty good but less so when I didn’t. The lack of it was particularly true when going slowly with some group just talking and looking around. Slowly the stroke became more reliable even when not thinking of it. More recently I get better at including good leg extension even when not trying to go fast. Speed often isn’t an issue but the better form meant less fatigue and less joint issues. I also find that getting the legs involved more often removes a major source of lower back pain.

Not correct

– Last Updated: Jan-20-12 1:29 PM EST –

The stroke is far from parallel in that example - the perspective distortion from the wide angle lens is what creates the illusion that the blade is close to the hull at the exit. Not sure what the ideal angle is, but it is definitely not 0 (which "parallel/pull" implies). It is something like 35 degrees probably (just guessing).

And, without being an expert swimmer, the only reason I noticed that modern world-class competitive swimmers actually use a "lift" motion is that I thought of it myself based on my paddling with a wing or GP - I said, wouldn't that work for swimming too? And sure enough, when I watched the next swim event on TV I could see they do use lift. Maybe all these top guys were "old school" and can't break the habit ...

Perhaps Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe etc. didn't get the message -;) Just watch

I Don’t Blame You
For it took a bunch of smart Middle School kids to set me straight on this while paddling with them, and “giving and receiving” merely means forces acting in pairs to propel your kayak, canoe and shell. That is: there is an action force and there is a reaction force. And all of the info about correct or proper paddling technique is about the action force. Never about the reaction force, which is unfortunate because although it is equal and opposite, the resulting effect is not the same for all paddlers. Some are more efficient in exploiting the receiving part of the stroke.

It is actually because of them that the swimming world has switched back to drag, especially "early vertical forearm (EVT)technique. Notice no dropped elbows? The same goes for paddling. Keep those elbows “chicken wing” high.

same here
IThe leg motion was sort of intuitive but if I don’t pay attention I sometimes let it slip a bit. But I also use it to keep my back engaged and to keep the pain at bay. It works!

Does Not Yaw
Or yaw is kept to a minimum. In the past, the theory was the wing carved out seeking still water. The other theory was the wing moved laterally to create lift, so the blade moved ahead and dragged the kayak forward with it (like paddling “with assistance” or a little help. My hunch is 90% of propulsion is attributed to drag, while lift contributes maybe 10%?

Thanks Clyde
That clarification helps. You know you really should fill out a profile. I suspect most here do not know who you are or of your long connection with surf skis.


– Last Updated: Jan-20-12 9:51 PM EST –

I find that if I'm working only on the leg-push aspect, it is easy to start dipping that side of the kayak down, leading to a rocking motion from left to right even if slight.

When I'm doing everything well, the boat stays flat and goes faster, plus at the end of the paddle I feel better, both energy-wise and joint-wise. It took a long time to recognize what was happening, but now I know that if something feels strained, it is time to check my technique right away. I've been out sometimes in a half-trance and realized after a while that a shoulder or an elbow or the lower back or whatever is beginning to protest a little. Then, if I make a small change, everything feels good. Some days no change is needed, or I notice the need to tweak technique within a few minutes rather than an hour later. The good part is that these better days are outnumbering the not-so-good days by a big margin. I just have to be vigilant at tweaking it until it's solidly ingrained.

It seems to help to think of buttwalking instead of legpushes.

We Pivot Past Our Paddle Blades
The same way swimmers pivot past their hands. An efficient stroke means the paddle blade remains fixed in location in the water until exit, just like the swimmer’s hand. And if they exit ahead of where they entered, well, that’s quite a recoil!!