More Sea Kayak Training

My knee hasn’t been bothering me, so I had a pretty good spring for whitewater paddling. That means that I didn’t spend much time in my sea kayak. That changed yesterday when I took an advanced strokes class at the Kayak Centre.

I did an introduction to kayaking class at the Kayak Centre last summer That class covered basic strokes with an emphasis on shaft angle, torso rotation, and paddle placement. In this advanced class the emphasis was on edging and more complex strokes like bow/stern rudders and low brace turns.

It’s funny how some things translate easier from canoe to kayak. Bow/stern rudders, low brace turns, bracing and side slipping all have comparable strokes in the canoe, and I picked those up a little easier. I still struggle with my forward stroke, which looks like a canoe stroke with a very high angle and the blade going parallel to the boat. People tell me it is all arms and shoulders with little torso rotation. I think I need to work on keeping my top hand at about chin level, and allowing my bottom hand to swing out more so the stroke looks like a butterfly wing - at least I think that is what I need to do. :wink:

Hope to get out on some on the easier club trips this summer. Plenty of time to work on it.

Yes, I recognize that! And unless you have a relatively short paddle and
inclined to paddle more like a Sprint paddler, paddling with a ‘canoe like’
forward stroke is probably overdoing it and unnecessary for touring kayak
paddling, as I have discovered. Just practicing with more torso rotation and
(for canoeists) short forward sweep strokes directed to the outside works
pretty well for me, except it uses a whole lot of different muscles than I was used
to (and caused me some discomfort in the beginning – but that could be my age showing…).

That’s what everyone says - overkill, but it seems natural to me. I did 13-miles into the wind and against the tide a couple of weeks ago and felt fine - no sore muscles. I’m using an adjustable Werna Shuna set at 210 with no feather - I could definitely set it shorter, but that will make it worse. Maybe I have been hanging around with whitewater kayakers so long I have developed a whitewater kayak stroke. :wink:

I’ll keep working on a more natural cruising stroke - suggestions appreciated. Maybe it will just take time.

Yes, ‘our’ way of paddling is a bit more how whitewater kayakers tend to do it.
I am using an adjustable Braca Hurricane paddle at 210 cm with a 45 degree left controlled feather. I use left-controlled feather because as a mostly right paddling canoeist I am too used to control my paddle blade with my left hand – right control just doesn’t work for me at all.

Unless I am using a more touring kayak like stroke, this paddle feels a bit (too) long. I am now slowly adapting to another way of paddling and except from some muscles that protested, this works fine. It did take some time though.

To be honest, I haven’t feathered the blade because I wasn’t sure whether to feather it right or left. I am a lefty in the canoe, so using your logic I may try feathering it for right handed control.

More experience than logic in my case, as I tried right hand control first but gave up on it after some time because it only caused problems for me.
With left-hand control all works fine for me now at 45 degrees – even low bracing strokes after some careful(!) practice. I am now working on a high brace by practicing a sculling draw stroke on my left side. Very strange experience that I can do that perfectly on the right side and still not on my left side ;-(

The only thing that will probably stay, is that I tend to solve ‘problems’ with my right side also because this is my strongest side.

Just to be super clear, when you talk about the direction of feather w/ a right hand control that means that the left half of the paddle is rotated back towards the body when it’s held horizontal in front of you, or away?
That would be if we were looking at the scene from above.

There is an R and an L on the paddle for feathering. At the 30 degree right, the left side of the paddle is rotated so the top edge of the blade is to the front and the bottom edge is to the back. Does that make sense - hard to explain.

That makes perfect sense, thanks!

Get your forward stroke solid before you start playing with feathering, if you even need to feather.

When being introduced to sea kayaks in the mid-90s, my first paddle was a one piece with a built in 90 degree feather. I used that paddle almost exclusively for about 15 years. Initially, I had to learn to twist my wrist and am lucky many years later that I never developed wrist issues.

Now I teach new paddlers with 0 degree, no feather paddles and suggest they solidly learn and execute a paddlers box and torso rotation before being concerned with feathering. Those two skills will enhance your forward stroke much more than feathering. BTW, the forward stroke is without a doubt the most difficult kayak stroke to learn…at least in my opinion.

PS - When I play in surf or go for long paddles outside of classes, I adjust to a 30ish feather. And, am very thankful that I have reduced the feather from my introductory paddle’s 90 feather.

Agree, but if you do and it doesn’t seem te work well, try feathering with the other control hand.

Personally I only wanted to use feathering because it can improve precision and coordination with alternating the forward strokes at high stroke rates with high angle strokes. For lower stroke rates feathering only makes paddling unnecessary complicated, I quess.

That makes sense - one less thing to think about.

Glad to hear - I’ll keep plugging away at it. Seems like it should be easy.

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Instruction is always a good idea.
There are people out paddling sea kayaks that have never done a wet exit.

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Thank you all, for your commentary. As a longtime canoe paddler, I too have had some challenges in transferring skills. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone!

I have several friends who have gone from kayak to canoe. Seems less common for people to go from canoe to kayak - maybe because there are less canoers around to start with.

Us open boaters like the old adage “half the paddle, twice the paddler”, but it isn’t true. Tried whitewater kayak and now sea kayak - just as challenging with two blades as with one.

Graham & eck…as one who has recently gone from sea kayaking to incorporating some flatwater canoeing into my paddling, having a single blade (i.e. only 1/2 a paddle) certainly complicates paddling.

However, I find flatwater canoeing strokes much more relaxing than flatwater kayaking. If I overpower a canoe stroke the boat doesn’t do what I want it to do unlike in a kayak where it is just inefficient & a waste of energy.


Yup - solo canoe is pretty unforgiving - you’ll know right away when you are making a mistake. Less so in a kayak, which is kind of my problem with the forward stroke.

With a wing paddle you can, and should, use a loose grip; and change the feather with just a flick of the thumb & forefinger, with never a bend of the wrist. I use about 80° right hand control.

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I’m a sea kayaker who has picked up canoeing. I love using a single blade. It feels a little less awkward to control and utilize for maneuvering strokes. And it just feels like a different groove.
I think ergonomics always comes into play. It’s not so much a matter of something allowing more inefficiencies, and we just unknowingly continue on paddling inefficiently because we can get away with it. We have to take into account, given the way our bodies work and our connection points to the hull, what efforts yield the most forward propulsion. Whether that be maximizing all out speed with whatever effort we can muster, or a more relaxed approach where we want to maximize efficiency.
I’ve been paddling the canoe from a bench seat mostly, with no foot braces. Not having a foot brace has seemed to me to complicate transferring rotation into forward propulsion instead of turning the canoe. So maybe forward power is best delivered differently given different contact points with the hull. I think I’m trying to figure that same thing out, only from the opposite perspective of a sea kayaker going to a canoe.

It is tough to teach an old dog new tricks, and interesting to hear people’s experiences going back and forth between canoe and kayak.

A terminology difference between open boaters and kayakers is “lean” vs. “edge”. Open boaters learn early that moving around in moving water takes “speed, angle and lean”. Lean in this context is a “J-lean” with the head centered over the boat, not a bell buoy lean with the body out over the gunwale. For sea kayakers that J-lean is edging, and the bell buoy lean is leaning. I can’t tell you how many times during this class I talked about leaning my sea kayak, and was corrected - its edging. Like I said - tough to teach and old dog new tricks. At least I know how to do a J-lean.

In addition to my canoe-like forward stroke, the other issue that I have in my sea kayak is getting on the right edge. In moving water in an open boat you are always doing inside edge turns. The only exception that I can think of is a sideslip where you are on on outside edge. There are a couple of freestyle moves (post and wedge) that are in on outside edge (freestylers would call it an outside heel). Fun to practice on flatwater, but not something I would do in moving water.

In my sea kayak it is mostly outside edge turns (at least for cruising), which definitely isn’t natural for me. In this class we initiated most turns with a sweep, which gets me on the right edge for most turns. Hold the edge and paddle forward for a gradual carving turn, stay on that edge for a bow rudder. Once I’m on edge I’m usually OK - its getting on the right edge that is the challenge. Haven’t really got into inside edge turns yet, which I know you use in current, and also surfing?