Paddling past the hips

General knowledge of everything I’ve read is that you don’t paddle past your hips. I’ve found that I’m still generating power at least 6" past my hips without creating a whirlpool or lifting my boat.

Any thoughts, comments or advice on this?

What part
Is not to go past your hip. Is it the paddle blade or your hand or what? And why?

In video clip I have seen they alway seem to “Paddle past their hip”

I’m sorry but I just do not understand.

what makes for forward motion
If one understands what does and does not make the boat go forward one can learn how to maximize effective paddle movement and decrease wasted energy.

If we were a machine we would place the paddle totally vertical in all three dimesions and keep it that way from catch to exit. To the extent the paddle is not vertical it pushes water downard, upward and sideways instead of back (or the boat forward).

Most rules of thimb begin here, that is the hand reaches the hip, not the paddle, and exits. This is meant to teach us to not pull water up into the air and not to push water towards the boat at the end of the stroke.

If you don’t believe how counter intuitive this all is, try getting a gps unit and a heart rate monitor. Work at a constant heart rate and vary where you catch and exit, and how vertical you paddle. You will be surprised at how much your speed varies at the same effort level!

To boil this down
to just a few words . . . It is your hand that is not suppost to go past you hip.


yep, that is the rule, of course other factors present, one can still have a very ineffective stroke with allot of energy not makeing the boat go forward, so learn to go past this rule and learn how and what works for you, your paddle length, boat width, how vertical you paddle, how to roatate the torso and hips, how to keep the paddle blade from pulling down up and sideways, etc.

think you don’t care? you will if a huge wind gets going pushing you out to sea, or you need to tow a friend who is sick, or to get off the water quick in a storm, etc etc.


How do you know you are generating…
… power at that point?

Actually, I don’t doubt that you are generating lots of power. It’s just that very little of it is propelling your boat forward.

Most of it is probably propelling your boat ~down~ (not up), which you may not notice much since your boat is already sunk into the water by the force of its weight and yours, which comes to 200+ lbs, most likely.

So, you may be building muscle and feeling virtuous about making a big push, but it isn’t doing much for your forward motion, if that’s what you are interested in.


I’m With You, Bruce
I also feel like I’m getting a lot less push if I stop the stroke at the hips. I’ll take the GPS out and let it tell the story.

past the hips
My GPS is on the way but I wil say that if I plant the blade as vertically as I can with my body twisted and try not to bend the arm letting the rotation of the body/hips basicaly push the boat past the blade, that there is a diminishing return in forward motion past the hip. Not saying that you are not generating forward motion but doesn’t it make sense to save that same amount of energy for a stroke that produces more forward motion?

the previous comment about pushing the boat down makes a lot of sense…


axis of paddle
The stroke should stop when paddle is no longer vertical in long axis. Does not matter where your hips or hands are.

If paddle is not vertical you will be pulling boat down as well as forward and this is where the inefficency comes from. More power here leads to more drag. You maybe able to move boat faster but it will cost more energy.

The hard part is figuring out where this point is. Can’t really watch paddle while paddling. Video helps or having someone observe you helps.

Racing this makes a big differnce as it will interfer with glide and slow you down. Also in seakayaks or rec boats it is more difficult to feel what you are doing because the boats have added stabilitly (which help in rough water) but make subtle changes imperceptable. By no means a slam on those boats.


Glide instead of extra pull
Good point. You’ll get more out of a glide, obviously with less effort, than out of pulling when the paddle is angled up from vertical, be it to the side or behind. So if you want to keep the same cadence, substitute glide for that extra pull.

When to glide? I pause just before the catch, using that momentary pause to make sure my hips are fully wound up, wet-side knee bent and engaged with the hull, and blade comfortably forward for an efficient catch.


Feel is not a good guide
To take an extreme example, paddle backwards, or draw vigorously, or scull strongly for support. You get plenty of feel of power, but the power is not driving you forward at all. With a pull past the hips, of course, there is still ~some~ forward component. But feel is no guarantee ~how much~ forward component.

Of course, if your main goal is to build the muscles that pull behind you and up (deltoids? triceps?), like a dumbell lift to the side and backwards, then fine.



– Last Updated: Aug-30-05 8:55 AM EST –

I don't have a GPS. However, when I do a series of strokes stopping the hand near the hip, I appear to be going slower than if I do a series of strokes where the hand is approx. 6" past the hip.

Wouldn't the distance between your hands on the paddle have an impact on this also?

isnt that a little simplistic?
the paddle starts its stroke angled forward of vertical if you are reaching and is only vertical for a portion of the stroke. i can’t picture a practical stroke in which the paddle face is always 90 degrees to the axis of the boat.

it is a simplification
It is a simplification but it helps as an illustration. You want to do the most work during that brief period when the paddle face is nearly vertical. You also want to keep the paddle near vertical as long possible without compromising good kinetics.

I got a bit of coaching this past spring. My biggest flaw was driving the top hand forward and quickly creating a negative angle and yanking the boat down at the back of the stroke. As a result, for a given speed, I was doing more work than my competitors for a given speed and actually working at a higher cadence despite pulling the blade back further. I’ve spent the summer working on this and have managed to drop my cadence for a given speed substantially by maximizing the effective power per stroke.

I always heard
the best way to do it is think of yourself as not moving the paddle, but planting the paddle in the water and moving the boat forward with your hips.

If you take the stroke 10% further aft - that is a 10% delay in your next catch.

The real power is up front (due to body, boat and blade mechanics) - just after the catch is fully planted.

Shortening/abbreviating the back part of the stroke (and giving up any perceived added propulsion you may get back there) results in better turnover and the blade being in the higher power transmission zone up front a greater percentage ot its total time in the water. Apply power and get it out to repeat on the other side.

Time spent in lower power/poorer transmission areas does still add some propulsive power - but not as much as you’d get upfront on the other side (and also potential for lifting water/inducing drag/etc. as already noted above).

This stuff is more apparent at moderate cruising effort and above where the efficiency buys you something. At low poking around speeds I doubt anyone will care either way. Heck, you can move the boat paddling only behind hips - but good luck getting much over 3 knots or doing it for long.

A little off the topic here, but I find if I paddle past the hip in confused seas, the paddle sometimes (and I know this sounds weird) gets stuck in the water. For this reason, when I’m paddling in such conditions, I’m extra careful not to pull that blade too far back. Anyone else experience this?


Used to be my favorite way to capsize
when I was starting out! I’d paddle out upwind, turn downwind, and then start capsizing as I’d let the stroke continue farther back (easy to do when the boat is suddenly moving faster) and capsize myself as I tried to lift a more horizontal paddle blade.

Yeah, now that I think about it my only unplanned capsize so far (I really need to push it more - ski dumps don’t get counted count but can happen like this too) was a sort of lazy slow motion follow the paddle over thing as a beam wave caught the other side and completed the rotation.

I mostly use GP and it SEEMS like I extend the stroke farther back - but my hands still aren’t getting past that imaginary rod through my hips.

Note that if you are actually rotating hips the stroke can be longer and still not pass the hips as they are moving back and turning toward stroke side. To really get past hip you may unconsciously add some lean - and not at the best point. See above L