Or should I say the importance of your feet in paddling. I think that one very important element that might get overlooked for new paddlers is how your feet help to propel your boat. There might be a few different opinions on the subject, but I think most experienced paddlers will agree that when your right hand blade is providing the forward motion, you need to have that energy transferred down your leg and to your right foot that should be firmly planted on whatever type of foot rest the boat has. The boat will still move forward without the foot being planted, but you are going to lose some of the efficiency if the energy (force) is only being transferred to the boat through the friction of your butt on the seat.
In actual practice, you will pump your legs to coordinate with which blade is in the water to some degree–rather than applying steady pressure at the foot rests all the time. In a more relaxed paddling mode, you might find that your legs and feet also are more relaxed and the pumping of the legs is much reduced.
It bugs me when I see new paddlers slouched backwards with feet on the front deck… But they don’t seem to care. Also I am not sure seats are really designed to allow good posture… ( I haven’t used a seat back in years…just a backband)
I’ll bite. If your butt is actually moving during the stroke I agree that the foot/leg pressure pushing your butt around is critical. If your butt isn’t moving… feet and legs don’t need to be doing very much. I come from a road bike background. The idea is ‘if it ain’t propelling you forward, relax it.’ Road bikers who are in the saddle are not supposed to have a death grip on the bars; head and shoulders should be still and relaxed. Sure, you can disobey the rules and still be fast but if you want to do endurance you don’t waste energy.
Just yesterday I ordered a carbon foot brace kit from Swift for my Shearwater solo canoe to give my knees a break and hopefully increase time on the water. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out with the foot brace, my legs and the dog.
Tom it should help quite a bit… The mechanics of biking are very different… You can take a strong forward stroke and not have to use your back muscles to keep you on the seat…
Kayakmedic is correct. In a typical touring boat, your butt neither moves back and forth nor rotates during the paddle stroke. Consequently, any pressure you apply with your legs, beyond what is needed to resist the paddle stroke, is just pushing you into the backband/seat back. All you get for any _extra _effort is sore feet and a sore back.
In Greenland-style paddling, the legs are kept straight so the bones transfer the paddle stroke to the foot brace or pegs. It doesn’t waste any energy or cause foot/back soreness. When it’s necessary to lock the knees under the deck, you only need to flex your feet at the ankle and raise your knees. Greenland skin-on-frame boats are designed with this in mind, but a typical sea kayak can often be padded to work in the same manner.
In racing boats, the seats typically do allow for rotation during the stroke, so using your legs can extend your stroke somewhat. Consequently, you’ll see racers pumping their legs pretty vigorously. If you watch their hips, you can see the rotation.
I think what the new, non-racer, paddler needs to learn early on is ‘paddling with your torso’. Rotating the torso or doing forward-and-back crunches during the stroke can add quite a bit of power for us in sea kayaks.
Torso rotation is where most of your power comes from. Arm paddling is inefficient and ineffective. Greenland-style (straight legged) paddling uses your abdominals more, whereas paddling with bent knees uses your hip flexors more.
I always use led drive when paddling, unless there aren’t any foot braces.
I think I always use my feet on long or hard paddles. I think this because I can hear my shoes squeaking and five my bum rotating in the seat and my feet often cramp on the early long paddles of the year. Usually these foot cramps happen around the 20 mile mark. This year I have only done lazy rec paddles so I’m certain I’m using my feet and everything else much less.