Technique boat

-- Last Updated: Aug-14-11 9:08 PM EST --

I’m a new paddler who got a P&H Delphin this spring, then an Epic V10L in June. The latter boat is the one I use most often and I really enjoy it; I usually go out 4-5 x week on lakes and rivers, and sometimes in a bay. I bought it for fitness paddling and racing with an eye eventually towards ocean paddling. Right now, my primary concern is developing a good forward stroke and I know this takes a lot of time and practice. In truth, the V10L is still above my ability level, but not to the point I can’t paddle it comfortably and train in it. However, it means I have to think about stability at the same time I’m working on technique. When I want to focus on certain technical drills without stability being an issue, I have been advised to use the Delphin by taking out the knee braces, back and seat pads. The cockpit seems big enough that I can move my knees and I think this is a great idea, but I’m wondering if it isn’t a bit wide for perfecting an aggressive paddle stroke. Might it be worth investing in a more stable variant of fitness or k1-type training-racing boat such as a Hurricane Category 5 or a Nelo Viper 51? (Especially if I can score a used one in good condition). I had also considered a Rapier 18, an Epic 18x, or something more along those lines but I don’t want to duplicate something I more or less already have in the combination of the ski + touring kayak.

Slower is faster…
Oscar Chalupsky often advises “stability before speed”, to develop an efficient stroke. To paraphrase Oscar, “no one is very fast when they are upside down”. To sit up straight and really wind-up your torso is a very vulnerable position. If you are overly concerned about your balance in a kayak/ski then often your technique will suffer because you will involuntarily hunch forward or shorten your stroke or add too much of a brace component to keep your balance.

While I think it’s often good to get a kayak that “challenges” you, if the kayak is too extreme or you don’t put the time in to master then balance, then you can learn some bad habits … and it is always easier to learn something new than to try to unlearn an ingrained bad habit.

Having said that, I use a wing with a ski and my go-fast kayaks (e.g. Epic 18x), but don’t enjoy using the wing with my touring kayaks due to lack of cockpit room and foot position (and I simply prefer a GP for touring).

Greg Stamer

I should add…
I haven’t paddled a Delphin but it’s my understanding that it’s a shorter kayak and there will be a large speed differential as compared to your V10. This might make it difficult to use the same paddle. For example, I can use a large wing with a ski, because it is light and fast, but I don’t like my mid-wing with say, a slower boat like an Anas Acuta because it is much more stressful to my shoulders (even with the paddle shortened), since the kayak isn’t capable of the same speed. If you find this is the case you can look at getting a smaller wing for use with the touring kayak (to keep up your stroke rate) or adopt a slower cadence.

A wider kayak will prevent you from getting the same wind-up at the catch (you can’t get the blade as close to the centerline) but I don’t find this very problematic unless the kayak is very wide.

I am in the process of adding footstraps to my 18X because I use them heavily on a ski and I want to train using the same technique that I race.

For working on your forward stroke, I recommend the Epic video by Barton and Chalupsky. There is good video footage that you can compare with video of yourself. I also recommend an instructor as they can help you on the right path and avoid bad habits.

Greg Stamer

Save Your Money
You already have the ultimate ski in the V10L. It is stable enough in the flat. Sure, you should’ve gotten a V8 first, but I suggest you don’t paddle anything more stable than your V-10L, for it will only retard your development. Most of us train in far tippier boats, like Olympic K-1’s to develop our stroke, and when we switch back to V10L skis, the skis feel very very stable. In fact, I pad up my ski and train out in the open ocean with it to make it more tippy, and then remove it on race day where it becomes super stable. Practice practice on the V10L, each time reaching out further and further way up front. Each time you capsize, you become more aggressive and are not afraid to push harder with your legs and rotate your torso. Eventually, the V10L will fit you like a glove.