This is probably a silly question

but I just completed a seven day sea kayaking course and discovered some severe flaws in my forward stroke. I was hoping I could some suggestions to bring out more torso rotation…I seem to have problems adjusting to doing it. Even witha concious effort it feels so abnormal. Any hints, tips, advice, suggestions…‘aces up your sleeves’ type replies would be GREATLY appreciated. I try to make concious efforts everyday while paddling, but I feel I am making slow progress. Thanks in advance…


Remember, tips that help to produce and develop torso rotation are highly coveted by myself lol

Take rectangular prismatics

– Last Updated: Jun-28-05 11:08 PM EST –

orange juice cartons. double them so you have one inside the other. Use them as splints to restrict elbow movement (insert arm and tape to upper arm and forearm) and you will have to rotate if you want to move. You will bet better suggestions but hey it's a start

Try This
Imagine that your elbows are rusted up and won’t bend.


You are showing your manly chest to the cheering crowds on both shores.

remember, straight spine.
I haven’t taken a class or sought any formal training and I am jealous of those that have the time and money to do so. Especially in Newfoundland!

I will echo a previous poster and say the best thing I ever did to improve my forward stroke was to take the backband and toss it. The backband acted as a mental black for me and kept me from using the lower half of my body. The difference was like night and day. I went from doing tiring 10 mile trips to trips only limited by daylight. The key difference was removing the backband that was keeping me from sitting up with a straight back. With the backband I wanted to lean against it. QWhen I did this I severely limited the use of my lower body. Without it, you will have to activate your lower body more.

Dont paddle with your arms. Think of it as paddling by leading with the tips of your toes and throwing your shoulder forward.

I Have
the same issue and am working on corrections. What I have found that works for me reflects the comments outlined in the other responses to your post. I try to keep my elbows straight and tucked in and when I manage to do this it more or less forces you to use your torso. I also have to concentrate on keeping a loose grip on the paddle, and pushing with my outboard arm.

have fun,


use your arse
one thing that has helped me alot is to concentrate on hips. If you the base of your spine is rotating then the rest will follow.

On the pulling side rotate that hip back and to the opposite side. That is paddle right right hip moves back and to the left in an elipse. Push with right foot and relax left leg. You will feel it in your legs and stomach if you paddle hard.

I would also recomend concentrating on only one aspect at a time. If you try to incorporate to amny new things it gets confusing.


This sounds a little strange, but it worked for me. As you’re practicing, first turn your head 90 degrees to one side and then 90 degrees to the other. Really push it. Your shoulders and torso will naturally follow.

I find pretending to

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have laser beams shooting out my nipples scaning the horizon helps.

sweep, watch, and breathe, grasshopper…
I was slamming my paddle around for years then some guru (CRS got his name) taught me this in three or four minutes:

  1. Stop digging and start sweeping – slice out. You can’t rotate your torso if the paddle isn’t kept as parallel to water as possible.
  2. Watch – with both eyes – at the blade in the water. This will turn your torso.
  3. Breathe in with the stroke on one side and out on the other side… this helps get the most out of every stroke.

    PS: this works for tennis too.

physical context
The problem with focusing on turning the head, or crossing the center line, Frankenstein arms, etc, etc, that have been employed over the years is that they are all extrinsic feedback. That is, they can all be symptons of a torso oriented stroke, but need outside observation as to wether any of them are leading you to success.

Here is something that gives the physical context for proper movement.

Get a larg beach ball. Using your paddle, hold it to your chest. Now, turn your body into a position to perform a stern draw stroke (or the start of a reverse sweep). Note that both hands are over the water on that side. Now, turn and do it on the other side.

Notice how much your torso has to move to accompish this? And note also where it has to be generated- not the shoulders, not the belly button, but at the hips.

Try it w/o the ball. Now place the paddle in the water for your forward stroke. Voila

If you do not have a beach ball, using the image can still work, just with a bit more observation. Go to the stern draw position, but take note of the position of the aft elbow; it has to be low, in a direct line with the hand, and just above the deck. If the elbow is higher than the hand, rotation has not occured.

ps, this is the method I use to teach my sea kayak students, I learned it coaching kids in ICF boats.

good luck


You saw my July 4th costume?

Another interesting method…
Another method promoted by Shelly Johnson in her wonderful “Sea Kayaker’s Handbook” uses what she calls a “torso tool”. Uses it with all her students - it’s simple and gets rave reviews, allows the student to break through the mental block and “get it”.

This is simply bout a 4 ft piece of 1/2in PVC. Drill two holes, each about 10 in or a foot from the center. Thread about 2 ft. of 1/4in line through (you may have to experiment).

It’s simple: just put your head through the loop of line so the PVC is horizontal (left to right) and is resting on the top of your chest, give or take, goes across the top of both arms.

Now when you stroke the idea is to keep your paddle parallel to the PVC. As Shelley states:

“The student receives immediate feedback and learns quickly not only to rotate the torso but also to keep the shaft away from the upper body so it can result in a more powerful and efficient stroke”.


Capn Jimbo

Ft Lauderdale Yakfishin Club

We used to use similar tools, but they only referenced shoulder rotation. And quite a few people I have worked with, who think they have good torso rotation, in fact have nearly…none.

It is actually quite easy to maintain the posture with the pvc pipe, or using classic concepts such as the “paddlers box”, and be “taught” that what they are feeling is “torso” rotation, when in fact the only musculature involved is the shoulder girdle.

Although I still use a yardstick on occasion.

Be a hippy

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> one thing that has helped me alot is to concentrate on hips.
> If you the base of your spine is rotating then the rest will follow.
> On the pulling side rotate that hip back and to the opposite side.
> That is paddle right right hip moves back and to the left in an elipse. Push with right foot and relax left leg.

I really agree with this advice. In fact, I'm trying to banish "torso rotation" from my vocabulary and replace it with "paddling from the hips."

I wind up my hips as far as they go -- or even farther ;-), then send an "unwind and pull" signal only to the hips, so it feels like the hips are pulling the paddle through the water. From that almost automatically follows (a) pushing on the footpegs; (b) pumping the knees; (c) rotating the lower torso; (d) moving my arse in my seat.

In other words, the hips seem to be at the root of those other four motions, and I have only one basic body motion to remember, not four or five. In that sense, paddling from the hips is the cause, the others are effects.

And yes, when you start paddling from the hips this way it really feels unnatural and requires extra mental effort to persist. But that clears up after a while, and you'll wonder how you used to think you were rotating at all... and know why so many others think they are rotating but aren't.


Karl, what do you have against

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nipple lasers? Or the wrist watch approach? I do like the beachball method. It does seem to boil down to an imagery that works for you. Getting the hands over the side is a definate plus. They all work at different times for different students. Karl got me to roll after two years of classes with simple imagery. What that was you may ask. Simply haveing my eyes and head follow the paddle. Before that I was just making the motions of sweep per the old C to C. The arm movments I had down, but the head was not following. Some people it is the opposite. Different strokes for different folks. Lasers (and the wrist watch per flatpick) worked for me, and the beach ball! Now if if I can get over the irrational stuff, look out!

I find that I notice when paddling is the movement of my lower spine. I had substantial back problems for years. So I got used to listening pretty hard for any trouble there. When I really get cranking I can feel my last vertebrae (L5) turn a bit on my sacrum. Key seems to be as in golf - a straight spine. Gentle lean forward. Power flowing from the toes on up. Awareness of lumber rotation and that power flow seems essential. If my back arches much at all the power disappears. Abdominals need to balance the back muscles for this to be effective.

If you have a full length mirror around, plant yourself in front of it on some milk crates and watch yourself paddle. Wear your PFD and watch the zipper move from side to side. By watching yourself, you can see immediately what others see when you paddle and you can modify your form appropriately to develop torso rotation muscle memory.

Good stuff , repeating in diff words
and it appears to work a lil better for women , "walkin down the runway " , as if you are in a pagent and showin yer stuff twistin the torso to each side and looking into the crowd . Ever block in football ? shoulder pushes foreward along with hip towards bow , you should be able to see the other paddlers on either side and behind , a good way to keep trac o the group , give yerself T.I.M.E.-things I must earn-----M

different avenues…
…to success. I still use lots of imagery, but usually as extrinsic feedback to guide someone to success. That is, it needs to be reinforced by an outside observer as to the level of correctness.

In any physical skill, the more that the instructor can employ methods that use intrinsic feedback, the better. That is, the student does not need any outside observation, they can tell the difference themselves.

The reality is, most people who think they have “torso rotation” are usaully only engaging the shoulder girdle in movement. The game I mentioned forces the paddler to initiate torson rotation at the hips, there is no other way to perform the task. Therefore, what the student is feeling provides an excellent physical context.

From that point, the insructor can ADD appropriate extrinsic feedback after the student has reflected on what they just did. I remember for you, Bob, it took the form of imagery. Some prefer a silent demonstration, others (fortunately in the minority), want to know about the physics.


No Way
am I turning my head from side to side. Huh uh. Not lookin’ at no paddle blades in the water. Back and forth, back and forth.

I’m sticking with showing off my manly chest to the cheering crowds. ( I MAY try cutting down my enemies on the horizon with my nipple lasers, however.)