What is the trick to a balance brace?

I think
You mean push the bottom leg out straight and relax the top leg?

@the OP: I went and looked at pics of the Impex Force 4-- that kayak should balance brace like nobody’s business. You may have to partially unseat yourself to do it though. Maybe let your backband go slack, use the loosest skirt you have, and come out of your seat a bit. if you have hip pads that hold you off the sides of the coaming they may need to go. Head back, back arched, pressure on bottom thigh to pull on bottom thigh brace, slack top leg laying on the bottom one. Get your inboard shoulder in the water, bow your back, stick your chin to the sky, arms back, relax, use your inboard hand to gently push the kayak away from you, keep pressure on the bottom thigh hook and maintain the arch but also relax. You may have to modify your thigh contact points. With your euro, it will work best unfeathered, but with a feathered blade I hold the shaft near one blade and basically use that one to generate any extra lift by sculling it overhead with my palm to the sky like a high brace.

Some common hang ups beyond boat fit are not getting your shoulders flat to the water, tensing your topleg, curling up the torso.

You’ll get it

– Last Updated: May-26-10 8:59 AM EST –

I could not do it initially without the help of a paddle float in a Tempest 170 kayak. Then I could.

Later I could not do it in my WW semi-play boat. Now I can. Better on the right side than on the left.

I am not more flexible now than I was a couple of years ago, so that's not it at all. It is your position and feel for the water.

A boat that sinks deeper when on edge (e.g. narrower and lower volume above water) helps a lot.

Still, some flexibility is needed. If you can't rotate flat on the water facing up and with your rear hand stretched-out holding the rear lower deck to hull seam (underwater), then you probably will have difficulties.

Do it with a PFD. My body is heavier than water without a PFD - not much fat to keep me afloat and the one in my head is apparently not enough -;). So I need some flotation or I sink if I exhale.

Actually I meant the top leg. Some reputable greenland instruction I have gotten recommended extending the top leg (to keep the boat from tipping over), and it does work for me, although I’ve had trouble doing the balance brace in some boats.

I’ll try your way of doing things (top leg limp, bottom thigh pulling on thigh brace) and see how that works.

Thanks, Nate

no problem…
I have no problem reaching around with my left hand and reaching under the back hull when I am twisted out off of the right side. It sounds like I should get a 2nd paddle float and just hang out in the water until I can start to get it.

Based on the above…
… I tried to balance brace yesterday and had no luck keeping my head above the water. I’m 5’6", 150 lb and have an Eddlyine Fathom LV. I’m also pretty flexible.

I haven’t managed to hook up with anyone for paddling and this is a situation where a partner would be very helpful.

And thanks to a message above I ordered Helen’s video… man, she makes it look so easy…

a paddle float :wink:

me also - my solution
I have to basically come out of my seat and sit on the coaming edge. My fat ass must “tip the scales”.

Be willing to sink
Really - you may sink a bit, be willing to wait it out and see if there is a moment where things reverse and you start up again. People usually start moving around at that point to try and recover it - the result is usually that they collapse the arch and all is lost. If you just don’t move there, at least until you are well past any point of saving it, you might find that things stabilize.

“Push your top leg out straight” NH
I find that pushing the boat away with my top leg makes a huge difference along with arching my back. The better you can rotate so your back is on the water the easier it is to balance brace.

As has been noted, sculling into a balance brace may be the easiest wat to get there.

Either that, or

– Last Updated: May-26-10 3:30 PM EST –

...just let your top leg go passive. Don't let it push the footpeg or bulkhead foam.

While this sounds contradictory to "straighten the top leg" it's not. What you want to do is to keep that leg from doing anything that brings the top side over and upside down.

Nice ideas…
…this saturday I’ll head back out and give it another go.

Anyone around here from the Akron, Ohio area?

balance brace
Since you’re a new paddler, how are you entering the water to get in position to do a balance brace? Usually a prerequisite is being able to scull on the water - and fairly effortlessly. There are people who can scull on the water but with a lot of thrashing and muscle and usually they won’t be able to achieve a balance brace until they can get down to the water effortlessly.

You don’t have to grab the boat to do a balance brace. You just want to be able to arch enough so the boat wants to fall back to it’s normal floating position. That’s why it’s called a BALANCE brace and not floating with a paddle in your hand. Some light small people can float like that because the PFD buoyancy and the paddle buoyancy is more than enough with their light torsos.

Two things: Make sure when you’re in the water. you try to keep your head cocked back. Many times people are leaning back but still trying to lift their head to breath. And, try extending your hand out with the paddle so you get the most flotation leverage from it. Using a paddle float is a good way to get started and wear a dive mask so you are comfortable with your face under water. If you work in water thats a foot deep, it makes it easier to experiment with your body position.

Grabbing the boat…
I mentioned this first I think - to clarify -

On my good, flexible days this is unnecessary. On the less flexible ones I find that grabbing the boat in back is a good way to get a back that is a lot closer to 60 than to 50 to rotate enough. Kind of a isometric move that you can do in the boat.

So no, it isn’t necessary per se. But for some it may be a good way to get to the needed arch.

Grabbing the boat

– Last Updated: May-28-10 3:12 PM EST –

There's nothing wrong with grabbing the boat and I believe that was one of the original early Greenland methods that was written about. I find that if you grab the boat, you are automatically within arms reach of the hull whereas, when I do it I want to be perpendicular to the hull and well out of reach of the boat. Sometimes in fresh water, I have to make some adjustments on my posture and seating position to do a balance brace but I can always do it. There's a noticeable difference in salt water. As you mentioned, If I twist my butt in the cockpit first it allows me to bend back using more of my back than my side and that works for me.
Because I can scull well, I can often adjust my position while in the water using a slow scull with one hand which is just enough to keep me from sinking if I need it.

New video

– Last Updated: May-27-10 2:59 PM EST –

We just received Helen Wilsons new video. It is very informative and breaks down all techniques so they are easy to understand. For anyone getting into Greenland skills I highly recommend it.

I've got the balance brace down pretty well but is difficult for me in some kayaks. My upper body weight does not help. A dry suit, dry top or Tuilik will help you a great deal but once you get it down you can use less floatation.


Uh, grabbing the boat?

– Last Updated: May-27-10 7:28 PM EST –

The way I was taught to do it was simply to bend backwards (lay the back on the rear deck) and twist/slide upper body down the side and onto the water while keeping the lower-side hip and thigh up (and making the upper-side leg passive).

I pretend I'm a Raggedy Ann doll or the Scarecrow. The death knell is to tense up and straighten the back, or worse yet, revert to a bent-forward configuration.

No PFD required, and if it's a fat one it just gets in the way.

Celia, we can play with this when I come to Maine, assuming the loaner boat(s) has a low enough rear coaming and deck.

I’m gonna try your way also! Lol. I reckon there’s always more ways than one to skin a dogma.

Performing the balance brace
is a combination of body and boat. Some body types will make it harder and some kayaks just will not balance brace.

Flexibility, a body type with greater lower than upper body mass and a kayak that can perform a balance brace easily will help. Having a competent instructor on hand can help diagnose any problems.

If you are working by yourself you can try to lay on the back deck, and use a paddle float attached to the outboard hand for support and slowly let you body slide off the deck and into the water. While your doing this concentrate on keeping the kayak flipped under you. Every kayak will need a little bit different technique. Try to push with the to top foot on the foot brace and the bottom knee pushing up. Or sometimes the kayak will lay back over onto the hull by just relaxing both legs and letting them lay down along the side of the hull. Try different kayaks and you will see how much difference they can make. Good luck.

no good
Went out and tried a number of these techniques. I am thinking I have too much mass up top. I attached two paddle floats to my paddle and laid back on the back deck and slowly slid off the side. Tilted my head back to the point of water coming into my nose (that far back) and I was still supporting myself pretty significantly with the paddle. I can lay my back into the water and reach around with my upper arm and wrap it under the kayak…still no good. :frowning:

don’t be too hard on yourself
I also have a Force 4, and it’s not an easy boat for me to balance brace particularly compared to my other boat, a Romany, which is ridiculously easy to balance brace. My suspicion is that this is in large part due to the Force being a much higher volume boat compared to the Romany, particularly in relation to my size (6’ 185 lbs). Perhaps it has something to do with the chine profile as well? I dunno for sure, but the difference is startling.

My advice is to keep at it if you feel you’re making progress and having fun, but don’t turn it into a crusade. Trying to learn something that requires relaxed body posture is doubly hard to do when frustrated.