This time of year, where the seasons of summer and fall blend together, also seems to be the driest time. Overall, areas are more than five inches below monthly average rainfall, and that directly translates to trickles in the otherwise tumultuous rivers. And from that, every paddler across the parched areas of the East Coast feels a deep depression that can only be cured by navigating any significant piece of whitewater.
It may feel like you can only scratch the itch to paddle in whitewater, but as I’ve learned, there is almost more to learn in flat water than in some rapids.
The hydrodynamics of your boat traveling through the water is essentially the same as to when you’re in whitewater, but in flat water you don’t have to worry about extrinsic forces acting on your boat. This means you can analyze your boat’s behavior.
Here are a few drills that I like to do when I get in a little flat water practice:
Quick Stroke Review:
No matter how good you get, there’s always room for improvement, even with something as elementary as the forward stroke. Put yourself through the paces; focus on torso rotation, blade placement, and powering from your core rather than your arms. Don’t become lopsided! Practice your backwards strokes too!
Probably the most basic maneuver to do in flatwater is circle paddling. Circle paddling is the basis of all river maneuvering. To begin, tip your boat on edge, but only so that your body remains upright. Your body will form a ‘J’ shape if you do it correctly. Holding as much edge as you’re comfortable with, begin to paddle forward on both sides, or only on the inside, if you’re up to it. Your boat should continue in a circle as you paddle. This drill is effective for keeping your edge transitions and oblique muscles sharp for performing eddy turns, peel outs and ferries out in whitewater.
Kayaking encompasses your whole body, whether you’re aware of it or not. But if you frequently experience legs or feet falling asleep, it could be due to muscle tightness. Make sure you do more than the typical across-the-bow stretches for the back. Try leaning forward while keep your legs in the thigh braces to stretch your hamstrings. If you gain flexibility in that area, you’ll find yourself being able to sit for longer periods of time in your kayak with your knee area fully engaged. This drill is important because you can loose flexibility quickly if you’re not paddling consistently.
Go for the roll:
If you haven’t moved in the direction of getting your kayak roll, now is the time to start. The lake is a safe environment as long as you have a reliable wet exit. You could even get a friend to spot you. If the water’s getting too cold, pool sessions with Zoar start in just a few months! But don’t put off the most essential kayaking move any longer!
For the play boaters:
No, I’m not going to suggest flat water loops as part of your repertoire. Even if you’re not an experienced play boater, you can still practice basic play boating. My personal favorite is called a ‘lean clean.’ This move in essence is trying to sink a quarter of your bow and then aggressively rotating your torso to sink the opposite corner of your stern. The key to this move is rotation. If you find yourself not sinking the stern or bow of your boat, think about scooping the water up while throwing your weight around to lower a portion of your boat into the water. This drill is great because it not only emphasizes torso rotation, but is also the fundamental move of most play boating moves.
So in these low-water times, I encourage everyone to find their nearest pond or lake or pool and work on keeping your skills sharp for when the rain hits so you can still be at your best.