When you really boil it down, kayaking is all about connections. They may come in big picture form as well as technical skills. Connections between you and the forces of nature. You and your stoke for the sport. You and your paddling buddy. You and the present moment. Your connection between your body and your boat. You and your paddle. Your paddle to the water. Connections are everywhere in whitewater kayaking.
For this week’s edition of Current Connections, we are diving into the connection between the water and the paddle.
How To Paddle A Kayak
Learning first how to hold the paddle then how to wield it in a way that puts the most power in your hands, literally. Most folks learn that there are three parts to every paddle stroke: catch, power, and recovery (C.P.R. if you like acronyms). When focusing on the paddle to body connection, we hope you consider three key pieces of action:
Catch (Sinking your full paddle blade into the water)
Try to anchor your whole paddle blade in the water all the way up to the throat before you move the paddle blade. No air. Just paddle and water. If you hear bubbles or a potion a-brewing, you’re catching too much air in your stroke. (For all of you jeopardy nerds out there, cavitation is the formation of bubbles and air behind your moving paddle blade during a stroke. Remember this for the pop quiz!)
When planting your paddle blade in the water for the catch, remember to reach the blade forward using the full extension of your paddlers box combined with torso rotation. An effective catch is essential for transferring power from your core to the water into forward motion. Take your time perfecting your catch. When unrushed and well-placed, the catch is magical!
Have you noticed you are getting a lot of noise and splashing each time you sink your blade into the water? Try anchoring your blade before you move the boat for the best results. Imagine reaching up over a beach ball as you are sinking your blade in at the feet.
The propulsion mode of the stroke gets the most attention. Now, here is the reframe of the century that many newer paddlers hear and need to ponder for some time.
Sink the blade (catch), move the boat (propulsion). Imagine you are sinking your paddle blade into concrete. A paddle blade is designed to catch and grab water with its surface area. A boat is designed to move through the water efficiently. Don’t think of moving water past the boat with the paddle blade. Think of moving yourself and the boat forward past the paddle. The paddle is a tree or post that you grab to slide yourself forward across the water.
Congratulations, you are in the Matrix, you’ve just met Morpheus, and have taken the red pill. You may need to reread the previous paragraph to let the information sink into your brain and body. We know. It’s almost like a riddle! Sink the blade, move the boat.
With an unrushed and well-placed catch, your paddle blade will efficiently transfer the power from your core’s torso rotation into forward motion.
Have you played with the pace or cadence of your strokes? If you are executing a forward stroke, keeping the blade closer to the boat with a vertical paddle shaft sends your momentum forward. Newton’s First Law or something like that.
As you unwind your torso during the power portion, you create forward motion. Before the paddle blade reaches your hip, the recovery portion of your stroke begins. Focus on unweighting the paddle and removing the blade from the water with as little resistance as possible. Feel your paddle slide out of the water gracefully and silently. Remember, you don’t have a blade in water so be sure to think about keeping your weight balanced in your boat.
The recovery action of a stroke focuses on guiding the paddle blade out of water with as little resistance as possible and returning yourself to a position of power.
Have you checked your grip during your recovery? Recovery offers a paddler the chance to relax their grip and release tension in the upper body.
A solid catch, propulsion, and recovery is a great way to frame the water – paddle connection when you are first learning or refining your stroke technique. Patience and precision are virtues in perfecting the forward stroke technique!
What questions do you have about the catch, power, or recovery? How do you frame your water – paddle connection?