12 - How to kayak - Making your kayak go

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The forward power stroke and forward touring stroke

One can rightly wonder if instruction is necessary for something that seems so simple. After all, all you do is dip the paddle in the water and pull, right? Well. sort of. But remember that you will perform this motion once every second, 60 times in a minute, 3,600 times in an hour and up to 36,000 times in a long day. There are advantages to doing it in the most effective and efficient way.

The forward stroke is the most common of all strokes and everybody needs to do it in order to go anywhere. It is the stroke that you will use most.

Grasp your paddle as appropriate for the type of paddle (see paddle section) you are using. Sit comfortably erect and lean forward slightly. Hold the paddle well in front of your body with your arm slightly bent. Twist your torso so the shoulder on the stroke side moves forward. The forward blade of the paddle should make most of its forward movement due to this rotation. Extend the arm on the stroke side until the arm is almost fully extended but do not lock the elbow. The rotation of the torso and the extension of the arm will occur simultaneously as the stroke becomes more familiar, but when starting out it is a good idea to emphasize the torso rotation by performing it first and then extending the arm. Rotate your torso not only at the shoulders but also down at the base of your spine and hips where you power is located. This involves more of the muscles of the abdomen, hips and legs. Keep the elbow of the upper arm at the same height as your hand. Slip the blade into the water close to the side of the boat and as far forward as possible, without leaning any farther forward. This will require that your opposite arm be raised to the level of your shoulder and the paddle will be at an angle less than 45 degrees to the vertical. This is the most powerful blade placement called the power stroke. When inserting the blade into the water, think of poking the paddle into the water with your upper hand instead of placing it in the water with your lower hand. Do not begin pulling on the paddle with your lower hand until the paddle is fully inserted in the water. This keeps you from unwinding your torso until maximum power can be achieved with the blade.

Draw the kayak through the water by pulling the power face ( the concave side of asymmetric paddles ) with the stroke side arm by turning your torso back to the neutral position you started from. During this rotation your lower arm should remain nearly extended. Push with your upper hand with your elbow bent. Keep the paddle blade close to the side of the kayak and move the blade parallel to the center line of the kayak. Maintaining the stroke in the most efficient direction, directly in line with your course, will require your upper hand to cross the center line of the kayak. It should feel like you are throwing a crossing punch. This is when the power of the unwinding torso rotation is delivered to the paddle blade. When your torso rotation nears the neutral position, your stroke side arm will begin to bend. Never lock out the elbow on your upper arm.

Now your torso is beginning to rotate in the other direction as the start of the power stroke on the other side. Your arm will continue to bend as your hand continues back. Remove the blade from the water as it passes your hip by lifting straight up on the blade as your torso completes its rotation to the other side. The other hand will be high at the start of the lift. As the blade comes out of the water, the blade on the opposite side will be lowering for the power stroke on that side.

The power of the power stroke comes from the torso rotation. The power is transferred to the boat by the legs pushing against the peddles. The greatest rotational torque can be achieved by pushing against the peddle opposite the stroke. But most find this very unnatural and hard to maintain compared to pushing with the foot on the nearside peddle. The calf muscles are utilized when you push against the peddle with the ball of your foot and the thigh muscles come into play when your flex and straighten your leg against the force of your torso rotation. By utilizing the larger, more powerful muscles of your legs, your can develop maximum power in your stroke and share the workload to more muscle groups. There should be as much action going on below decks as above. But it is important to keep from moving so much that your kayak bobs or yaws as these extra motions reduce the efficiency of the hull.

The forward touring stroke is almost the same as the forward power stroke, but replaces the emphasis on power over a short period, with emphasis on efficiency and sustainability. The primary change in the stroke is the more relaxed lower position of the hand and arm as the paddle is removed from the water. The torso rotation, the source of power during the power stroke, is still critical in the touring stroke. The blade of the paddle is not placed as tightly against the side of the kayak as in the power stroke. As the kayak is drawn past the blade, the blade is allowed to move naturally away from the side of the kayak instead of being drawn back close to the side of the kayak. Concurrently, the hand that just retrieved the opposite blade from the water does not have to rise as high. This requires less effort from the shoulder muscles on off-stroke side, and during the course of a long days paddle, will result in less fatigue. For an article on the Long Distance Touring Stroke by Ed Gillett, the man you paddled from California to Hawaii, click here.

And you thought it was simple. Now that you know all the parts of the forward strokes, you just repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat..........

Did you know????????

The stroke has three named parts... the catch, where the blade is brought forward and placed into the water, the draw where the kayak is pulled up to the blade, and the retrieve, where the blade is removed from the water.

During the draw, the blade of the paddle moves 3 to 4 inches through the water while the kayak moves 2 feet or more.

The stroke rate of a typical paddler will be about 60 strokes per minute. Those using Greenland style paddles often have a slightly higher stroke rate of around 80 per minute. Other parts of the stroke are also modified to take advantage of the unique characteristics of a Greenland paddle. Racers often use cadences of 100 strokes per minute and higher.

You can practice your torso rotation by paddling with your arms completely straight. This emphasizes the role of the torso rotation and demonstrates its importance by totally removing the use of the arms from the draw.

How to make your kayak stop...............




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