Do you always struggle to keep when you’re out sea kayaking with your mates? Is there always one person at the front who seems to effortless pull away from the rest of the group? Do you feel like you’re always holding everyone up?
Forward padling is what we spend most our time doing when we’re kayaking, especially sea kayaking. It is the most commonly used “stroke” in our paddling reportoire. It should therefore make sense for us to spend some time thinking about how we paddle forwards and time working on improving our forwards paddling.
Hopefully one or two of these 5 tips will be useful for you and provide you with something to think about the next time you take your sea kayak out onto the water.
1. Sit upright.
When you lean back your abdominal (stomach) muscles are relaxed. Attached to lower end of them are your legs. Use your stomach to pull yourself into an upright position and you’ll find that you are able to transfer the power from your torso to your legs and thus move the sea kayak much more efficiently.
2. Use your legs
Your legs (actually your quads) are one of the strongest parts of your body. If you can get them involved in your forward paddling your going to be onto a winner. Now that you’re in an upright position, you can use your legs to push those feet against the footrest with every stroke. Your legs should be like two pistons driving the boat forwards through the water.
3. Rotate your body
Rotate your upper body at the start of the stroke. This extends your reach for the “catch” phase of the stroke and pulls your hip forward on the same side. This then provides that leg (“the piston”) with the power you need to drive forwards as you unwind.
4. Exit the blade at your hip
Once your sea kayak has travelled forwards to where your hip is level with the blade then it isn’t going to provide you with any more forward momentum, so take it out! Worse still, if you continue past this point you will probably be lifting water with the paddle blade. Think about this for a moment.
If your paddle has a surface area of 640 sq cm, then it will be gripping around 0.640 litres of water (it won’t grip perfectly, some will spill). Over 100 strokes this is 64 litres of water you might have lifted; over 1km that’s 640 litres and over a 10km journey that will be a massive 6400 litres!
1 litre of water weighs approximately 1kg so that’s 6400 kgs of water (almost 6.5 tonnes!) you will have lifted; using energy that would have been better put to use in making your sea kayak travel forward.
5. Keep your shape
For years whitewater paddlers have talked about the “paddlebox”, much less so sea kayakers. Find the middle of your paddle shaft and balance it on your head. Move your hands outwards from there until your elbows make your arms a right angle. Bring your paddle down from your head and you will see that your hands are equidistant from each end. Hold your paddle in front of you, with a slight bend in your arms, and that shape is your paddle box.
You should always have that shape (or close to it); it’s strong and it protects your shoulders. By keeping that shape throughout your forward paddle stroke you will be able to make the fullest use of your core muscles, transfer the power most efficiently into those important legs and it’s actually great for reducing the risk of shoulder aches and pains.
So there you are, 5 things that you can do to improve your forward paddling. What do you think? What top tip would you pass on to people to help them keep up on a trip?