June 17, 2016
Powering the Kayak
Two of us are paddling along the undeveloped coast of Great Diamond Island. Noticing that my student is allowing too much of his paddle effort to be absorbed by his body, we work on “driving the boat forward”.
One of the greatest improvements we can make to our effective paddling is to fully transfer the energy/pressure we create on our blade into the boat. During the power part of our forward stroke, we need to be focusing on driving our boat past the paddle. The beginner absorbs much of the paddle energy into their body, maybe as far as their butt; the advanced paddler tries to drive the paddle created energy all the way down through their body and fully into the boat – into our feet on the pedals. We need to transfer the work product, the power we create on our immersed paddle, fully into our desire to move our boat forward on our journey. So when forward paddling, while pulling the paddle through the water, we should feel our arms and shoulders tighten, feel the paddle power move down across our chest, down through our lats engaging our core stomach muscles, and drive the paddle power into our quads/thighs and strongly push the same side leg and foot against the peg or bulkhead – driving our boat forward off the paddle stroke. It’s a bit like bicycling up a hill as we pull upwards on our handlebars.
Sit as in a kayak on the ground with a paddle (as short as possible) and hook the paddle’s power face behind a tree, rock, or spare human and your feet against another stationary object; then slowly pull the paddle gently against its object and “feel” your muscles engage the paddle pressure all the way down to your feet. Feel the flow of the paddle power, into your arms, shoulders, across your chest and lats, through your stomach core, into the hips thus driving your thigh, calf and foot forward against its stationary object. Learn that feel – it’s more fun to do it in the water.
This effective stroke doesn’t have to increase our stroke rate even if our stroke’s power phase time quickens. In fact if you begin to pull the paddle quicker through the water, you could focus on slowing down the smooth, clean, flow of your paddle return. So next time…
Tom Bergh, MIKCo, Peaks Island