By Eric Jackson
Paddling effectively is like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time, but adding two more actions to confuse it even more… Why? Because there are specific skills/habits that work best for moving your boat from where it is, to where you want it to go in control and efficiently and those habits/skills involve your head, paddle, boat, and torso- 4 moving pieces.
Your default head position is looking over your bow… your desired/proper head position is looking at your next target. That sounds so easy, but don’t fool yourself and assume you are even close to having this be your habit yet. I have to consciously remind myself what my target is and make sure I am doing this on river runs, creeks, and play boating.
Your paddle’s job is for “every stroke to push you in the direction you want to go.” Another simple concept, but… is it? Remember that there are also blade angles that affect the direction your paddle is pushing you… 45 degree angle on the “catch” of the forward stroke and 50% of your force is lifting the bow up instead of pulling your forward… a 40 pound stroke is only good for 20 pounds of propulsion if it is angled at 45 degrees (see video). It goes beyond that, but again, if we did a race where you were pointed upstream and had to turn around 180 degrees and then race downstream for 20 feet, the chances are your first stroke would be a forward sweep pushing you mostly upstream and turning the boat… it should be a reverse sweep that pushes you to the finish line (the direction you want to go)… This is an experiment I do to illustrate to my students that they are not truly in the habit of paddling in the direction they want to go and to learn that habit is to paddle much more effectively!
Boat- edge control is critical to boat control, and boat angles relative to eddy lines, etc.. is also critical to where your boat will go next. Learn both by habit..
Body/Torso- Body always leads the turn… simple, but yet, your body gets behind the turn because you learned to do a forward sweep from old information/instructors that taught it incorrectly most likely. Re-learn to lead with your body… this is not unlike having your body face downhill when skiing, regardless of what your legs/skis are doing.
Watch this video segment to better explain/demonstrate…
Look for another tip soon!