Braces are used to recover when you're thrown off balance and although you can use it while paddling a rec kayak, it's a much more important skill to learn if you're paddling a touring kayak.
The idea is simple. If you lose your balance, you'll reach out to the side of your kayak with your paddle and slap the water with your blade. The slapping motion stops you from flipping and also provides the momentary support you need for your body to upright the kayak.
There are two types of braces. There's the low brace then there's the high brace.
The low brace involves keeping your paddle low with your arms in a pushup position. As you begin to tip over you'll reach out at 90 degrees to the kayak and smack the water with the backside of your paddle blade to brace yourself. Of course, you can't lean on this brace because your blade will simply sink and you'll flip upside down.
So, the key to finishing the brace is to drop your head and body towards the water to lower your center of gravity as you flatten out your kayak. If you're using a touring kayak with thigh hooks, your legs should play a large role, as you'll pull up on the lower knee to roll your kayak back to a level position.
The high brace works in the same way, only you'll be using your paddle in a pull-up position, which means you'll be using the power face of your blade. As you start to tip over, reach up 90 degrees to the kayak and smack the water. Immediately drop your head and body towards the water to lower your center of gravity and level off your kayak. For paddling a kayak with thigh hooks, you'll pull up with your lower knee to level the kayak at the same time.
Despite its name, it's important that you keep your hands low during the high brace. This keeps your shoulders safe.
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