Kayak Bracing Tips
There are two major forms of braces we need to look at. There's the low brace and the high brace. And both are pretty much the same. They involve reaching out with your paddle, slapping the water to get the support you need to hip snap your kayak upright. It's critical to understand that the slap of the paddle only provides momentary support. Your hip snap is responsible for the rest. Let's take a closer look at how this works. As you flip, the only way to ride the kayak is by pulling up with the knee that is going under water. The only way to pull up with this bottom knee is to drop your head towards the water in the direction that you flip it.
This is completely counter-intuitive but totally essential. Your head has to be the last thing up on a well executed brace, and that's why we practice the hip snap by leaving our head on the bow of a friend's kayak. If you lift your head up early, you'll inadvertently pulling your top knee, which simply flips you more quickly. To make sure that your head drops towards the water, try watching your slapping blade as you brace. It's harder to lift your head when you're looking down.
The high brace is definitely the most powerful of the recovery techniques. A good paddler can even use the high brace to recover when their boat is almost completely upside down. The problem with the high brace is that it's easy to rely on it too much, which can put your shoulders at risk. So the first thing to keep in mind is that despite its name, you need to keep your paddle in your hands low and in front of your body. Otherwise, a high brace follows the same rules as the low brace, only you'll use your paddle in a chin up position instead of the push up position, which means that you'll be using the power face of your paddle against the water.
While sitting up straight, keep your elbows low and roll your paddle up until your forearms are almost vertical. Starting with a flat boat, reach out over the water at 90 degrees with your inside arm low in what is sometimes called the nose pick position. It's important that this hand stay low so that your paddle is as horizontal as possible. After slapping the water, pull your paddle inward, roll your knuckles forward, and slice it out of the water.
Once you're comfortable high bracing on both sides start tilting your boat and adding the head drop knee pull up motions. This means that as you slap the water, you'll drop your head towards the water and pull up with your lowest knee to ride the kayak. Once you get comfortable with the high brace, you'll be amazed at how powerful it can be. Just remember, even for the biggest high braces keep your hands low.