Kayaking Forward Stroke

When we're forward paddling we want to be as efficient as possible and one way to do that is to make sure we're using lots of rotation. So, with our body in this nice, upright position I'm rotating and the blade goes into the water beyond my toes, ideally. When it's in the water I am then pushing with my right foot, and as I push with my right foot I'm unwinding my body, and then I pull with my arm and lift the paddle out.

I want to be thinking about lifting the paddle out of the water as my hand comes past my knee. I've got a nice green mark here, so I know where that is. So, lifting out as my hand comes past my knee, which means that, ideally, the blade is out of the water by the time my elbow gets to my hip. That way, I'm not doing any lifting of water at the back end of the boat. It's by my feet that the blade goes into the water, by my feet, and then I'm pushing on the foot rest before I start pulling with my arm. As I do that, I'm unwinding my body and then pull my arm. So, it's blade in the water. Then, foot on foot rest. Then, unwind body and then pull with arm. So that's the sequence that we want to do as we go through this.

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Narrator: Concentrating for now on the hand that's pulling the blade through the water, let's look at that sequence. The blade enters the water as far forward as possible by the front mark, Gordon's feet. The next step is for his right foot to push on the foot rest, then he starts to unwind his torso, taking full advantage of his rotation for his back muscles to deliver their power. Only then, does he pull with his right hand. As the blade comes past the green mark he's thinking about lifting it from the water, because the boat is moving forward and his body is rotating the blade starts to exit as it passes his hip, and before he lifts too much water. Let's just watch that. Now the other hand.

Gordon Brown: With my top hand, it's driving forward from shoulder height with an open hand, and coming across the boat, the center-line of the boat; and the white mark is above the green mark. So, driving that top hand forward with an open hand; it's almost a straight arm, not quite, but almost a straight arm. My top hand is going forward at shoulder height, or even eye level, and you can see there is a bit of crossover with my hands as well. So, when my bottom blade goes into the water I'm then pushing hard with the top hand, but the emphasis is on the pull. As I'm doing that, my hand is open which allows me then to drop the blade straight into the water at the limit of my reach.

Narrator: Concentrating now on the upper hand, it's moving at shoulder, or eye level. As the bottom blade goes into the water, push hard with an open palm. This allows the blade to drop straight into the water at the limit of reach for the pull phase of its stroke. You'll notice the top hand pushes forward, and slightly across the line of the kayak. All that is a heck of a lot of information, so let's just watch the forward paddle stroke at half speed for a while.

Gordon Brown: The white tape on my paddle marks the center of the shaft, and you'll see that when I'm paddling that center line is moving across the boat, as my hands are as well. So, as I'm driving forward with my top hand, the palm of my hand is moving across the center line. The reason for that is we've changed our paddling now quite a lot, and the paddle goes out from the side of the boat just a touch. Almost like a wing paddle technique, and that allows us to keep the blade more vertical, and in the water for longer.

Narrator: A deceptively simple stroke, it can take years to master forward paddling, but this has given you somewhere to start.

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