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Updated Jan 2019
You need a surprising array of paddling strokes once you start on the sea or river trips and surfing. Depending on who guides you on the technique there seem to be a variety of ways of performing each stroke as well. However, mostly people look for 'very effective' strokes and hence had a particular view on how they should be done; which was not necessarily the way most of us had learnt or become accustomed to doing the strokes. With the new BC Awards a more holistic approach is proposed whereby as long as the stoke does the intended job effectively then that is good.
The most important factor is a good forward posture - on every stroke (forward, backwards, draws, supports, etc.). Leaning backwards in support strokes (even sculling support) is definite not best-practice. So you must keep that forward posture and work on your edging... Also 'get your hanging draw stroke working before you go'.
Before we start we need to define an OPEN blade position and a CLOSED blade position. Start with the paddle vertical in the water, with the front face of the blade nearest to the boat and parallel with the boat's side:
Forward: Good forward posture - relaxed grip on paddle - use the body muscles by rotating your body trunk (do not just use your arms) - look ahead (do not look right in front of you or at the paddles - look for what is coming further away). If you are a novice paddle gently - paddling too hard just makes you zig-zag and lose control. If you find yourself zig-zagging, see the sweep stokes and stern rudder for how to control it and paddle gently - try to avoid using a braking stoke to regain control, use a forward sweep stoke or rudder.
Backward: Good forward posture still - relaxed grip on paddle - look behind mostly over one shoulder - rotate your body trunk.
Sweep stokes - Turning/Control: Good forward posture - as you sweep rotate your body and face to look in the direction that you are going to turn (not at the bow or paddle). Forward sweep starts near the bow and comes back to the hips. Reverse sweep start as far back as you can (by rotating) and comes forward to the hips.
Note: The sweep stroke has two purposes. A front sweep (from bow to hips) turns the boat, whilst a rear sweep (from hips to stern) controls the direction of travel. So if you are finding that you are zig-zagging use rear-half sweeps (ending up in a Stern Rudder) to get yourself back straight.
Stern Rudder - Turning/Control: Make sure your body is rotated and you are looking where you are turning towards. Do not place the blade too far behind (so you end up leaning backwards) but far enough to get the rudder effect. Similarly do not place the blade as a brake too far forward - it must be vertical and act like a rudder.
Sideways Draws (either T or sculling): Rotate your body and look in where you are trying to go. Both T and sculling stokes are done quite slowly (do not rush).
Support strokes: Low brace, high brace, sculling. All these are done with a forward posture (no leaning back!!). All are done with elbows bent and hands below shoulder height (do not extend your arm/shoulder!!).
Other turning strokes:
Moving Draw Strokes: used to move the boat sideways whilst travelling to avoid an obstacle in front (rock, buoy, log,
etc.). Two versions typically - an adaptation of the J-draw stroke and secondly the hanging draw:
Open Canoe strokes and kayak stokes have many things in common and most of the strokes detailed on this page apply to both. Canoes also have special forward strokes and make use of more prys with the paddle. Best source is the books (on the Information page) or the videos above on the OCA Cinema.
There seems to be lots of options but four common ways of breaking in and out of eddies. All of them rely on:
Breaking-in to the faster flowing water with the up-river edge of the kayak lifted to stop it getting snagged by the flowing water (by edging or leaning downstream).
Breaking-out of the flow and into the eddy with the down-stream edge lifted (i.e. leaning upstream).
The bigger the difference in water speed the bigger the lean/edge you need. Imagine having grades of lean from 1 (slight lean/edge) to 5 (big lean, maximum edge) - then slow water needs a (1) and really fast water needs a (5) and medium water needs (2), (3) or (4) lean/edge.
So to Break-in to faster water:
1. Low brace turns - probably best in slow moving water and large eddies. Paddle towards the eddy line at 30-45 degrees upstream and once across the line, do a low brace turn on the downstream side to turn with the flow and head downsteam.
2. Draw stroke turns - probably best in slightly faster moving water and small eddies. Paddle fast towards the eddy line at 30-45 degrees upstream. With the final stroke (on downstream side) reach forward across the eddy line and pull yourself across. Leaving the paddle in the water turn the paddle blade into a draw stroke so it acts like a rudder. The vertical paddle in the water on the downstream side will give you support and turn the bow downstream. The angle on the blade alters the speed of your turn...
3. Just paddle - the first two have the disadvantage that you may loose your speed and in general speed is good in eddy turns. So try just paddling strongly across the eddy line leaning/edging downstream and just keep paddling and you will turn downstream and keep moving. Disadvantage of this method is leaning one way whilst paddling on both sides of the boat - it takes a bit of practice.
4. Start with a Ferry Glide - this is similar to (3) except you start pointing much more upstream and ferry glide out of the eddy as far across the river as you want, then lean downstream and paddle round to turn downstream. This gives you both the speed of (3) and more control about where you are going.