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June 24, 2017, 04:28:06 pm
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Paddling Techniques

From the CSCC online Senior Instructor

Below are listed the key techniques of kayaking. People new to the club and new to kayaking might want to try working through these (in any order) as they become more proficient.

For each technique we give where it is used, what it is useful for, where you can learn it, a brief description, and how you can develop it further.

And now the caveats! Descriptions are not usually going to be enough to learn the technique, but enough to make sure you recognise it. They are not intended to teach you on your own, but mainly so you know what to ask people to show you at pool sessions, on the river and on weekend trips. Different people will have different ways of doing and teaching the techniques, and they probably do not conform to the BCU's latest guidance! The photos are taken from trip reports and intended to give a guide to what the technique is about - they might not show the technique being done well.

Comments made will entirely reflect the prejudices of the author (Martin), and should not be interpreted as a canonical guide to all forms of kayaking. There are a number of (fully illustrated) books available if you want to know more, both for general beginners and specialised areas.

This guide isn't yet complete - we've put it on the website while we get the rest of the photos together. Feel free to offer photos showing the techniques to Martin or Dave P!


Basic manoeuvring
 

Carrying your boat
Where used: Pretty much everywhere!
What for: Moving about when you're not actually paddling.
Where to learn: You'll have to at any Thames session
What is it: Try to avoid carrying a large kayak on your own. Doubling-up with a paddler at each end of a pair of kayaks of similar length works well. Ask your partner to stop for a rest whenever you need one. Never stoop when lifting and lowering the kayaks. If you need to carry a boat by yourself, first lift it into a vertical position by pivoting it on its back end. Then bend your legs and hitch the cockpit onto your shoulder, putting one arm inside the hull. Use your legs for all the lifting effort, bending only at the knees and hips while keeping your back straight and untwisted and looking straight ahead.
Further steps: Finally pick up your paddle by flicking it up with your foot and catching it with your free hand.
 
  Getting in and out
Where used: At the edge of the water.
What for: Getting into and out of your boat
Where to learn: Anywhere, preferably with a solid bank about 30cm high.
What is it: Place the boat in the water alongside the bank, with your paddle nearby (or over the abck of the boat). Sit on the bank. Slide your backside over so you're sat on the back of the boat facing forwards, just behind the seat. Put your legs in, then slide forwards into the boat. Put your spraydeck on round the cockpit lip. To get out, do the reverse - throw your paddle to land, slide your backside out and sit on the back, pull your legs out, then wriggle onto the bank (or stand up and make sure you fall onto the bank) and keep hold of your boat.
Further steps: See seal launch below.
Forward paddle
Where used: Pretty much everywhere.
What for: Moving forwards efficiently.
Where to learn: Thames sessions, any open water. Learn before any weekend river trip.
What is it: Put one blade in near your feet, pull it backwards until just behind your body, and take the blade out of the water. Repeat with other blade!
Further steps: talk to someone about “trunk rotation”.
  Backward paddle and stopping
Where used: Everywhere, but especially moving water.
What for: To slow down, stop, and to manoeuvre when you can't go forwards (or want to make it more challenging).
Where to learn: Thames sessions, any trip, any open water.
What is it: Put one blade in the water behind your body, push forwards until in front of your body, and take it out of the water - repeat with other blade. If you end up losing control, focus on the front half of the stroke, which is the strongest.
Further steps: Any technique you learn to do forwards – try it backwards.
Forward sweep
Where used: Everywhere.
What for: Turning efficiently, helping stay straight.
Where to learn: Thames sessions, pool sessions.
What is it: Put your paddle into the water at the front of the boat, bring it round in a wide arc to the back of your boat, keeping your arm straight. The back half of the stroke has the biggest effect.
Further steps: see low-brace turn and bow rudder
  Reverse sweep
Where used: Anywhere. Try to avoid using it to paddle forwards in a straight line.
What for: Turning quickly.
Where to learn: Thames sessions, pool sessions.
What is it: Put your paddle into the water at the back of the boat, bring it round in a wide arc to the front of your boat, keeping your arm straight.
Further steps: Useful to avoid rocks on white water.
Capsize drill with spraydeck
Where used: Everywhere
What for: Assuring yourself and others you can get out of the boat if you capsize.
Where to learn: Anywhere – preferably clean and warm.
What is it: Go upside-down, release your spraydeck by pulling the loop (which you have left out, right?), fall/roll out of your boat, bum first and legs last, to great hilarity. Hold onto your boat and paddles, and do whatever your rescue tells you.
Further steps: Support strokes to stop it happening; rescues to deal if it does.
Edging
Where used: Moving water.
What for: Learn this or capsize unexpectedly on moving water. The secret is to spot when water needs to pass under your boat, and edge away from it, so it goes under rather than over.
Where to learn: Can practice on still water, but best on moving.
What is it: Tilting your boat at an angle. To "edge to the right", lift your left knee and buttock, but keep your body upright.
Further steps: Essential part of low brace turns and bow rudder turns, when used to break in and out of the current on moving water.
Draw stroke
Where used: Polo; moving around in eddies and away from the river bank.
What for: Moving sideways
Where to learn: Pool, Thames sessions.
What is it: Hold your paddle vertical by your side, and place it in the water about 2 feet from the boat. Pull the paddle towards you, twist your wrist forwards and push the paddle back away from you. Repeat as you glide sideways. Edge away from the way you want to go.
Further steps: Use it on the move, for example for adroitly evading rocks you're about to run into. Try the sculling draw, where you use a sculling stroke instead of the pull and push stroke.
 
  Low Brace Support Stroke
Where used: Anywhere you feel you might be knocked over.
What for: Avoiding going in.
Where to learn: Pool, Thames sessions.
What is it: Hold your paddle out away to your side, with your elbows above the paddle pushing down. The blade is flat on the side you'll go in on, and you use it to push down on the water.
Further steps: This is a predecessor to the scullingsupport strokes and low brace turns below.
High Brace Support Stroke
Where used: Anywhere you feel you might be knocked over quite hard.
What for: Avoiding going in.
Where to learn: Pool, Thames sessions.
What is it: Hold your paddle out to the side, elbows bent and the paddle above them. Rotate your wrist so that the blade is flat on the side you'll go in on, and you use it to pull down on the water.
Further steps: This is a predecessor to the high brace sculling support strokes below. Don't reach your arm out too far, as this risks shoulder dislocation - the low brace is safer on your shoulders.
 

Safety
 

Open-water rescue
Where used: Canoeing courses, sea kayaking, Thames sessions.
What for: Getting people back in their boat after a capsize, without going to land.
Where to learn: Somewhere warm and clean.
What is it: Keeping the capsized boat upside down, place it over another paddler's boat at right angles; rock it to empty the water out, then place it upright alongside the rescuer's boat, facing the opposite direction. The victim then re-enters the boat, facing the rescuer.
Further steps: Can you get into your (emptied) boat without going to land and without help?
  Eskimo rescue
Where used: Anywhere, if brave. Very useful when learning to roll and failing.
What for: Getting upright again without swimming.
Where to learn: Somewhere warm and clean.
What is it: When you capsize, a kind person puts the nose of their boat near your waiting hands. You grab it, and pull yourself up, using your hips to bring up the boat, but leaving your body and head to come up last.
Further steps: Use it on a river – everyone will be impressed at your bravery for staying upside down. Not recommended in very shallow rivers!
Swimming in rapids
Where used: After an unfortunate capsize or when effecting a rescue.
What for: Swimming in white water safely.
Where to learn: A white water river. A lot of white water safety courses include it.
What is it: Swim on your back, feet first, with your backside high to stop it hitting rocks. Keep your hands and feet high. Look for a rope (see below) or a boat-end (not side!) to grab.
Further steps: Avoid it!
 
Using a throw-line
Where used: A swimmer is floating your way, and you have a handy line.
What for: Throwing a rope to passing swimmers.
Where to learn: On a river – or a Canoe Safety course.
What is it: Make sure you keep hold of one end of the rope! Swing the bag back and forth and throw underarm. Anchor yourself firmly, or risk having two swimmers.
Further steps: It’s not as easy as you’d think. Get someone to demonstrate how to try again if you miss.

Water lifesaving
Where used: A serious situation with a swimmer.
What for: Getting them safe
Where to learn: White water safety course
What is it: Something that has to be taught properly, not described in a sentence!
Further steps: Many courses and awards on this.
 
  First Aid
Where used: Serious situations.
What for: Mending people.
Where to learn: First aid course – BCU advetise aquatic first aid courses.
What is it: Something that has to be taught properly, not described in a sentence!
Further steps: Many courses and awards on this.

More on manoeuvring
 

Sculling support
Where used: Showing off in the pool, clinging on for dear life in stopper-type waves.
What for: Holding your boat on its side without falling in.
Where to learn: Somewhere warm and clean.
What is it: Hold your paddle out to the side of your boat, eitherfrom a low brace position or a high brace position. Move the paddle at an angle back and forth in big slow movements, to give you the force to support you. Now try this with your boat at a slight angle, and then off-balance.
Further steps: Use this to stay upright when side-surfing in a wave. By changing the angle of your paddle slightly, you can move forwards or backwards across the wave.
 
  Stern rudder
Where used: Moving water
What for: Fine control of which direction your boat is pointing in.
Where to learn: Anywhere not too bouncy.
What is it: Hold your paddle by your side, parallel with the boat. Your back blade should be vertical, and in the water. By pulling or pushing your back hand on the paddleshaft back and forth, you can create a rudder effect and steer your boat.
Further steps: Use this stroke while surfing a wave. Then try doing it without using this stroke, just by edging.
Bow rudder
Where used: Moving water, slalom.
What for: Turning quickly.
Where to learn: Anywhere.
What is it: Get some forwards speed up. Sweep stroke first to start the turn. Then the idea is to place the blade of your paddle in the water in front of you on the inside of the turn, so that the normal drive-face of the blade is facing towards your boat but angled slightly forwards. Hang on, as your boat turns around the paddle.
Further steps: Do it to get into and out of eddies sharply. Ask someone what a cross-bow rudder is.
  Roll
Where used: Where your support strokes have been proved inadequate.
What for: Getting back upright.
Where to learn: Somewhere warm and clean.
What is it: Not easy to describe! The best bet is to get someone to show you at a pool session. Some places offer “learn to roll” classes or “rolling clinics” at various prices.
Further steps: Can you do it both sides, from any starting paddle position, in cold dark moving water? Without your paddle? Without spilling your pint?
Seal launch
Where used: The edge of the water.
What for: Getting into the water in style.
Where to learn: Anywhere with a steepish smooth bank that won't be damaged by sliding down it.
What is it: Place your boat on the side of the water, up the bank but pointing towards it. Get in, and put your deck on. grab your paddle. Shuffle forwards, or get a push, so that you slide down and into the water.
Further steps: Try it backwards, swithout your paddle, or sideways (ready for a support stroke).
 
  Combination strokes
Where used: Everywhere
What for: Manoeuvring how you want to maoeuvre
Where to learn: Anywhere
What is it: In practice you won't be doing all of these strokes neatly and individually. You'll find combining strokes and mixing them means you can move in mysterious ways. It's something that will probably come naturally, rather than something you learn.
Further steps: Keep trying new things.

Moving water
 

Moving water paddling
Where used: Any moving water
What for: Not capsizing.
Where to learn: Any moving water
What is it: A couple of basic tips for moving water. Trees are your enemy (nearly as much as swans). Avoid trees, as you can be trapped by the current. By contrast, rocks are your friend. If you are heading towards a rock, lean(/edge) towards it. This makes sure the water goes under your boat, and doesn't capsize you or keep pushing you onto the rock.
Further steps: See below!
 
  Break out
Where used: Any moving water
What for: To get into eddies – those still bits of water where you can stop for a rest.
Where to learn: Any moving water with obstacles that form eddies behind them.
What is it: The essential part is to get your nose into the eddy, and edge upstream. The current should then turn you into the eddy, facing upstream. You can help it with a sweep stroke to turn you in the right direction with a low brace towards the eddy (low brace turn) or a bow rudder.
Further steps: Turn as tightly as you can, with least effort, to practice for small eddies. Do it with your eyes closed, by feel alone.
Break in
Where used: Any moving water
What for: To get out of eddies.
Where to learn: Any moving water with obstacles that form eddies behind them.
What is it: Paddle out into the current pointing upstream, edging downstream. The current will turn the boat downstream in the current. You can help it with a sweep stroke to turn you in the right direction with a low brace towards the eddy (low brace turn) or a bow rudder.
Further steps: Turn as tightly as you can, with least effort, to practice for small eddies. Do it with your eyes closed, by feel alone.
 
  LF&PLF
Where used: White water.
What for: Getting down bouncy river features.
Where to learn: On a whitewater trip.
What is it: This is the basic tactic for getiing down white water features. You Lean Forward and Paddle Like Fury (Fi says). Won't work on more technical rapids, but good for most drops and non-rocky bits.
Further steps: Try doing it more slowly with more technique and less speed.
Ferry glide
Where used: Any moving water
What for: Getting from one side of the river to the other – especially from eddy to eddy.
Where to learn: Any moving water, preferably with eddies.
What is it: Paddle forwards upstream. Edge downstream and turn to a slight angle towards the bank you are heading for. Keep your boat at that angle, ideally by paddling forwards but sometimes with big sweep strokes.
Further steps: Do it backwards.
 
  Hanging draw
Where used: To pass your 3 star test
What for: Gliding neatly sideways while moving forwards.
Where to learn: Anywhere, preferably non-moving water.
What is it: Get some forward momentum going. Place your paddle by your side, with the control face facing diagonally towards boat and front. If you get the position right (somewhere near your hip), you will keep moving forwards but also be pulled sideways.
Further steps: Forget it, use bow rudders instead.
Stern squirts
Where used: To show off on moving water
What for: Coming out of eddies with your boat’s bow in the air.
Where to learn: A river trip on moving water with a good flow and clear eddies.
What is it: Paddle from the eddy towards the eddy line. As you cross it, edge the wrong way as you put in a forward sweep stroke to get into the current. Then a reverse sweep stroke on the other side. Stay upright as your bow goes up in the air.
Further steps: Get more and more vertical.
Wave surfing (river)
Where used: On white water.
What for: Showing off, or sometimes to be able to get across a river.
Where to learn: A white water trip.
What is it: Find a wave where the water is circulating back on itself. Put the bow of your boat in it. Paddle to keep your boat pointing upstream and on the wave. Stern rudder will help.
Further steps: Do it with as little paddling as possible – edging will help
Side surfing
Where used: On white water.
What for: Showing off, or sometimes to be able to get across a river.
Where to learn: A whitewater trip.
What is it: Find a wave where the water is circulating back on itself. Get in it sideways, edging away from the wave, supporting yourself with a sculling support. Angle your sculling to move forwards or backwards. To get off, scull to the end of the wave, turn yourself so you point downstream, or roll.
Further steps: Do it with as little paddling as possible. I once saw someone sitting sideways in a wave pouring himself a tea from his flask.
  360 turns
Where used: On white water; rodeo events.
What for: Showing off
Where to learn: A whitewater trip.
What is it: Start surfing a wave, turn so you are sideways, and keep turning, to backsurf, then sidesurf again, then front surf. Stay very aware of which way you need to go to keep edging downstream.
Further steps: Cartwheels etc etc etc – find a rodeo DVD, or watch people in very short boats with colour-coordinated kit.

Open boating
 

J stroke
Where used: Anywhere
What for: Paddling an open boat forwards.
Where to learn: Thames session, any flat water.
What is it: You’ll have noticed that paddling with only half a paddle means either going in circles or constantly switching sides. Avoid this by using a J stroke. Do a normal stroke, then twist the paddle, so your thumb goes down. If necessary, use it a bit like a stern rudder to keep you straight.
Further steps: None, really.
 
  Beard growing
Where used: Anywhere
What for: Fitting in as a serious open-boater, sea-kayaker or level 3 instructor.
Where to learn: Anywhere. Tends to come naturally to some.
What is it: Check www.cucc2.co.uk/beards/beardtest.htm (Stuart's essential self-help guide)
Further steps: Smoke a pipe. Paddle with a small dog.
Happy Paddling!
 

 


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