Thursday, June 19, 2008

Turn less, not more

In our advanced level instruction we spend a lot of time “re-teaching” people to paddle. Most of these guests are great paddlers who learned to kayak in Dancers, RPMs, etc and have now transitioned to the planning hull boats or shorter playboats. This transition is not always smooth for the simple reason that these smaller boats do not paddle the same way as the longer ones.

The longer boats are more difficult to turn and thus a paddler may need a combination of strokes to turn the boat. For example, to catch an eddy in a longer boat the paddler might utilize a forward sweep into a stern draw into a bow draw. Using that stroke combination in the smaller boats is unnecessary – it will in all likelihood spin you in a 720 degree circle down the eddy line. If this doesn’t make sense think of it this way – in the longer boats you focus your energy on turning the boat aggressively whereas in the smaller boats you focus your energy on preventing the boat from turning too aggressively.

In the 1990’s, we taught peel-outs with the “speed-angle-lean” concept. You have probably heard this at some point in your paddling career. Accelerate towards the top of the eddy, set a thirty degree angle, and then lean downstream as your boat peels out. This worked well because the longer boats carried the speed you built up in the eddy across the eddy line and into the current. This does not work as well in the shorter planning hull boats because they’re not very fast. If you try and use “speed, angle, lean” in a short boat you’ll find that often you don’t have the speed to bust through the eddy line into the current and you simply spin on the eddy line which is not very stable.


Instead of focusing on speed, focus on preventing the boat from turning too soon. As you hit the eddy line, that planning hull boat wants to spin. Don’t let it. Use a forward stroke on the downstream side to accelerate the boat onto the eddy line, and then link it to a slow stern draw on the same side, to prevent the boat from turning downstream. (Or if the current is slow, just a stern draw) You’re not so-much peeling out of the eddy as ferrying across the eddy line with a two-stroke combo. You are now in control of the boat – you can continue the ferry, do a peel out, or return to the eddy you came from. With “speed, angle, lean” you’re not really in control of the boat – the water is. It dictates when and how quickly you turn.

The same applies for catching an eddy. Of course you will need a little speed to cross the eddy line, but you will also need a stroke or two (now on the upstream side) to keep the boat from spinning too quickly and preventing you from driving deep into the eddy. As you cross the eddy line plant a forward stroke in the eddy water to pull you across the eddy line, and then use a stern draw on the same side to keep the bow of the boat from turning upstream too quickly.

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For precision boat control in the newer boats you need to use stroke combinations to limit the boat’s turning ability, not stroke combinations to turn it more.

1 comment:

Chris said...

As usual, you guys are doing great work on the blog! Miss ya'll!