Wednesday May 17th 2017
Marathon paddling is efficiency oriented and the goal is to make the boat go fast while conserving the most about of energy. It is very different from a recreational or touring stroke as it is shorter, much quicker, and does not use steering strokes (correction stroke) in the same way.
There are three main phases of the stroke:
The catch (putting your blade in the water) happens as far as you can reach in front of you while still being able to plant your entire blade in the water. You can either “stab” it in, or “slide” it in from the side. It should be clean and quick. Think of it as anchoring your blade.
Check out our pervious post on 'The Catch' for more details...
The power phase is when you pull the boat towards your paddle. Notice I said "pull the boat", not push the water! Big difference. Think of it as if you were sitting on the ice and you stabbed your paddle into it and pulled yourself towards your paddle. This should be quiet; no turbulent water gurgling around your blade. Use your core muscles for power, not your arms. If your abs are sore at the end of the paddle, you are doing it right!
As soon as the paddle passes your knees you should pull it out of the water. It shouldn’t go past your hip. The recovery is extremely quick, as you gain no forward momentum with your blade out of the water.
Paddlers switch sides every 5-10 strokes on average. This keeps the boat going straight without the need for a J-stroke. Paddlers switch sides simultaneously when a “hut” is called. It is usually the stern paddler who calls the huts.
Wednesday August 3rd 2016
We’ve looked at riding wash already but here are some specifics about stern wash riding. The waves coming off a boat’s stern are good to ride in most conditions. In long races side wash riding can be expensive, especially if the lead boat doesn’t go straight or the course is narrow and shallow. Stern riding can give you a break.
You get the best ride if you keep your bow within the V coming off the lead boat’s stern, and about a foot behind. Keep loose in the boat and it will want to follow the lead’s stern. To ride the wash the stern paddler watches the lead boat to anticipate any directional changes and react as early as possible. The bow paddler controls the distance between the two boats and fine tunes the steering if necessary. This is usually by adding a slight draw or push (sweep) to the forward stroke.
Wednesday July 20th 2016
There is a great article about bow paddlers and stern paddlers written by Holly Reynolds here:
We tend to slot paddlers into two categories, which Holly labels “Bow Jock” and “Stern Runt”. The stereotype is: the meat in the front of the boat and the brains in the back.
It’s true that the stronger paddler usually goes in the bow – it’s where the power is most useful. We also stick rookies there too because it’s generally easier to control the boat from the stern than the bow. But don’t let that fool you.
The bow paddler not only has to provide horsepower, they have a whole lot of other jobs. They need to be aware of obstacles and opportunities, set the right cadence for the paddling situation, hold the forward-and-back position of the boat while wash riding, crank in crossbows with an offside lean, fine tune the steering, and be able to anticipate and assist with whatever the stern paddler is trying to do. (In other words, be mind readers.)
The stern paddler’s job is to maximize the power in the boat by getting it in the right position and matching the bow’s stroke so there is the best possible glide in the boat. They put their muscle in too, but their head is wrapped around the whole situation and like chess players they are playing the game 5 moves ahead. They will be planning moves far in advance that put them on the right side of a buoy turn, for example.
Paddling with someone else is like a marriage. You rely on each other. There are roles to play. There is the expectation that your partner knows exactly what you are thinking at all times. There are fights.
Respect and communication are the keys to success. There is no better way to appreciate everything your partner does until you are literally in their seat. Every stern paddler should paddle bow sometimes, and vice versa.
Try this regularly. You’ll think twice next time you feel like throwing the wedding china at your partner’s head.
Wednesday July 13th 2016
The Saskatoon races are this weekend, so this week we’ll review some things to get prepared.
Wednesday July 6th 2016
Starts are important even in long races. The easiest water to paddle is the undisturbed water up front; big waves build behind the lead boats which can be tricky to navigate. As well, a good start can get you up with a pack of faster boats which can pull you during the race.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Wednesday June 29th 2016
We’ve looked at the mechanics of a good stroke, but the way you position your body has a huge effect on how well you can transfer power from your body to the boat. We’ll start at the bottom:
Feet - If balance is good in the boat, having your feet in the middle and pointed up (not angled out) gives you the best reach as your knees don’t impede your forward extension. This is necessary in the bow anyway, where you often have to stack your feet in order to fit into the boat. In the stern try putting your feet in the middle like this. When you need maximum control of the boat (such as when leaning aggressively) you may need to add more contact points with it by bracing one or both legs against the sides.
Legs – Your legs should be extended in front of you with your thighs almost parallel to the gunwales. Normally your knees will be a little higher than your pelvis. This is quite subjective so find the extension that is most comfortable and gives you the best leverage.
Pelvis – Very important! Think of your pelvic girdle as a bowl full of water. You want to position your “bowl” as if you are gently pouring the water out in front of you. The natural tendency is to angle your pelvis too far back, holding all the water in your “bowl”. You lose a large amount of reach sitting like this and it promotes arm paddling as opposed to using your core muscles.
Torso – Positioning your pelvis correctly will get your torso in the proper position. In your profile you should have a forward lean from the hips. Keep your back straight, however - don’t hunch to get that lean. You’ll know you’ve got a good forward stance if your runny nose were to drip onto your knees.
Arms –Your arms should stay out in front and your upper hand should circle in front of your face during your stroke without dipping too far down (this means you’re driving your stroke too much). Your lower arm should never collapse too close to your body. Think of maintaining the “paddler’s box”: the rectangle created by your arms, the paddle, and your chest.
Your arms should not have too much extra movement during your stroke. If you cock your wrist or elbow when you take the paddle out of the water, for example, you may get tendonitis issues.
Common bad habits
Wednesday June 22nd 2016
Shallows are difficult to navigate. The boat tends to bog down and the waves get harder to ride. If you understand how to make the best of shallows, you can use them to pass boats and make up a lot of time in a race.
Concentrate on a good stroke in shallows. The first third of your stroke is most important.
Try to anticipate shallow sections. Get your boat speed up so you can “pop” the boat: this means surfing your own wave, and if you manage it you will travel far more quickly. You’ll feel when this happens: your stern will rise up and your speed will instantly increase. Suddenly it will feel much easier to paddle. Popping the boat is easiest when the water depth is minimal – if it’s more than two feet it’s called “sucky water” because the boat feels bogged down and is difficult or impossible to pop.
When a wave moves from deep water to shallow water, it does two things: it travels more slowly, and the wavelength gets shorter. This results in steeper waves that are closer together, which changes where and how you ride wash.
If you are riding side wash, you may find the right place to ride is farther back on the wave. It can be difficult to stay here due to the shorter steeper wave and often you get shunted away from the lead boat and slide down the wave. That’s why everyone sprints before a shallows section – the easiest place to be is out front.
Wednesday June 15th 2016
Wash riding is an essential part of canoe racing. Getting on the wash of a slightly faster boat is the best scenario in a race. You can ride wash with other boats for hours on end, taking turns leading. It makes your boat go faster while allowing you to rest somewhat.
There are two ways to ride wash: on the side of another boat, and behind another boat. The ride is best closest to the lead boat, and diminishes the farther away you get.
This is the safest place to ride as you can always slip into the stern wash if you drop off the wave. A wave comes off the lead boat at an angle – Bob Vincent likens this to a V of geese flying. To ride this wave you want to be close to the lead boat and a little behind. The bow paddler works to keep his/her body positioned between the lead boat’s bow paddler and centre thwart (however in shallow water this position changes). The stern and bow paddler work together to keep the boat parallel to the lead boat.
If you push too far ahead, the lead boat’s bow wave will push your bow out. If you fall too far behind, you may find the stern getting pushed out (feels like the bow is getting “sucked in” to the lead boat). There is a sweet spot: find it and work to stay there.
If there is a headwind, or for some reason side wash isn’t working for you (or you fell off), ride the stern wash. There are 3 to 4 good waves behind a boat that you can ride. Ride close to the boat in front for the best ride. Bow and stern paddlers again work together to keep the nose of the boat in the turbulent water behind the lead boat’s stern. If you are loose enough in the boat it will naturally want to follow the lead boat.
Wherever you ride, if you lose control and are going to hit the lead boat, call “contact!” so they can anticipate this, but try not to let this happen! The more you affect the lead boat the less they will want you riding them and they will try to dump you.
Wednesday June 8th 2016
Keeping a level boat is essential for maximum speed. However, you’ve got to make some compromises when steering. Steering strokes (such as mini-draws) are necessary, but be aware they bleed speed (make you slow down). Paddling on the same side as your partner can steer the boat while maintaining good speed in some conditions. But to turn a boat with finesse you must understand how leans work.
When you lean a boat, it carves in the opposite direction. To turn right, for example, lean left so the left gunwale gets close to or touches the water (depending on how sharp you want to turn).
Use a lean on it’s own for small adjustments (such as while riding wash), but also use it to augment the other steering strokes you are doing.
Leans are usually initiated by the stern paddler. It is essential that the bow paddler stays loose enough in the boat that this is possible. It is very difficult to steer a boat if the bow paddler is “holding” the boat. In that case, the stern paddler ends up “muscling the boat” to try to get it to respond. A good team works in unison to allow the stern paddler to lean the boat without effort.
It takes some practice to learn to lean smoothly, and every paddling pair works differently together. For me in the stern I merely think of relaxing my hip on the leaning side, look to where I want the boat to go, and it naturally carves. (This is assuming I have the ultimate bow partner.) A good bow paddler stays loose in the hips, reads the water and the situation to anticipate when a lean may be needed, and maintains that lean even while putting in correctional strokes on the opposite side. It is very awkward to be paddling or pulling a draw on one side while letting the boat lean away from that side, but it is essential for the lean to have effect!
So to put the last few weeks all together, let’s do a buoy turn:
A team that is able to steer with effective leans won’t lose much forward momentum, will be able to turn more quickly and efficiently, and may beat the field in the next race. :)
Wednesday June 1st 2016
The catch – how your paddle enters the water and anchors – is one of the most important factors of an efficient stroke. You may have a powerful pull but if your catch is not efficient you will lose a lot of potential energy that could be translated into boat speed.
The purpose of a good catch is to anchor your entire blade as quickly as possible, as far forward as possible.
Your catch should enter the water near your feet. This entry point should be as far forward as you can reach while still being able to quickly bury the entire blade. An often-seen problem is a blade being only half buried when the pull begins.
To get a good reach, sit properly in the seat with your pelvis forward. You should have a forward lean from the hips so if your nose was running it would drip onto your knees. Rotate your torso from the hips – away from your paddle side. Lower the shoulder of your lower hand as you reach forward for the catch. As you pull your stroke, this shoulder will gradually come up so that your stroke stays flat (travels in a horizontal line).
There are two main ways to enter your blade in the water:
If your catch is good, your entire blade will be anchored quickly and quietly and will have a solid feel (you should feel no turbulence against your blade as you pull your stroke).