How’s your Forward Stroke?
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on – bill withers
I’m sure the guys at Sweetwater in Florida would tell me my friendly Alligator here would never bother chasing my kayak, but he certainly encourages me to work on my stroke.
Today my desk is buried under paperwork of all sorts. Projects are piling up as everyone wants to get ready for Christmas. Luckily on occasion, there are experienced paddlers out there willing to share their experiences here at the blog. This week Joshua Teitelbaum in Israel was kind enough to let me reprint some of his thoughts and experiences with learning & improving his forward stroke:
I have many thoughts on the forward stroke. I agree with you on “glide” very much. On long trips it is fantastic, although for conditioning and racing for distances, say, under 15km., it is less useful. We all know about rotation. I try my best to do that as much as possible, but there is a difference between knowing it and actually doing it. The following things have improved my stroke and speed tremendously:
1. Don’t cross the center of the kayak with the upper hand. If you absolutely must, then only for a fist’s worth. I only recently realized that the main reason for this is that it brings the rear blade out of the water at the right place. If you cross the center line, the rear blade emerges too far behind you.
2. I agree with Brent Reitz that one should paddle with bent elbows. This help one rotate more, since you bring the paddle around with your body, not your upper arm.
3. Concentrate (a lot) on using your stomach muscles. This goes together with rotation, and is key. If you don’t feel your stomach muscles a bit, like in a crunch, you are not putting enough energy into rotating, or are not doing it enough.
4. Pull with the lower hand a lot more than you push with the upper hand. Even if you were taught the opposite (which is how it should be for beginners). It is more tiring, but you get used to it. This helps with rotation, and your stomach muscles will tell you so.
5. Stab the water a bit on the catch. I think Reitz mentions this. Stab and pull, stab and pull.
6. I’m still experimenting with high and low angle paddling. Right now, I think I get better rotation with a low angle because I feel it more in my abdomen, but the jury is still out on that.
7. I’m also wondering if one should continue the rotation after the rear blade exits the water, thus leaving your torso “cocked” for the next catch. I think racing kayakers can do this better, since with free knees, they can rotate further. But for now, I only see this as possible if one pauses before the catch. But this is connected to gliding, which I think slows down someone who is trying to race or paddle for conditioning.
Joshua Teitelbaum is a 4 Star BCU kayaker and paddles with Terra Santa Kayak Expedition Club, Herzliya, Israel.