By Andy Grimes of Fluid Combinations Kayak Coaching and Guiding
We have all been in a position in our paddling experiences when things may not have gone to plan and we have ended up in a wobbly or unbalanced movement. In this article I hope to help uncover the mystery behind balance and what strategies we can use to help avoid those ‘wobbly’ moments. Right so let begin. Initially let’s make sure we know what the term balance actually means:
Time for some self-analysis!
So lets break that down. First, “distribution of weight”, this statement can be put down to a word we should all be aware of “trim”. Trim basically describes where we put ourselves in are boats or how we distribute our weight. If we can master this we can potentially avoid any negative balance issues and gain more from our paddling.
Where we actually put ourselves in our boats is so important as this can make the difference between hitting that must make move or not! In most situations we should be aiming to be sat in a forward position so to help move the balance position over the front deck rather than the back deck see diagram A. We can’t do this with a bad fitting boat so make sure your boat is fitted properly before you continue.
Lets imagine a time when you may have had a ‘wobbly’ movement.
Got one? Try to picture the sequence of events up to the point in which you capsized or had a bad recovery. Were you over the front deck of the boat just before the point of capsize/recovery? Were you driving the boat forwards just before the point of capsize/recovery?
If you answered no to either of the above questions that is likely to be where you failed. The biggest tip any paddler can use is to keep the boat moving forward especially in moving water. If we were to drift at the same speed as the water we are at the mercy of the water’s forces and have no control of our own therefore creating a more reactive style rather then proactive driving style of paddling.
By leaning forward we keep the boat balanced and combined with forward smomentum we will gain stability and hopefully enjoy a successful outcome!
Lets look now at the photo sequence on the right, as we can see in slides 1 and 2, the paddler has built up some positive lateral momentum across the river and is sitting in an upright positive position and creating a proactive start to the activity.
If we look at slide 3 we can see the paddler reaching over the eddy line into the eddy itself with his left stroke. Once the left paddle blade strikes the water and the paddler rotates towards his stoke we can see the boat is put on a positive dynamic edge in slide 4.
If we now focus on slides 5 and 6 we can see the paddlers is continuing to lean forward and rotating upstream as well as keeping the boat’s momentum in the carved turn and not using a speed killing stroke like a reverse stroke. Rather than focusing on the paddle strokes we should try to focus on the paddlers trim. We can see that at no point is the paddler leaning onto the back deck, instead the paddler is consistently driving the boat forward through the turn and keeping the boat moving which gives us stability in a potentially very unstable environment.
Continuing on from the area of rotation there are some points we should all be aware of. Let’s look at the image on the right and how the paddler is rotated towards one side but still keeping his weight forward and trimmed properly.
Time for some activity!
Sit in your boat in a eddy or area of flat water and rotate your body and head to one side as seen in the top photo. Does the boat stay parallel to the water or sit on and edge?
Using the top photo, it appears the boat is not parallel and sits on an edge towards the rotation. If we were to give some forward momentum to this paddler in a moving water environment he should carve a smooth turn towards the side he is rotating to as we all know!
So in theory all we need to do to make turns in control and with support in moving water is have positive lateral momentum and rotation towards the turn this is where the old saying “look where you want to go” really comes into play. A good example of this is the sequence on the right.
Hold that thought
Right lets dice things up a little and talk about balance in stoppers. Let’s put this into a little context we can all relate to. Imagine we have dropped into a stopper sideways after a failed movement and are in a side-surf.
We now have a choice, we can either lean or edge see images E and F on the left. If we edge we can see more around us but can make us unstable and violently bounced around by the stopper. If we lean we can push the boat over and away from the water that is dropping in a lot more, and in turn hopefully commit to a more productive driving stroke to pull us across and out of the stopper.
A lean is very similar to the end part of a roll or recovery stroke. The reason for it being there is to change our centre of gravity. It is all controlled by our head position, leaning; being low and over the front deck keeping our gravity position low and compact rather than edging; staying upright and exposed.
Next time you’re near a friendly stopper try getting yourself on a side surf and compare the difference between edging and leaning whether one is more stable than the other. Don’t forget to practice on both sides.
For us to gain maximum support in our movements forward momentum is key!
- By leaning forward we keep the boat trimmed and balanced accordingly and keeping a proactive paddling style.
- Always looking the way we intend to go combined with body rotation in the same direction will edge the boat in a positive form towards the direction of intended travel and creates stability in the turn.
Andy would like to thank his sponsors SystemX and Liquid Logic kayaks
Andy would like to thank his sponsors SystemX and LiquidLogic Kayaks. Andy is the Managing Director of Fluid Combinations Kayak Coaching and Guiding for further information and courses please see www.fluidcombinations.co.uk